Friday, July 2, 2010

Message To Roosevelt Island Community From RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin

Image of June 2010 RIOC Board of Directors Meeting

As reported earlier today:
I have offered the opportunity to members of the Roosevelt Island Board of Directors to use this blog as a vehicle to communicate to Roosevelt Island residents regarding issues of concern to the community in an unedited format and taking as much space as they wish. I am very happy that the newest Board Member, Margie Smith, decided to do so and hope that other Board Members follow her lead...
Just received this message from a second RIOC Director, Jonathan Kalkin. From Mr. Kalkin:
I believe in the hope of Roosevelt Island. I believe in the experiment. However, experiments need changes from time to time to get it right. More importantly, experiments need catalysts.

I believe in the hope of owning your own home no matter who you are. For too long, people in this community have been paying for affordable housing that they can’t call their own. It is a treadmill of never-ending rent, or uncertainty without any equity and security. Today, tenants do not know if a rent hike, or a landlord’s electricity scheme, or a market-rate privatization deal will cause them to lose their home. They also don’t have the financial security to sell and give the next person the opportunity to buy an affordable place. This cycle puts their fate in someone else’s hands. This is a statement that if you need affordable housing, you will never achieve the American Dream to say it’s yours.

As my first act as chair of the RIOC Board’s Real Estate committee, with the help of my tireless fellow Board members and our great Assemblymember Micah Kellner, I have set out to break that cycle for the first time. Too many plans had come before and were never acknowledged by the RIOC Board. So, I had it put on the agenda, and we approved the DHCR affordability plans for Rivercross, Island House, and (when the tenants approve one) Westview. It seemed inefficient that all the State and City agencies had never met together in one room, and so I asked the Assemblymember to help set up a meeting at City Hall, and he delivered. As a result, things have started to come together and movement is at hand. It may seem that the RIOC Board doesn’t believe in you, in the hope of owning your own home. This is not true. Your fight is our fight. Your hope is our hope.

I believe in the hope of choice and opportunity and prosperity in owning your own business, and the joy that brings in providing a service and employment for others. For too long, nine, three, or worse – one person – has decided what stores go on the Island. Government thinks it can plan what you want and need. It destroys the entrepreneurial spirit by putting it through a complex and expensive legal and government bidding process that makes it impossible to achieve another American Dream – owning a business. This robs the hope of employment for people on the Island in a time of economic uncertainty. Finally, government says that people of this Island don’t deserve the rich panoply of shops and opportunities of other areas because we are a mixed-income and affordable community.

When I came to this Island, I examined this process and wrote an article in The WIRE outlining a solution – a master lease where the choice of what businesses exist here, and the dreams of the entrepreneurial spirit, are taken from us on the Board and given rightfully back to you. It was approved by the RIRA Common Council, endorsed in a RIRA election referendum, recommended by Senator Jose Serrano’s Hunter College study and even by a consultant study commissioned by RIOC – and then approved by the New York State Attorney General. It has been a long fight, but we are not giving up until a person who wants to open a shop here on Tuesday, and has the means and acumen, is allowed to sign their lease on Wednesday. That business owner will then employ people, provide services for you, and, because there are businesses everywhere on Main Street, will not take the customer for granted. At the same time, that healthy competition will allow our present and future businesses to prosper because, for the first time, there will be a reason to walk down Main Street and patronize the stores.

More importantly, if that business doesn’t survive, it can be replaced immediately. Currently, we have a race to the bottom. We are so afraid of anyone leaving that we allow any business to operate or open, whether or not they fulfill your needs. The current government-approval process is long and, therefore, we are desperate to keep or accept anyone who is interested under any circumstances, simply because we know the current bidding process requires months.

This process can’t be done piecemeal. We want a long-term solution. Also, no one wants to be the first business to invest if they are surrounded by an empty block of stores. The process that will exist will be simple. We give someone the opportunity if they can prove they deserve it; the business then survives if they prove to their customers that they can and will perform. If they perform, they are able to pay to stay in their location. If they can’t, someone else is immediately given the opportunity. It’s a contract that exists between the consumer and business owner, and it’s your right to be in control of it.

I believe that we can be a place of innovation. Our Island started with the idea that we would be a modern community with new technology and ideas. I have been proud to commission studies from Columbia and Cornell regarding transportation, technology, and our parks that have brought new life to this experiment. Ideas like GPS time-clocks for buses are installed. Next up is fiber-optic wi-fi internet in our parks, an Island 311-type information/complaint system with help from Frank Farance, efficient LED lighting, GPS time-clock signs, and bike sharing. I have spoken to companies about installing chargers for electric cars like the new Chevy Volt in Motorgate, powered by solar or tidal energy. These ideas are becoming a reality because the Board and residents believe this Island deserves better.

Finally, I believe in a true and diverse democracy – an Island of diverse incomes where people work together for a better life with true political representation. We are not Tribeca or Brooklyn Heights; we are better, we are diverse, we are special, we are an experiment worth fighting for.

We are the American Dream.
I hope Ms. Smith and Mr. Kalkin continue to share their thoughts with the Roosevelt Island community via Roosevelt Islander blog and that the other RIOC Board Directors do the same as well.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Kalkin,

How dare you RIOC Members, appointed by the Gov. and elected to the Board by us, the Residents,act in total secrecy to get rid of Steve Shane.

