For years Roosevelt Island community leadership was fragmented and ineffective. Voices never found the unity needed for empowering Main Street. But this summer, a City Council districting plan that would scramble identity encouraged the orchestrated harmony that had been missing.
by David Stone
Over ten years ago, I sat with then-RIOC President/CEO Steve Shane for a newspaper story. This was back when the state agency’s leaders cared about and got involved with the community. Shane brought something unexpected up, something that was pretty much off-topic but concerned him.
“Where’s the leadership going to come from once the old-timers go?” he wondered.
- Mayor Eric Adams Visits, Connects with Roosevelt Islanders
- Jerrold Nadler Defeats Carolyn Maloney for 12th Congressional District
- Roosevelt Islanders Turn Out in Force for Council Districting Hearing
He was referring to pioneers like Ron Vass, David Kraut, Dierdre Breslin and Patrick Stewart, devoted community leaders who shaped values and goals. And there wasn’t really an answer because younger people were leaving the Island, leaving a vacuum.
Not until now, anyway.
City Council Districting Spurs Community Leadership
After the 2020 Census forced the city to shuffle City Council district lines, a preliminary map threatened radical changes for Roosevelt Island. Along with Sutton Place and another strip of the Upper East Side bordering the East River, Roosevelt Island would be merged into an existing Queens District.
That’s when new, refreshing community leadership stepped in, joining together in purpose. Essentially, their message is: “We’re Manhattan, not Queens.” And they have names: Joyce Short, Lynne Strong-Shinozaki and Ellen Polivy. Others have stepped up, but these three are leading the pack.
Community leadership matters because it’s the community that tells City Council members and other officials what we want and need. It’s community leadership that makes us a community, not just another part of the city.
In this case, the community is saying quite clearly, “We’re not Queens.” And that has galvanized many on Roosevelt Island. It’s brought out the best, bringing insightful support from current City Council Member Julie Menin and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
Roosevelt Island’s emerging community leadership has already mustered community support in a rally last weekend and brought elected officials into the struggle. Now, they’re taking the fight straight to the Districting Commission.
They’ve arranged to bus Roosevelt Islanders to a commission hearing on Monday the 22nd of August. It will leave Good Shepherd Plaza at 4:15 p.m. Cheerleaders are welcome, but seats are first come for those registered to speak at the hearing.
Get more detailed information and reserve your seat on the bus here.