Roosevelt Island News

Here’s My Complaint Now: A Roosevelt Island How-To Guide

Here’s My Complaint Now: A Roosevelt Island How-To Guide is a local resource for bending the most effective ears in your direction. You won’t always get what you want, but your chances are better when you do it right.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

Complaint How-To Guide Intro

You’ve got a gripe. Don’t we all?

man showing distress, needing a complaint how-to guide
Where do you turn?

That’s what this how-to guide is all about, that is, who to call and what to do for getting help effectively on Roosevelt Island.

Let’s start with the locally unique.

RIOC: The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp.

For the daily nuisances, from filth in public places to broken sidewalks, RIOC is your best resource. In the past year, their responses daily nuisance complaints deteriorated, and communications are nearly extinct. But it’s what we’ve got as a starting point.

RIOC is a state agency, and it maintains a clunky-named Occupant Help Center, offering one-stop service with a simple login. Whatever your complaint, it routes it to the right department. It even includes a log of prior complaints and their status.

So, if you can get over the cringe-worthy title of “occupant,” as in random junk mail, you’re on your way.

But if you’re not comfortable online or otherwise dislike the coldness of the internet, call the main number: (212) 832-4540 or you can write a letter. RIOC’s address: 524 Main Street, New York, NY 10044.

But when you need to get political…

No complaint how-to guide is complete without telling you how to sound off and be heard. RIOC is an insular operation employing dismaying layers of secrecy, but there’s a surprising immediate route for access to its highest levels.

The most surprising thing about it is how seldom the option is used.

And that’s the open mic section that kicks off every board meeting.

That’s right. RIOC executives and board members must sit tight and listen to what you have to say. Under normal circumstances, you get a couple of minutes at the podium with your complaint, but these are not ordinary times.

Because COVID-19 restrictions make all meetings virtual, RIOC lets you submit up to 500 words for making your case. You use a form found right here.

An official at the ZOOM meeting, usually chief counsel Gretchen Robinson, reads whatever statement you leave, but don’t expect an immediate response or even indications of wakefulness.

The jury’s still out on whether the board members and execs listen or care, but any perceived indifference is fueled by the lack of people using this process. If board members hear more, they’ll absorb some of it, like it or not.

So, use it and make yourself heard, already.

Important note: The “speak up” option is not intended to initiate debate but to register your concerns, good or bad. Although it goes against human nature, reminding the higher ups that you appreciate good work is advised and useful.

Complaint How-To Guide: Elected Officials

Let’s start local. Roosevelt Island’s peculiar state of existence alters the normal process of government.

Although Roosevelt Island is a New York neighborhood, the city signed off on most responsibilities decades ago, leaving development to the state. RIOC’s unelected officials are inheritors of that responsibility, but it’s blurry, to say the least.

The state cleans the parks, for example, but the city provides fire and police services. And the public school and Coler Hospital remain city property.

That said, New York City’s 311 hotline is a universal resource for reaching departments and getting help. Call that number or reach them online with any relevant complaint.

Your City Council Member

This seat if currently occupied by Ben Kallos, but he is term-limiting out in 2021. We will update, but in the meantime, you can access outstanding constituent services by calling (212) 860-1950. Kallos’s office is at 244 E 93rd St, New York, NY 10128, and he maintains an active presence on Twitter and Facebook.

State Electeds

If you have a complaint about services that might benefit from political weightlifting, our how-to guide suggests hitting up the state first. Their constituent services are not always the best, but in rattling RIOC’s cage, their authority has greater vibrating force.

Before the pandemic, assembly member Rebecca Seawright and senator José Serrano, both Democrats, held regular monthly office hours on Roosevelt Island. Those are suspended for now, but we’ll update when the option for face-to-face talks with staff returns.

State senator José Serrano is strong on community involvement, but short on resources. As a senator, his constituency is about four times larger than the assembly member’s, stretching from the Bronx south through Roosevelt Island.

Senator Serrano has a local office at 1916 Park Ave #202, New York, NY 10037. Telephone: (212) 828-5829.

State assembly member Rebecca Seawright represents the Upper East Side with Roosevelt Island attached. She’s accessible and welcomes office visits.

Her address is 1485 York Ave, New York, NY 10075, and you can call (212) 288-4607.

Both state elected officials won reelection in 2020.

Note: About Our Federal Officials

Let’s be honest here. We have not had constituent services from our elected Senators of Congressional Representative since Senator Pothole, Al D’Amato, left office, twenty years ago.

If things change, we’ll let you know, but for this complaint how-to guide, we can’t recommend contacting any of them for help.

Complaint How-To Guide for Roosevelt Island Conclusion

Bottom line: however imperfect, our resources are better than most for getting help when we need it.

Although not as plugged in as other officials, our electeds need our votes and are responsive. And that gives us double coverage because we have RIOC.

Not as appreciated as it should be, for all its shortcomings, RIOC has only about 11,500 of us to worry about. Or hear complaints from.

As a result, our clout’s better than most of New York City.

But clout’s only as good as what you do with it, and we hope this complaint how-to guide is a tool you can use for making a stronger community.

Watch for updates.

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