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No Voting for RIRA, the Residents Association, This Year

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Because RIRA’s members are too mired in personal agendas and “Whatever” mindsets, they will miss out on elections again this year. The trivializing of this once impactful group leaves them on life support.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Once upon a time, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association launched as a counterbalance to RIOC‘s unchecked powers over the community. And over time, the Common Council – elected as representatives from most buildings – earned, lost and earned again respect from RIOC and the community.

The group always had shortcomings. A glaring lack of engagement weakened its impact as the community expanded beyond the WIRE buildings. And as the founding members aged out, only a few stepped up and replaced them.

As the association dwindled in effectiveness, so did its membership.

Amazingly, efforts at stemming the tide never took place, leaving the Common Council virtually irrelevant.

The Common Council, despite universal Residents Association membership, never grew enough beyond its founding base. Inclusion was never part of the plan. In defiance of repeated prodding, they ultimately refused to embrace residents at Coler or Cornell Tech. Newer building complexes are wildly underrepresented.

A New Low for RIRA

While the pandemic laid all organizations low, the residents association suffered the most because holding elections during intense 2020 lockdowns wasn’t possible. Individual building representatives as well as President and Vice President were not on any ballot.

Normally, RIRA set up their own voting machines nearby when general elections were held. This simplified voting, but just rounding up candidates during a pandemic proved overwhelming.

Without public announcement, the existing Common Council essentially re-elected itself.

With Westview’s Rossana Ceruzzi serving as president, RIRA quietly outlasted the pandemic. Without her, that might not have happened because she forged a working relationship with RIOC against all odds.

Twice, RIOC’s deep-thinkers, led by Acting COO Mary Cunneen and Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson, worked to evict or smother her animal sanctuary nonprofit. And last year, the state agency cut the Wildlife Freedom Foundation out of public purpose fund grants.

In one ugly incident, managers blocked her from attending the opening of the new Youth Center. The Youth Center is funded by residents.

But This Year, RIRA Trips Up Itself

Trying to bring the Common Council back to something close to normal, Ceruzzi relied on two committee chairs to 1) recruit new members and 2) set up the election. Both failed. Neither even showed up for a meeting where their plans would be approved.

The result: no elections until at least next year’s primary election season. And Ceruzzi, who was eager to step down, must serve until then. Whatever rump of personal agendas that Common Council might be.

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