Push for Candidates and Votes

RIRA Election Season, Time To Decide

Updated 3 years ago Peter McCarthy
Photo Courtesy: Pixabay / Creative Commons CC0 License

"The problem with political jokes is they get elected," said Henry Cate III, and Mark Twain observed, "If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it." In the light of such wisdom, let's consider the upcoming Roosevelt Island Residents Association elections.

RIRA Today, a Snapshot

"The rewards of serving are far greater than the time commitment of three hours per month to enrich the lives of our neighbors," purrs RIRA Nomination Chair Adib Mansour in the latest appeal for candidates.

You are supposed to intuit what those "rewards" are because Mansour never explains and neither did RIRA President Jeff Escobar in earlier appeals. You're just supposed to know. Somehow.

No slap at Mansour intended. A good guy and longtime Island resident, he's devoted hours to helping kids through sports, and his conformity defying blue beard is a mark of distinction and personality. He just happens to be man assigned to deliver a dubious message.

But he is also solely responsible for RIRA's dreadful, self-serving survey that had less scientific merit than divining the future from Tarot Cards, the results of which he threatens to address in "the next term."

And that's the first reason why saying, "No," to RIRA will make for a better Roosevelt Island.

An insular stuffiness plagues the Residents Association, suffocating the real activism that could make participation valuable.

As a resident, I loved it when outspoken RIRA representatives Helen Chiviras and Frank Farance sprung into action when Gristedes abruptly began refusing to honor WIC checks that help feed young families. The initiative faced great odds, considering RIOC's historical spinelessness and with our elected representatives' fierceness rarely expressed in anything tougher than testy letters.

It was sad to see their commitment snuffed by indifference and overt hostility from the rest of RIRA.

In an August article, we explored RIRA's history and how its vision narrowed, edging our most residents' concerns, and earlier, we considered the chances for the association's becoming relevant as it once was.

We're convinced that the traditional saying has it right: "Don't vote. It only encourages them."

RIRA can't be fixed and needs to shut the door behind them and throw away the key. Getting our of the way will let a more effective and inclusive successor step in to work with all residents.

I've scratched my head to find a downside to dismantling RIRA, and all I come up with is a loss of fluff used to justify more ad space in the Main Street WIRE.

But in fairness, let's take a look at three RIRA headline activities and what would happen without them. Keep in mind that these are not cherrypicked examples. They are what RIRA representatives use to brag about effectiveness.

RIRA Pro and Con

In spite of its failings, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association has a good number of smart, committed folks who work hard to get things done. A closer look, however, shows that the headline events have little to do with RIRA's expressed political purpose, as published on their website.

  • The Annual Blood Drive: Pro, an unquestioned benefit, but far outside RIRA's responsibilities. Con, with most of the work done by the Blood Center, this would be more appropriately handled by others, like the CERT team.
  • The Cherry Blossom Festival: Pro, another beautiful event RIRA uses as a fundraiser by selling mugs which, Con, is far outside their purview and would bloom on schedule without them.
  • Easter Egg Hunt: Pro, a great event for kids, again used by RIRA to raise funds with no legitimate connection to RIRA's stated reasons for being. Con, we don't need RIRA for this when we have the Roosevelt Island Parents' Network and others that are more legitimately concerned with family activities.
  • Public Purpose Funds: Pro, RIRA does the due diligence required by RIOC in determining which organizations should benefit from this exceptional generosity. Con, because RIRA does not inclusively represent the community, lacking adequate representation from the newest building complexes and ignoring our long term care facility completely, it is not highly qualified for this assignment. RIOC should find a more representative group or put one together on their own.

These are a handful of activities that RIRA boasts about above all others. None are core to the association's mission, which they have either forgotten or abandoned.


The Roosevelt Island Residents Association is pressing a broad appeal for you to seek offices on their Common Council. The Main Street WIRE, which invests in the organization by donating print space that contributes mightily to its own revenue stream, will work to legitimize them, facts and journalistic objectivity be damned.

Next, you'll be asked to vote in their election and, if this year resembles the others, you'll be coaxed to participate when you go to vote in our national elections.

For the betterment of Roosevelt Island and to clear the field, we recommend that you reject both appeals.

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