How do you get the attention of a local government that seems to have an unending supply of indifference? It’s difficult. But if we’re going there, let me tell ya how it works…
The Roosevelt Island How-To Guide will show you how to reach all those with power, telling them what they need to know to take our concerns seriously!
By David Stone
The Roosevelt Island Complainers How-To Guide
You’ve got a gripe with how things are done around here? Don’t we all?
That’s what this how-to guide is all about, that is, who to call and what to do for getting help effectively on Roosevelt Island.
Let’s start with the locally unique.
RIOC: The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp.
For the daily nuisances, from filth in public places to broken sidewalks, RIOC is your resource. Although their responses to daily nuisance complaints deteriorated under the current administration and communications are nearly extinct, it’s what we’ve got as a starting point.
RIOC is a state agency, and it maintains a clunky-named Occupant Help Center, offering a one-stop service with a simple login. Whatever your complaint, it routes it to the right department. It even includes a log of prior complaints and their status.
So, if you can get over the cringe-worthy “occupant,” as in random junk mail, you’re on your way. These days, they may simply ignore you or delete your complaint without any reason, but it’s worth a try as a starting point.
But if you’re not comfortable online or otherwise dislike the coldness of the internet, call the main number: (212) 832-4540 or you can write a letter. RIOC’s address: 524 Main Street, New York, NY 10044.
But sometimes you need to rattle the cage…
No complaint how-to guide is complete without telling you how to sound off in a way that will be heard, even by those with their hands firmly over their ears. RIOC is an insular operation with dismaying layers of secrecy, but there’s a surprising immediate route for reaching its highest levels.
The most surprising thing about this method is how seldom it is used.
Every board meeting starts with an open mic…
That’s right. RIOC executives and board members sit tight while you make your point. It’s critical that you be factual, clear and to the point. Under normal circumstances, you get a couple of minutes at the podium with your complaint, but the pandemic has forced changes for now.
Now that COVID Restrictions have been lifted, RIOC lets you submit up to 500 words for making your case. You use a form found right here.
But don’t pack everything you’re frustrated with into a single form. Use separate entries for each item. Again, be clear, concise and brief. Immediate responses are rare, but officials are listening – from Main Street to Albany. They have no choice.
At the official meeting, prior to the scheduled session, chief counsel Gretchen Robinson (usually), calls everyone who registered up the podium, one at a time, but don’t expect any response or even signs of wakefulness from the board. Board members absorb some of it, like it or not.
So, use it and make yourself heard. It’s free and worth your investment in time. Think of it as spraying some smugness remover.
Important note: The “speak up” option is not intended to initiate debate but to register your concerns. Although it goes against human nature, reminding the higher-ups that you appreciate good work is advised and useful.
Complaint How-To Guide: Elected Officials
Let’s start locally. Roosevelt Island’s peculiar state of existence upends the normal process of government.
Although Roosevelt Island is a New York neighborhood, the city signed off on most responsibilities decades ago, leaving development to the state. RIOC’s unelected officials are inheritors of that responsibility, but it’s blurry, to say the least.
The state cleans the parks, for example, but the city provides fire and police services. And the public school and Coler Hospital remain city property.
That said, New York City’s 311 hotline is a universal resource for reaching departments and getting help. Call that number or reach them online with any relevant complaint.
Your City Council Member
This seat is currently occupied by Julie Menin. She is new but has shown a commitment to activism on residents’ behalf. You can access constituent services by calling (212) 860-1950.
If you have a complaint about services that might benefit from political weightlifting, our how-to guide suggests hitting up the state first. Their constituent services are not always the best, but in rattling RIOC’s cage, their authority has a greater vibrating force.
Before the pandemic, assembly member Rebecca Seawright and senator José Serrano, both Democrats, held regular monthly office hours on Roosevelt Island. Those have resumed, and face-to-face drop-ins are often the most effective.
State senator José Serrano is strong on community involvement, but short on resources. As a senator, his constituency is about four times larger than the assembly member’s, stretching from the Bronx south through Roosevelt Island.
Senator Serrano has a local office at 1916 Park Ave #202, New York, NY 10037. Telephone: (212) 828-5829. Note: as of January 2023, that changes as Liz Krueger takes over as our state senator. Her local office si at 211 E. 43rd Street, Suite #1201, New York, NY 10017. Telephone: 212-490-9535.
State assembly member Rebecca Seawright represents the Upper East Side with Roosevelt Island attached. She’s accessible and welcomes office visits.
Her address is 1485 York Ave, New York, NY 10075, and you can call (212) 288-4607.
Note: About Our Federal Officials
Let’s be honest here. We have not had constituent services from our elected Senators (Currently Schumer and Gillibrand) or Congressional Representatives (Currently Carolyn Maloney) since Senator Pothole, Al D’Amato, left office, twenty years ago.
If things change, we’ll let you know, but for this complaint how-to guide, we can’t recommend contacting any of them for help.
Complaint How-To Guide for Roosevelt Island Conclusion
Bottom line: however imperfect, our resources are better than most for getting help when we need it. Although not as plugged in as other officials, our electeds need our votes and are responsive. And that gives us double coverage because we have RIOC.
Not as appreciated as it should be, for all its shortcomings, RIOC has only about 11,700 of us to worry about. Or hear complaints from. As a result, our clout’s better than most of New York City.
But clout’s only as good as what you do with it, and we hope this complaint how-to guide is a tool you can use for making a stronger community.
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