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After a Lost Election, A Better Idea for Roosevelt Island


“Neither Marc nor I won,” Joyce Short answered our inquiry. She meant the contest for two seats on the Democratic State Committee. She and fellow Roosevelt Islander Marc Block ran in partnership. Entering late with a focused Roosevelt Island theme, the results were better than many expected. Block and Short were both competitive, not embarrassed.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Most of us know Joyce Short for her championing of tennis for kids, providing free training and some life skills. But she’s always been political too. An outspoken community activist, she was an early member of the Maple Tree Group that made serious inroads toward democracy for Roosevelt Island. And she was a founding member of the Community Coalition that worked with Cornell Tech on community integration.

In the Aftermath of the State Committee Contest

Main Street, Roosevelt Island.

Short did not dwell on losing. She’d braced herself. But as she sifted through the numbers, something more troubling coalesced in her thinking.

“Even though Roosevelt Island is home to approximately 3,400 registered Democrats, only 366 votes were cast…” in her race, she said.

For perspective, “In the race between Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and her opponent, Patrick Bobilin, only 375 votes were cast, with Seawright receiving an 82% share.

“She went on to earn 9,250 votes overall, an 85% share. Her Roosevelt Island constituents only provided 3% of her total winnings.” 

Short continued, “With Roosevelt Island’s abysmally low turnout, it is easy to see why we fail to secure the meaningful, politically obtainable changes that Islanders need.

“We hear complaints over RIOC‘s lack of transparency and concerns about quality of life issues…. but when it comes to impacting the levers for change, the community is silent. 

“If we neglect to support our choice of candidates when they need us, how can we expect their help when we need them?”

The Friends We Have

Considering the community’s relatively small impact on voting, the strong support we get from Seawright is impressive, but it won’t last forever in a vacuum. No doubt, another strong Roosevelt Island advocate, City Council Member Julie Menin, noticed.

Although turnout was frighteningly low – just 9% statewide – for the primary, this community did even worse.

Short’s partner on the ballot, Marc Block was dismayed at Roosevelt Islanders’ apathy.

“Roosevelt Islanders are great at whining and complaining,” Short ruefully added, “but there’s a disconnect with the realization that NY State runs this Island, and our votes are our golden tickets to creating change.”

The single most undemocratic arrangement in America has Roosevelt Island in a stranglehold of powerlessness. As a captive audience, we need to do better.

“We need the eligible voters in our community to step up and be counted,” Short said. “In no other residential community does the State of New York have so much influence in the day-to-day operations of the neighborhood.

“And they are using our funds, not state tax dollars, to do so.” 

(See the Hidden Roosevelt Island RIOC Tax.)

For example

It’s not RIOC’s fault they can run the community “like a fiefdom for the Governor with minimal accountability or oversight,” Short fumed. “That’s simply how they’re structured.

“And most residents don’t even know that’s what’s happening…… at least, not until they have a problem they can’t fix, like they can’t secure a ticket to the July 4th fireworks two seconds after they’re made available to the public.

“The Yankees know how to distribute tickets. Broadway shows are adept at doing so. An organization where the public can hold them accountable would properly manage distribution.”

But with RIOC, it was another debacle, the second soured Independence Day in a row.

A Better Idea for Roosevelt Island

“Roosevelt Islanders must become more vocal in the political process,” Short insists.

“To that end, I am organizing the Main Street Democrats, the first Democratic Club to focus on the needs of Roosevelt Islanders and district Democrats who support commonsense Democratic principles.

“In our first endeavor, we have reached out to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to secure her help in recovering our USPS mailbox, which was removed from its central position on Main Street. Her office is now researching this issue. 

“Roosevelt Island Democrats, as a voting block, can make a critical difference for candidates. The squeaky wheel, not the silent wheel, gets greased.

“Candidates who do the math can easily see that the current potential for Island votes is small versus the thousands of mainland Manhattan votes they could gain,” Short reasons.

“If you were a legislator, would you spend more effort working for the large voting share or the tiny voting share? We absolutely must stand behind our candidates if we want them to stand behind us.”

And that means banding together as a powerful block of committed citizens.  

“Anyone who wishes to join the Main St. Dems can simply fill out the information form on the first page of my website:

Write “Joining Main St. Dems” in the memo.

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