Finding the Right Way to Handle a Community Challenge

Roosevelt Island Redux: Smoking Pot In Public

Ron Musto
Roosevelt Island Redux: Smoking Pot In Public
Photo Credit: typeographyimages on Pixabay/ Creative Commons CCO License

Purple haze, all in my brain

Lately things they don't seem the same

-Jimi Hendrix

I was heartened to read, though saddened by its circumstances, the Main Street WIRE article (February 4, 2017, p. 1) Islanders Voice Policing Concerns. Saddened by the assault on an Island mother attending to the safety and enjoyment of Island children and doing her public duty. Heartened that the incident evoked outrage among Island parents and residents and engaged Public Safety with Island leaders in an open conversation on policing, crime and marijuana. 

I was particularly heartened that calm voices, especially from the Chair of the RIRA Public Safety Committee, prevailed in distinguishing between what is a drug-related crime (the assault and possible drug dealing), the recreational use of marijuana and the related issue of second-hand smoke affecting us both in- and out-of-doors.

I do, however, want to correct the record. 

The statement of the Chair of the RIRA Public Safety Committee in this week’s WIRE (page 11) that “…the question of the public smoking of marijuana was first brought to our attention last May...” is incorrect. 

I first raised this issue in a letter to the Main Street WIRE published on June 21, 2014 (page 3, attached). 

While a more nuanced approach to enforcement has been emerging from PSD and RIRA, I raise the issue again now in the Roosevelt Island Daily to stress that we’re not quite there yet. 

In that letter of June 21, 2014, I stated the following: 

“…pick up the phone any day of the week or approach a Public Safety officer in person to complain about the growing purple haze, and the response is almost always the same: we have no authority to enter an apartment, the perpetrators will not answer the door, it’s not that much of a problem (this with eye-rolls and little smiles). Contact Westview (RY) Management and the response is always the same: send us a written complaint, making a specific accusation against a certain apartment and its residents. Stop just short of taking the law into your own hands in the potentially dangerous process of identifying the offending apartments. 'Politely' ask neighbors high on pot to stop. But RY Management and PSD effectively refuse to do anything.

Much of the pot smoking we are affected by also goes on within yards of two school buildings. To the north, PS/IS 217, with kids ranging anywhere from K to 8 and special ed. To the south, the Child School. Please let’s not pretend that the kids aren’t aware of the reek, and that many of our school students might not be tempted to sample, especially given the free range given the dealers and users by PSD and RY Management. Does anyone care to claim that this is OK with teachers and parents?

It shouldn’t come as a shock to PSD or RY Management that many of our neighbors have children — pre-teens and teens, young adults still living at home — whom they do not want smoking pot. How many of them do you think are innocent of what’s going on all around them? of the pot smoke and the dealing? Walk down the west promenade behind Island House or Westview on a late night, winter or summer, and first smell the pot, then see the roach-huddles of guys with their cellphones always busy.” 

In this era of Trumpism and “alternative facts,” it’s important to keep the truth in front of us: this is an issue that has long been called out, frequently, by Roosevelt Islanders. I am saddened that it took an assault on a Roosevelt Island parent to get the attention this deserves from RIRA, the WIRE and PSD. 

I am heartened that we’re working on a long-sought solution.

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