Can RIRA’s moribund Common Council spring back to life in the season of COVID? They think so.
By David Stone
Self-awareness is not a RIRA Common Council strength, but spirited enthusiasm may be. Can they use that for rediscovering its long lost potency?
Start at the top: What is the RIRA Common Council?
To begin with, all residents are automatically members of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association. No dues are required or requested, but you can vote in their elections and serve.
Harking way back, the Common Council evolved out of resident concerns over how RIOC planned to manage the community. Denied any right to vote on the state agency’s young creation, activists hoped to influence decisions through coordinated action.
That was a long time ago, back in the 80s, and the mission had successes, sometimes amid turmoil.
Long story short, by the early 2000s, the Council had punch enough that Albany agreed to majority resident board membership and even honored elections.
But not long after that, an actively undemocratic Andrew Cuomo came into office and undermined all that progress. Sharing power is not the governor’s thing.
This time, with key players aging out and a lack of replacements dashing in, the Common Council floundered into irrelevance.
They still organized social activities, some very badly, but a descent into squabbling and distrust led to a year of official inaction. Monthly meetings were held, but no business was conducted because they could never get a quorum.
We’ll skip that messiness for now and jump to the present.
RIRA Common Council Makes Its Pitch
“We encourage all Roosevelt Island residents interested in contributing to the governance and the life of our community to join the Common Council. If you wish to influence the discussions and decisions affecting our lives on the island, this is the right place to be.”
That quote’s from a press release aimed at recruiting new members to the governing body. They need an influx to survive.
Defections have left no fewer than 34 seats vacant on the RIRA Common Council, and the hardest hit are the newest housing complexes.
Manhattan Park and The Octagon seats are completely empty, and Southtown is nearly so. But every building, except Island House, needs volunteers willing to pitch in.
So far, there’s no muscle on the bone, no real plan for getting things done or overcoming a years long malaise, but the need is great. Without the Common Council voicing resident interests in unison, RIOC will remain as secretive and impervious as ever.
And that’s a trend that — unbelievably — has gotten worse.
Can the RIRA Common Council Win Your Support?
Download this form and fill it out. Leave it in the dropbox in the Public Safety Office at 550 Main Street.
RIRA’s Common Council may or may not find new life, this year or ever, but one thing is for sure. If new blood doesn’t show up to volunteer energy and ideas, the community loses its best chance at influencing RIOC’s behavior.
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