NYC and State In Fiscal Crisis But City Council Funnels 4 Mil To Kahn/ FDR Memorial Boondoggle - Ask Jessica Lappin Why At Roosevelt Island Fundraiser
Pigs at the Trough image from troypolitics
The ongoing attempt of certain local politicians, lead by Councilmember Jessica Lappin, to pump some life into the comatose Louis Kahn/FDR memorial proposed for Southpont Park on Roosevelt Island received a slight boost with the recent infusion of New York City taxpayer funds. According to Lappin aide John Moore:
As for the FDR Memorial, the budget does include $2 million in capital funding for this fiscal year and another $2 million for next year.The budget referred to is the 2009 and 2010 New York City budget. Given the severe budget crisis facing New York City and State over the next several years, it is nothing less than obscene that Council Member Lappin sees fit to spend desperately need public taxpayer funds on the FDR memorial boondoggle. After 35 years of failure by the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI) to raise the approximately $40 million to build what some Roosevelt Island residents refer to as the Louis Kahn Death Box (others refer to it incorrectly as the FDR Four Freedoms Memorial Park) with private funds, FERI is now resorting to sucking at the public trough. What an inappropriate use of public funds, a complete travesty!
When I inquired of Roosevelt Island's other elected officals whether they would support spending New York State Taxpayer funds on the highly controversial so-called FDR memorial I received the following responses. From Assembly Member Micah Kellner:
My focus is on insuring that the quality of life on Roosevelt Island does not erode in these tough economic times. My priorities are protecting the affordability of people's homes as we transition away from Mitchell-Lama, getting new stores and businesses on Main Street and upgrading our transportation infrastructure.From State Senator Jose Serrano:
In the past, I have expressed my support for the creation of an FDR memorial on Roosevelt Island, but I knew then that during tough economic times it would take a concerted effort by all layers of elected govenment to help make this public monument a reality. With that in mind, I am heartened to hear that the City Council will appropriate a significant amount of money toward this cause. While the overall economic challenges remain, and indeed continue to worsen everyday, I remain hopeful that a fitting memorial to FDR will one day grace the southern end of Roosevelt Island.Also, during a conversation I had with Congresswomen Maloney at this year's Roosevelt Island Day I asked her if she would be seeking federal money for the FDR Memorial. She indicated that she would not and that any federal funds for Roosevelt Island would be used for fixing the seawall.
Their statements hardly represent an overwhelming desire to spend NY State public taxpayer funds on the Kahn/FDR memorial Boondoggle. Why does Ms. Lappin make the FDR Memorial such a New York City Council funding priority over local Roosevelt Island organizations?
Ms Lappin recently announced that she was able to secure more than $86,000 for Roosevelt Island based organizations from this year's New York City Budget. However, when you compare $86,000 for local Roosevelt Island organizations to the $2 million in each of the next two years she helped secure for FERI's Kahn/FDR boondoggle, a much more clear picture of Ms. Lappin's Roosevelt Island priorities emerge and they are certainly not favorable to the residents of Roosevelt Island. Does she not realize that such funds would be of much better use helping Roosevelt Island's children at the Youth Center, Public Library or at PS/IS 217. Maybe her priorities would be better spent assisting the Senior Citizen Center or helping to insure that affordable housing remains available at Roosevelt Island instead of ruining Southpoint Park with the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial. Even if you believe the memorial is a good idea, it certainly should not be receiving public taxpayer funds during the current City and State budget crisis.
Council Member Lappin is having a Summer BBQ/Fundraiser on August 14 at Roosevelt Island's Lighthouse Park from 6-7:30 PM. Go introduce yourself and say hello.
Also, why am I not surprised RIOC President Shane is reporting that FERI is now seeking some sort of Southpoint Park site control resolution from the RIOC Board supporting their proposal? From the August 2, 2008 Main Street WIRE RIOC Column by Steve Shane on the FDR Memorial:
The Franklin and Elearnor Roosevelt Institute (FERI) group, having secured additional financing commitments from the city, is seeking further approvals from the state and federal agencies having jurisdiction. FERI has requested RIOC to consider the proposal, again, before FERI spends lots of money on the application process, and to have the Board issue a conditional, non-binding resolution of willingness to proceed, in the same manner as previously utilized for the Octagon, Southtown, and other Island developments with identifiable progress milestones. The item should be on the Board’s September meeting agenda.This appears to be another example of FERI not being able to raise the necessary funds for the memorial within the Fall 2008 deadline and seeking yet another delay. As reported in the March 29 Main Street WIRE's (PDF File) excellent issue concerning the FDR memorial, RIOC President Steve Shane said of the deadline:
... the close-out date for the Kahn memorial will come “when development of Phase I of Southpoint Park reaches the stage where it’s no longer able to be traversed for construction activity... We are going ahead with that. There’s going to be a groundbreaking this summer, and the construction of the park will be ongoing. We are about to start the stabilization of the Renwick Ruin and we are going to do that. Once that reaches the stage where it’s no longer possible to traverse that part and the design does not permit construction roads through it – it will no longer be possible to access Southpoint for that purpose.”In the Daily News article titled Time Running Out For FDR Memorial:
"It's been a 35-year saga with no support from people on the island," said Judith Berdy, head of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.Like a Zombie killed during the daytime, the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial keeps on coming out again at night. However, the good news is by seeking this resolution, FERI and RIOC management are implicitly acknowledging that, as some have said all along, there is no binding legal commitment to build the FDR memorial at Southpoint. If such an obligation existed, there would be no need for this "non-binding resolution of willingness to proceed".
There is no specific deadline for the monument construction to begin, but Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Shane said "the end of the line is out there."
Groundbreaking on the northernmost 10 acres of Southpoint Park is expected this summer. Those plans will turn the park into cultivated wilderness.
After the first phase of that project is complete, the FDR memorial will become a dead deal.
This FERI item on the RIOC Board's September Agenda will certainly be a good opportunity for the newly elected Roosevelt Island resident Board Directors to chart a fresh, new and independent course by rejecting FERI's request for site control of Southpoint Park and come up with a plan to explore new ideas for the future of Southpoint Park. Will they do that?
Much, much more on this soon. For all those opposed to the Kahn/FDR memorial it is time to get organized.