Why Roosevelt Islanders need direct voting for the RIOC Board

Why Roosevelt Islanders need direct voting for the RIOC Board

I moved to Roosevelt Island in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. I was already fairly familiar with Roosevelt Island but I was most struck by two things in my first few months here:

  1. How much gorgeous, open space we have. Lots and lots of park benches, often shaded by trees and lots and lots of quiet and peace. I had heard this place described as an “Oasis of Calm” in the middle of New York City. This was a total bonus for me. 
  1. How hard it was to get things done here. 

OpEd: Paul Krikler

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

As a newcomer, I had my own list of things I wanted to see. I contacted RIOC on each occasion with the best of intentions. 

Three years later, it is clear to me that I was but one of a very long line of people who had been trying over many years and decades and had found a total lack of responsiveness and willingness to engage from senior members of RIOC management.

It’s a wonder how many great things have happened and would not have done but for the persistence and vision of people like Judy Berdy, Margie Smith, Joyce Short, Lynne Strong-Shinozaki, Matt Katz, Rossana Ceruzzi and so many more I could mention but have not met.

I also wanted to mention Matt Waldman, who has stepped up to help folks deal with the F Train Rehab using our WhatsApp group chat and has advocated on our behalf with RIOC and with the MTA.

I will mention just one idea I have had that I think encapsulates so much of what Roosevelt Islanders feel about the lack of responsiveness of RIOC senior management. 

Before doing that, it’s important to be clear that there are a lot of people at RIOC who do a great job for the community in a whole host of ways. We should all thank these folks when we run into them on the island.

My own experience with one of the more recent hires has been like night and day compared to my first big three years here. I have found total engagement and collaboration in a way that I wish happened much more. 

Back to the example. Tracking the Red Bus on the island. Why is this so hard?

When I first arrived here, there was an app (Next Bus?) which showed the Red Bus in a limited way but was often glitchy and often just had no information. Even that died.

I would have thought a RIOC that looked out for what would make day to day lives easier for residents would have fixed this a long time ago. Beyond that, I have asked for something a number of times that I believe would make everyone’s life much easier. 

The Roosevelt Island Transit App (RITA), which shows:

  • Red Bus timings and locations, 
  • Tram times
  • Subway times
  • Ferry times
  • Service Alerts

RIOC has (or should have) the data for the first two and it’s easy to get feeds of the next two. What’s needed is management will. It would be immensely helpful to know when the Red Bus is coming near my home so that I can plan when to leave for the F Shuttle that runs only every 20 minutes. 

Transit is a huge nightmare for folks here every day while this necessary work proceeds. Something like the Roosevelt Island Transit App would be a small, but helpful, mitigation to make the situation more bearable. Why don’t we have it?

As someone commented recently: “I will never understand why transportation is such a mess on RI. We’re tiny and there’s no traffic, not even a traffic light! Red Buses should be on time.” The Red Bus should be way more predictable than the Q102, which has to battle traffic in Queens. 

This is not just about Transit

This is about so many other ideas I have heard, small and large, that go nowhere because they are met with indifference by senior management. 

What we need is senior management that engages with the community. Instead we have senior management who appear reflexively to want to close doors and rebuff the residents.

Nowhere was this more shockingly apparent than we saw at the recent board meetings where even a resident RIOC board member was met with hostility and an unwillingness to engage. This can’t be right.

We need a different attitude and approach by senior management at RIOC. It’s time for Roosevelt Island residents to be able to vote for their choice of RIOC Board members. This would give us:

  1. Better oversight of RIOC to ensure that the interests of the community are kept front and center in an open and transparent way
  2. The opportunity for so many residents to bring forward their vision of how things could be done for the better service by RIOC of this community.

The petition: https://chng.it/PMdbxGP876

Paul Krikler

P.S. A huge thank you to all those at RIOC who made possible the Velofix mobile bike repair van last weekend.

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