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Is Seawright Really Open To RIOC Residency Now?


Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright is now open to a residency requirement for RIOC’s executive, she told the Roosevelt Island Daily, last year. She promised a “talk” with Senator José Serrano about “reintroducing” abandoned legislation, but was it anything more than talk?

By David Stone

Read more: Roosevelt Island News

Seawright Answers Roosevelt Island Daily Query

We reported on a bill Seawright sponsored that updated a law enabling RIOC. It was mainly technical, but she added…

“I envision a Roosevelt Island that is self-governed so that services and programs are fully responsive to the needs of residents. The community must have a say in the decision-making process of how the island is governed.”

Rebecca Seawright is now open to a residency requirement for RIOC executives.
State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright was on hand for the ribbon cutting when Nisi reopened in 2017.

“There should be no taxation without representation,” she said.

Something missing

“Can you expand a little on the self-government commitment?” we asked.

Three years ago, a bill, cosponsored by Seawright and Serrano, required RIOC’s president live on Roosevelt Island. Democrats control both houses now, but the bill vanished.

“I am currently discussing the residency requirement with constituents and community leaders,” Seawright told The Daily through special assistant Michael Arena.

But there was a caveat that concerned us, beyond the failure to identify the “constituents and community leaders.”

Seawright now worries that requiring residency for the position of president at RIOC restricts recruiting highly qualified candidates through the widest possible search.

And that’s a clinker.

“It’s troubling,” we told Arena, “that anyone wishing to lead this community considers living here a detriment.”

No RIOC executive has ever lived in the community, and that drives a wedge between 591 Main Street and everywhere else on the Island.

And since this initial report, Shelton J. Haynes, another nonresident, replaced Rosenthal.

Seawright Open To RIOC Residency Now

“Living on Roosevelt Island is not a detriment,” Arena answered, “but it  could reduce the applicant pool.”

That said, he concluded, “The Assembly Member is open to reintroducing the legislation and will consult with Senator Serrano on next steps.” 

Such a change, long sought by local activists, radically alters Roosevelt Island’s power balance.

But reality intrudes.

With the law now standing a good chance for success, Seawright and Serrano failed to reintroduce the residency legislation.

Who really represents Roosevelt Island? Anyone?


  1. Yes. RI residency should absolutely be mandatory. The RIOC president should witness the Sanctuary noise (and other kind of) pollution, he or she should be aware of what’s going on on RI the way we are.
    How else is he or she going to understand what we need, and decide accordingly? I meet people who have no idea what or where RI is, or what it looks like. Why? Because they don’t live here.
    Coming to work and being sheltered inside the fancy RIOC office doesn’t count as knowing the Island and its people, much less as living on the Island.

    • Thanks, Ashley, and I agree with you on all but one point. RIOC’s offices are far from fancy. They should no pride of place at all, which is a statement all its own.
      Thanks, again.

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