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 in order for them not just hear us but 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 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.
Because COVID-19 restrictions make all meetings online, using Zoom, 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.
At the official ZOOM meeting, prior to the scheduled session, chief counsel Gretchen Robinson (usually), reads whatever statement you have posted, but don’t expect any response or even signs of wakefulness from the board. But any perceived indifference is fueled by the lack of people using this process. If board members hear more, they’ll absorb some of it, like it or not.
So, use it and make yourself heard. It’s free and worth your investment in time. Thing of it as spraying some smugness remover.
Important note: The “speak up” option is not intended to initiate debate but to register your concerns, good or bad. 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 local. Roosevelt Island’s peculiar state of existence alters 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 if 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 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 are suspended for now, but we’ll update when the option for face-to-face talks with staff returns.
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.
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.
Both state elected officials won reelection in 2020.
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.
Also from Assorted Ideas, Large & Small
- Ivory Needs a Loving Home. Here’s Her Story. By Lylia Saurel Special to The Roosevelt Island Daily News A report from Shelter Animal Count shows that shelters have observed an overall increase in population nationwide by 9.5% over the first quarter of 2022, compared to the same period last year. The report also shows that gross intake, which represents the population of animals
- FDR Four Freedoms State Park, Cool Green Oasis in a Hot CityThe long, hot days of summer can be a brutal experience in the city. The concrete and asphalt reflect the heat back up at you, and the dry air seems to suck all the moisture out of your skin. But just across the river, there’s a cool green oasis waiting for you. by David Stone
- THE GREAT MIGRATION FAILED TO BRIDGE THE RACIAL WEALTH DIVIDE. WHAT’S NEXT?Real and lasting economic opportunities for Black families will come only through a serious national reckoning on race. By Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Briana Shelton | August 3, 2022 Republished with Permission: The Roosevelt Island Daily News During the early 1900s through 1970, millions of African Americans migrated from the deeply segregated agricultural South to the industrial, less segregated Midwest
- Judge Could Allow NYC Council to Revote on Education BudgetNew York City did not follow the proper procedure when approving the roughly $31 billion budget for the education department, a Manhattan judge said Thursday, potentially setting up the City Council to revote on funding for the nation’s largest public school system. Reema Amin, Chalkbeat New York This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign
- After Alice Childress Library Rejected Racism ChargedAn Alice Childress Library? That was the dream of Michael Rogers, who Childress mentored into a successful career on stage, as well as others. It made sense for Roosevelt Island, but it was dismissed out of hand by the New York Public Library. And City Council Member Julie Menin let it slide with the lamest