Today, Wendy Hersh, Mary Coleman and their team welcome their neighbors for what may be the last free food pantry helping Roosevelt Island. The future is uncertain, and here’s a look at why.
By David Stone
When the coronavirus slammed Roosevelt Island, hearty troops of volunteers spread out along Main Street, distributing food to homebound residents.
But then, the pandemic worsened, and direct deliveries ended as isolation battled the spread.
Someone had to step in, and not surprisingly, it was Wendy Hersh. Leader of the Disabled Association and always a reliable volunteer, she pulled together a free food pantry for Roosevelt Island. She had help, especially from the Carter Burden Network and tireless volunteers like Coleman.
But now, as the pandemic recedes, fresh challenges emerge because the need for food has not receded with it.
Is this the last free food pantry for Roosevelt Island?
As they have for the past year, lines of folks in search of food will fill the backyard at the CBN/RI Senior Center. Packages of food fill long tables, RIOC’s Public Safety Department will send officers over for security.
No matter the future of the free food pantry, it cannot go like this again.
Because the Senior Center was one the first activities shut down, the Carter Burden Network managers opened the space for Hersh and her volunteers. And not just that, CBN staff regularly pitched in.
The community-based effort paid off. Over a hundred families got help, each week. But with Mayor de Blasio ordering the vital senior centers reopened, across the city, the food pantry space will no longer be available.
The Department for the Aging, DFTA, pays the bills while Roosevelt Landings provides the space and maintains it. No spaces are unused.
Where will they go?
“I have to find a place for the pantry or we will need to close it down and I don’t want to do that,” Hersh tells The Daily.
She thought she had space secured in the Cultural Center but hasn’t been able to close an agreement with RIOC. Substantial space is necessary for storage, and then, there’s room needed for distribution.
And RIOC’s uncertain status complicates matters after the state agency refused negotiations for staying at 591 Main Street. They’ve been rent free for decades. Not only does this guarantee a new hole in Main Street, it initiates a space crunch facing Hersh and a host of other worthy nonprofits.
Although RIOC recently contracted for taking the old library space being vacated by Swift Emergency Medical, the transition has been bumpy.
Rooms in the Cultural Center normally set aside for rehearsals, classes and religious observance filled with storage, but notices did not go out to community groups. We heard complaints, in fact, from groups unable to reserve spaces into the fall. Or even get applications considered.
The traffic jam frustrates many, but a lack of communications worsens anxiety.
But none suffer more than the volunteers who may host our last free food pantry today.
Also from the Roosevelt Island Daily
- A Child Hit In Crosswalk Is Third In Two MonthsThe child hit in a crosswalk, yesterday, was the third on Roosevelt Island in two months. Multiple reports say RIOC’s Public Safety Department refused a request for protection during a Halloween party, claiming they were “understaffed.” By David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News Child Hit After PSD Refuses A Request for Help Monster Bash,
- Still Sleeping in the Roosevelt Island Subway. Is there no solution?Last month, we posted about the high volume of people finding a place to sleep in the Roosevelt Island subway station. Mid-morning today, there were a pair so out of it, they managed sleeping soundly on those god awful, ribbed benches in the subway. The Roosevelt Island Daily News How is it we can spend
- Proof that nagging – plus two accidents – gets RIOC off its pegRIOC’s been nagged for months about returning mini stop signs in crosswalks. They lower the risks to which pedestrians are regularly exposed. But nothing happened until two people were hit by cars. Better late than never, although it’s shameful it took so much to get some action. The Roosevelt Island Daily News More from the
- After Ten Years, Hudson-Related’s Shops On Main Finds Its GrooveShops on Main launched in 2011 with a boom that bombed. Hudson president David Kramer promised “shock and awe.” It’s too late now for either, but what we have is a big post-pandemic bump into a functioning Main Street Corridor. By David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News Shops On Main, October 2021 In past
- Is the AVAC down for good? Views of the future for SouthtownIs the AVAC down for good? The question can’t be avoided now that almost half a year has passed since the system functioned consistently from Rivercross south. The absence of sane answers from RIOC suggests that the state is lost. By David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News With the AVAC Down… Once an exceptional