New York City

You Really Earned It: Thanks Again, Roosevelt Island

Thank you, Roosevelt Island, for caring, for your willingness to adapt, to care for others. And for being so strong in crisis.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

I wrote this originally, back in May, but it bears repeating. Roosevelt Islanders really came through the COVID crisis with flying colors.

My guess, we’ll remember Roosevelt Island, Make Some Noise, the rally bringing residents together every night, best. Its “Thank you!” message, shouted out with banging pots and pans, a violin and even a drum, served a dual purpose.

It recognized caring service, here and across the city, but it also called us together with action at a time when there was little else.

But thank you, Roosevelt Island, because there’s so much more…

As the sun set on a sunny Sunday evening, strollers practiced social distancing on the West Promenade near Manhattan Park.

Social distancing’s a whole new term for most of us, but Roosevelt Islanders adapted quickly. Keeping safe distances allowed the promenades and parks to be open for all comers. We controled our destiny, doing the right thing.

As a journalist, I perform an essential service. I could go out almost anytime, almost anywhere, and I did. What I saw on Roosevelt Island impressed me.

Here’s why…

Thank you, Roosevelt Island Operating Corp.

By almost any measure, RIOC‘s smart response to the coronavirus crisis stitched the community together. Tram and Red Buses, often near empty, ran on time, striking a theme of normalcy and reliability.

PSD patrols continued, even after one of their own, 25 year veteran Corey Fischer, was taken away by the coronavirus. These risks aren’t really what they signed up for, but they showed up, anyway.

And without fanfare, RIOC crews kept the Island clean and organized. That wasn’t easy.

Quietly, behind the scenes, RIOC executives stay clued in.

Then President Susan Rosenthal, VP Shelton Haynes — now acting president — and public information officer Terrence McCauley replied to media requests quickly. Their answers showed they were in touch and personally connected, seven days a week.

This too will, in effect, outlast this virus.

Carter Burden Network/RIDA Team Up To Feed the Needy

On the earliest days of this crisis, the CBN/RI Senior Center scrambled to keep pace, providing meals for seniors, even after other activities halted. Coordinating with Disabled Association president Wendy Hersh, RISC director Lisa Fernandez got out every meal until they were no longer available.

Hersh organized a free food pantry that’s open every Friday while community liaison Yulisa Santana sent emails that held helpers and the needy engaged.

In a recent Facebook post, Hersh, who also works full time, admits she can barely distinguish one day from another. Weekends melt into just another pair of days.

Roosevelt Island Businesses Keep Us Fed

In spite of ridiculously reduced income, those we’ve counted on for years stood tall.

Nisi, the café @ Cornell Tech and Subway kept their doors open, and in September, we welcomed a vibrant Granny Annie’s. As COVID-related restrictions lifted, every other resource opened too.

There’s no quit in their spirit, and we hope Hudson Related, still weirdly silent, comes through, with financial relief.

Roosevelt Island Foodtown Checking Employee Temperatures
Among several measures to promote safety, Foodtown initiated employee testing before starting work.

Vital to our food and essential goods supply, Foodtown, Wholesome Factory and Bread & Butter Market never closed. And vital to our well-being, Island Wine and Liquor hangs in, too.

The diligence and capability of our markets staying stocked and staffed proved remarkable.

Individuals Shine

While, I’m guessing, around half of us are self-isolating, those we meet on our daily walks are upbeat, even a little amused by it all.

And it’s worth noting that, across New York City and the nation, there are now two distinct kinds of people: those who wear face masks in public and selfish bastards.

Roosevelt Islanders fall heavily in the first category, and we thank you. Every day.

Roosevelt Islanders, friendly, everyday neighbors, under all this pressure — six feet apart — build value that will outlast this crisis.

But a couple of folks stand out along with Wendy Hersh and the RIOC staff mentioned above..

Thank you, Frank Farance

Roosevelt Island CERT member and tireless volunteer Frank Farance has been everywhere, helping with food distribution and guiding safety practices.

We’re used to Frank’s helping hand, and in a recent article, New York City’s Emergency Management noticed too. #VounteersofNYC told his story.

Farance’s giving goes well beyond Roosevelt Island.

Thank you, Judith Berdy

While it’s tempting to label Berdy as our “local historian,” Judy actually shows up for almost everything. It’s as if she’s challenging the notion of a twenty-four hour limit on any day.

Now, she’s adding to her work, keeping it real with daily updates posted along with exciting historical perspectives. Catch them here: https://rihs.us/. And sign up for regular email features.

We’d be lost without her secure anchor.

But we’re not perfect…

When we say, “Thank you, Roosevelt Island,” we keep perspective. We’ve got great people here, but we’ve also got exceptions.

As a matter of respect, we saved the worst for last. These are a little dated now, but still relevant.

No thank you, Roosevelt Island, from Hudson Related
While all other construction shut down, on Wednesday, we caught Hudson Related with their gates open at 460 Main. Even social distancing was ignored.

And more from these usual suspects waited to the north.

Still never displaying a single permit, The Sanctuary, also under Hudson Related’s protection, installed heating and cooling unites, oblivious to resident concerns.

And finally…

Social Distancing fails on Roosevelt Island
Social distancing failed to get 100% support, but exceptions were few and limited to three and four in a group.

Thank you, Roosevelt Island, Conclusion

Exceptions noted, Roosevelt Islanders make us proud to be here. A crisis landed, and we pulled together.

But I can’t sign off here with mentioning the others taken for granted: maintenance and repair works, building concierges, food delivery men and women, Fresh Direct drivers, postal workers… All these hold us together.

That won’t change.

Because our everyday Roosevelt Islanders never have, not even now.

3 replies »

  1. Thank you for being Roosevelt Island. After walking from 81st Street to 60th Street the other day on the FDR Drive walkway, I realize we are truly blessed by having our promenade where you can walk and HEAR at the same time. Deafening is the only way to describe the walkway on the other side of the RIver.

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