The 2020 Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) got a refresh, this week. New officers and members have an activist bent.
By David Stone
“As of Wednesday Nov. 4th we have the new RIRA Common Council for the 2020-2022 term,” new president Rossana Ceruzzi said.
Everyone living on Roosevelt Island is a Residents Association member, and the 2020 Common Council is their core advocacy. Because COVID-19 prevented elections, the sitting councilors chose officers from among their group.
Since the 1980s, the Common Council served as a bulwark against RIOC, the state agency developing the community. But that become more theory than political art in recent years.
Officers were compliant, the council itself, passive. As a result, RIOC grew more insular and less responsive to resident values.
That changes now.
The 2020 Common Council chose, for its top two leadership positions, officers with activist reputations.
Just last summer, Ceruzzi led a losing battle against RIOC’s plans for reinventing Southpoint Park under the guise of toxic waste remediation. And she’s now engaged in a struggle against what appears retaliation for her efforts.
Vice-president Erin Feely-Nahem, a longtime council member, organized protests against Public Safety Department abuses that ended with the chief’s dismissal.
But that’s just the top of the list because several of the building reps also bring activist pasts with them.
2020 Common Council and activism…
Although frequently at odds, Island House members Frank Farance and Adib Monsour both regularly engage in conflict resolution. And they now bring broad accents to council deliberations.
Farance’s muscular insistence on RIOC accountability is well-known, and Mansour works on behalf of children and education.
Down the line, a well-represented Southtown has David Evans who spearheads public purpose fund reviews while Rivercross has Sharon Pope. Pope is a former Common Council president, and she serves as Roosevelt Island’s representative on Community Board 8.
Eneaqua Lewis, from 2 River Road, has taken on Manhattan Park management, and her activities continue on various issues.
But challenges are ahead…
The 2020 Common Council, while now more identified with activism, has gaps.
A longstanding concern is failing at bringing residents at Color Hospital and Cornell Tech into the fold. Past president Lynne Strong-Shinozaki recognized these failing with the Roosevelt Island Daily, but during her troubled term, nothing was done.
And the largest market rate buildings, Manhattan Park and The Octagon, are badly under-represented because volunteers lag in number.
Work ahead for the 2020 Common Council burns with challenges, but the move to activism marks a great start. Perhaps, it can restore its role as bulwark against state overreach and abuse, forming a constructive partnership.