New York City

What are we now, Roosevelt Island?

What are we now, Roosevelt Island? The question comes fast into focus through the lens of the coronavirus crisis. When normal strips back to essential, who and what are we?

By David Stone

Change coming this fast is never expected. You can’t plan for it. It comes out of the blue, but what does it expose? Limited to walks on the promenades, conversations from six plus feet away, we see our neighbors differently.

A community gives up flourishes and finishing touches, revealing simple foundations and clarity.

It’s impressive. Maybe we’re a “tight knit community,” after all, or maybe the coronavirus reshaped us into one.

Neighbors, unfamiliar until this week, exchange knowing smiles, passing on the West Promenade, but even more assuring are the red bus rhythms, our unique timepieces.

Roosevelt Island Red Bus Service
RIOC’s Red Bus fleet, drivers at risk of infection, continue the rhythm of community support.

RIOC By the Numbers

RIOC is not Roosevelt Island‘s backbone, but the state agency maintains it.

While the Red Bus drivers are the most visible, “We have approximately 80 staff” actively working, RIOC public information officer Terrence McCauley said.

That includes public safety officers, groundskeepers and building maintenance.  

Others are more versatile.

Some staffers are “now being utilized as Call Center reps for the States COVID-19 hotline,” said RIOC vice president Shelton Haynes.

“We have seen Roosevelt Island residents offer support in many ways,” he added, “and it’s beautiful to see the Island coming together. “

What are we now, Roosevelt Island…? Community Support

Quietly, behind the scenes…

Thank you to all of the Roosevelt Island residents who decided to do a great deed for RIOC’s front line personnel. Over the past several days, several of you decided to put your sewing skills to work to ensure that our Public Safety Officers, Bus Drivers, Grounds Keepers and Maintenance staff have masks despite the shortage of equipment they face. We’ll be sure to feature our personnel wearing the masks in future updates, but for now, thank you to Karen Laurence, Chistina Delfico, Kristi Towey, Margie Smith, Lisa Fernandez and Judy Berdy.

Terrence McCauley, RIOC Public Information Officer

Roosevelt Islanders “make some noise…”

Led by Karine Wong, Roosevelt Islanders defy isolation every evening at 8:00, opening their windows or stepping onto balconies to “Make some noise,” for two minutes.

That noise comes from banging pots and pans and whatever else you can think of. Adding a gentle note, some have introduced music, just prior. Recently, a violin played a piece from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

The “noise” salutes healthcare workers and others working the front lines during the coronavirus crisis.

None forgotten.

Conclusion: What now, Roosevelt Island?

No one knows how long this crisis will last. Occasional good news shines through the flood of illness and death, but what surprises is our resilience.

Roosevelt Island’s foundation is sound.

Only a few get mentioned here because all the names, the building concierges, the managers showing up, the men and women cleaning our complexes… the postal workers keeping pace… delivery services and even movers… too numerous to list.

Nisi, Wholesome Factory, Foodtown, the café @ Cornell Tech… they open up, every day. They serve us without much to gain.

“This too shall pass,” as a Persian jester once advised his master. A phrase to serve times both good and bad, maintaining balance, keeping perspective.

One day, we will have more people than we can count to thank for where Roosevelt Island is now and will be as a community.


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