How soon you forget who helped get you on the Board.

You should have called a public meeting to let the entire community know what you were all up to....

I am disgusted after reading the Wire articles.

I am a 28 year resident of Westview.

We don't even have a member from this Building, a resident sitting on the RIOC Board, as a resident member.

It is mostly all Rivercross members.

Ms. Fay Christian was elected when she lived here in WV, then she moved to Rivercross.

Mr. Shane was the most open RIOC President this Community had in years.

You didn't like his opinon and views on the storefronts- too bad...

I believe what you all don't like is that he was trying to protect Island House, Westview and yes, even Rivercross tenants with "affordable" housing, the very reason this Island was conceived in the early 70's.

I don't know what Building you are in, but here in WV we are fighting back, we had a case in Court to fight our rent hike, etc.

It seems to me what the Rivercross Board Members didn't like was that Mr. Shane was trying to slow down the privitazation process and not let tenants be able to walk away with huge profits after they got the abililty to own their apartments.

Also, not everybody in WV or IH or even Rivercross wants to own or can afford to own their apartments.

God knows now who will take Mr. Shane's place.

He was going to retire in about 6 mos.

All of you should resign.

I agree the empty storefronts aren't good, but I have been reading in depth about this issue and I don't think some of his objections were a Bad thing for this Community.

I will be writing the Gov. on this matter.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, poster above. Maybe there were good reasons to fire Shane but why did it have to be in such secrecy? The board members were elected and put in place to get more transparency. Now see what's happening.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I am the first poster to respond to Mr. Kalkin, it is really for all the Resident Board Members-how dare they do that- "fire" Steve Shane and not inform the entire Community first.

He helped get them on that Board, RIOC, he had years of experience, was on RIOC back in the 80's, I have been here since 1982 and he has Commercial Real Estate experience and is a lawyer, etc.

It really scares me to think they think they have all the "power" on this Island and it mostly slanted all to Rivercross.

All the Resident elected Board Members are from Rivercross I believe except for two, I know one is from Manhattan Park.

This is NOT what we fought for years to get in terms of Residents elected to the RIOC Board.

There has to be an elected member from each of the Buildings here, currently, no one from Westview, Ms. Christian live here in WV when she was elected, then moved to Rivercross, no one from Island House I believe, since Patrick Stewart Left, no one from Eastwood aka "Roosevelt Landings".

Mr. Shane had his faults, but his predecessors were really bad and he did try to communicate openly with the community and get back to you when you had a question.

My family has personal experience with him getting back to us everytime we had a question or concern on WV, transportation, etc.

Now, I am very concerned who may replace him.

I hope Gov. Patterson looks at this and or Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, who could be our next new Gov. in NYS.

Steve Shane brought the most transparency to RIOC that I have seen in a very long time, in over the last 15 years.

28 years.

Anonymous said...

The resident board members only care about their wallets! While Shane has more experience in real estate and construction than any board member - - his fatal mistake was not feeding their fantasy that Main Street could become Tribeca and that their housing project units at the three remaining ML buildings could fetch the board members $1,000 sf. Lesson to the next Presidient of RIOC: Don't get between a boardmember and his or her wallet!

Anonymous said...

The N.Y.S. Board of Ethics should take a look at this whole thing. Shame. Shame. Shame.

Anonymous said...

Amen to the last two poster- you hit the nail on the head!!!

I am the first poster and the resident in WV-28 years and applaude RIRA President, Frank Farance for speaking out agains them also and telling them they made a huge mistake...

NYS has to take a look at this, Mr. Shane was appointed by then Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

The Resident Board Members were elected by the Community- thinking they would have our best interests at heart.

We all have to speak out about this as a total Community.

28 years

Anonymous said...

While I agree that the resident board members are greedy and only care about using RIOC to increase their personal wealth and Shane was an obstacle to their master plan of self-enrichment. Having said that, I will also concede that Shane was also extremely naive and arrogant. Of course, they kicked him to the curb!!!

Anonymous said...

If this new board kept the secret of firing shane, imagine what other secrets they are keeping from us as well. My lease is up in November. I'm thinking of moving.

Anonymous said...

Hi to the last poster, I am the first one.

God only know what secrets they are keeping.

Unfortunately, this has been going on in RIOC for a long time.

I have been here for 28 years, but in the beginning, it wasn't this bad.

What makes it worse, these Board Members are Residents, elected by the Residents here and look what they did.

The secretive dealing in RIOC and the WIRE buildings keeps going on and it seems as if, we the Community and Residents have no right to know what is really going on here, eventhough we pay rents that support the Island, help pay RIOC, etc.

My lease is up at the end of January and I am not sure what to do anymore, never thought I would see this once beautiful, alot more transparent, fight back community be ruined and it is like living in a Macbeth scene- all behind the scenes and smoke and mirrors.

I am a NYC native and there is no place like this in the city.

It is just heartbreaking, shameful and they all need to be called out on it.

In the old days, residents would be protesting in front of RIOC.

28 years.