Elected President to Replace Jeffrey Escobar

Lynne Shinozaki aims to change the Common Council. Cans she do it?

Updated 34 weeks ago David Stone
Lynne Shinozaki, last month, at the RI Welcome Sign unveiling.
Lynne Shinozaki, last month, at the RI Welcome Sign unveiling.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Don't let her gentle manner and quick smile convince you that newly elected Roosevelt Island Residents Association President Lynne Shinozaki is less than tough. Shinozaki's a fighter who overcame a learning disability on her way to a career in toy design. She wants to set an example by managing change.

A newcomer to Roosevelt Island, I was elected to the Common Council in 1992. Shinozaki was already there. She still is, and this year she set aside fears that her learning disability would make her less effective to run for President.

She wants, she says, to show by example that big obstacles can be overcome.

Her disability involves a trait most of us are born with and use with so little thought we take it for granted.

"I can't visualize words," she says.

That's is a bit more severe than dyslexia where you can visualize words but they're scrambled.

But typical of Shinozaki's optimism, she recognizes an unusual gift she sees as offsetting it. She can visualize concepts. In detail, like blueprints with images included.

After giving up on the pursuit of a degree in law - the profession's just too dependent on the written word - she put her gifts to practice designing toys for several big name manufacturers.

Lynne Shinozaki aims to change the Common Council. Cans she do it?

Driven to Overcome

Serving as Common Council Vice President under Jeffrey Escobar who stepped down after his third term, Shinozaki convinced herself that she had too much to offer to let her lifelong disability keep her from trying.

She ran unopposed, but campaigned hard, part of a commitment to convince residents that the Common Council can be a force in their favor as it was when, under President David Kraut, it battled to save the Tram from extinction and, when lead by Matthew Katz, it pushed legislation in Albany that requires the State to appoint residents to the RIOC Board.

At the time Escobar took over from Matthew Katz, his greatest challenge involved bringing order to a fractious group peppered with discontent and personal agendas. He achieved peace and order at a price - the Common Council lost a lot of its fire and unifying purpose.

"I want to remind people why we’re here. We're keepers of quality of life," Shinozaki told the Daily.

For starters, to keep her Council Members focused, she plans to kick off meetings by asking them to remember, "What's our Preamble?"

According to the RIRA Constitution: We, the residents of Roosevelt Island, come from diverse backgrounds and have diverse interests and circumstances. We all want to live together in harmony based on mutual respect and the voluntary sharing of certain responsibilities for our common good. We form this community association to enable us to define, maintain and promote our common objectives in a democratic manner.

"...and our purpose?"

Again, according the Constitution: The purposes of RIRA are: 1) to represent the interests of its members to all governmental, quasi-governmental and private institutions that develop policy affecting Roosevelt Island and its residents; that supervise or manage our housing and that supervise or manage other Island operations; and 2) to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of its members and the quality of life in our community are maintained and improved.

In the view of many, these principles were lost over the years.

Shinozaki's determined to make them part of the community fabric.

Critical to her plans is "..readdressing and changing the constitution to include everyone on Roosevelt Island." That means recognizing our neighbors at Coler Hospital and Cornell Tech as full contributing members.

Her track record of achievement speaks for itself, learning disability be damned. Lynne Shinozaki's out to make the Common Council and, along with it, the Roosevelt Island community relevant again.


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