Friday, August 27, 2010

RIRA President On RIOC/RIRA Elections, Maple Tree Group, Shane's Departure, Torres Arrival, Main Street Storefronts & Other Roosevelt Island Issues

Image of June 2010 RIRA Meeting

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Frank Farance sends the following report to Roosevelt Island residents. Mr. Farance addresses:
1. Successful RIRA Fundraiser nets $1333. My apologies for skipping this important item in my last column. Thanks to Sherie Helstien and the RIRA Social, Cultural, and Educational Services Committee (chaired by Nikki Leopold), who produced a classical vocal concert as a June 27 fundraiser. RIRA funds have helped many organizations and worthwhile efforts on the Island.

2. RIRA Sponsored 9/11 Memorial Service. On Saturday, September 11, at 6:45 p.m., the community will come together at the 9/11 memorial behind the Good Shepherd Community Center. There will be readings, performances, and moments of silence. Don't forget to bring your own candle.

3. RIRA Elections. We all have two-year terms, which are up this November. I encourage you to consider running in the RIRA elections. In my next column, I expect to have more details on the nominations and elections process.

4. RIOC to provide funding of biannual RIRA and RIOC director nominee elections. RIRA runs its Island-wide elections every two years at the same time as the federal elections. RIRA Common Council members are directly elected -- delegates from each of the housing developments (Southtown, Northtown, Manhattan Park, Octagon) and two Island-wide representatives (President and Vice President). In the past, we have been lucky enough to have funding from our City Councilmember (but funding stopped years ago) and from our State Assemblymember (but the Governor has vetoed all member items recently). I spoke with RIOC about long-term funding and they have agreed to support us (separate from public purpose funds). Thanks to Steve Chironis and RIOC!

5. Island Organizations to meet to on Common Calendar. Have you experienced the frustration of being a member of two Island organizations who have scheduled an important event on the same day? Maybe we can do better and have fewer conflicts in the schedules. On September 21 at 8:00 p.m., I'm holding a meeting with all organizations invited with the hopes that we can have a common calendar through June 2011 so we can avoid gratuitous conflicts. We'll publish the calendar in well-known places, including The WIRE, RIOC, and Island blog websites.

6. Meeting Ms. Leslie Torres, then candidate and now RIOC CEO/President. Thank you to the residents who provided questions to Ms. Torres for the RIRA Town Meeting. We had a good meeting and she answered approximately 20 detailed questions over 90 minutes. This week RIRA officers and committee chairs met with Ms. Torres to reaffirm the RIRA-RIOC collaboration.

7. RIOC Board chose not to interview 3 candidates. Assemblymember Kellner has legislation requiring three candidates be interviewed and publicly vetted prior to appointing the RIOC Board president. Regardless of Ms. Torres' excellent capabilities, the RIOC Board has failed the Island residents. Board members (with the exception of Margie Smith) felt that they had a good candidate, so there was no reason to follow through. Board members don't seem to understand that the sanctity of the process is most important: today's reason for lack of self-discipline is tomorrow's excuse for precedent for not following the process. After the appointment, Matt Katz (former RIRA President) questioned RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin's reasoning for his unwillingness to have three candidates considered. Mr. Kalkin said that there was an immediate need for a RIOC President because some important decision needed to be made right away. No such event has happened since. This sounds like a bunch of baloney. A common theme with the present RIOC Board is double standard. Had State-appointed people made such decisions, we'd be screaming bloody murder to the governor, but now the we have some residents on the Board, we don't complain as much about their poor decision-making.

8. RIOC Board has no requirements that prohibit them from talking about the Shane firing. Also at the RIOC Board meeting, Roosevelt Islander blogger Rick O'Connor and I asked RIOC General Counsel Ken Leitner what provisions, statutes, etc., prohibited the Board from discussing Shane's firing. Leitner referred the questions to the Board Chair, read: there is no legal basis for the RIOC Board withholding the information. If it is the policy of the chair not to discuss this, then this could easily be overruled by the directors themselves. So the real reason this is not being discussed is because the directors chose not to discuss it. As confirmed by Assemblymember Kellner, Shane's firing involved friction with the Board over privatization (not really about storefronts). Recently, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard was fired by its board and their board chose to give an explanation. Why did they explain? Their board is elected by their shareholders, thus they need to explain their decision-making. For us, it's back to the double standard: had State-appointed Board members not explained, we'd voice ourselves loudly... but now that it is our own residents, we have a different standard.

9. Still Problems with Main Street Storefronts. I've asked Jonathan Kalkin, Chair of the RIOC Real Estate Development Advisory Committee, for a copy of the RFP. Mr. Kalkin continues to be unresponsive to questions about the RFP. Mr. Kalkin and his committee members did not come to the RIRA Town Meeting in June to discuss this. Mr. Kalkin wants to write an article for The WIRE explaining his perspective, but he is unwilling to take questions from the WIRE's editor or the RIRA President. Mr. Kalkin claims that he has met weekly ("I believe I hold the record for most Real Estate Committee meetings. Some of them we had almost every week at the end of this process."). All the records of his meetings have been removed from the RIOC website. RIOC has a bid worth approximately $100 million over its lifetime, yet we have no records of the committee meetings, no supporting documents, and a committee that refuses to answer questions or participate in community meetings. According to Mr. Kalkin, RIOC has outsourced the bidding to Jones Lang LaSalle. Meantime, we have the Tram project at $20-25 million which has been well-documented on the RIOC website. Why does RIOC use a different procurement, review, and publicity process for the Main Street storefronts? We've asked for a copy of the RFP to review it prior to posting. Why? Because it is in everyone's benefit to make sure the right RFP is posted for bidding. In government purchasing, it is normally the case that these kinds of complex bids have some interaction with the public and the vendors: a draft is posted for comment. This makes sense for vendors too because fixing the bid afterward can cause litigation and delay from both successful and unsuccessful bidders. But Mr. Kalkin refuses to have community input. Opaque, arbitrary, and capricious.

10. Maple Tree Group, a voice of democracy, demonstrates the opposite: subjective criteria on whether we have elections. The Maple Tree Group (a subcommittee of RIRA's Government Relations Committee) has produced a whopper. They recently voted, in a secret meeting with only self-selected "core" members (read: The Old Guard) to postpone RIOC Board nominee elections for two years (2012). Right now, one RIOC director's position is expired (Fay Christian of Rivercross), two will expire in Spring 2011 (David Kraut of Roosevelt Landings, and Jonathan Kalkin of Manhattan Park) and one will expire at the end of 2011 (Howard Polivy of Rivercross). I'm on that MTG committee, but I was excluded from voting ("because you haven't been involved in all of the discussions for the past 13 years". My response: I resigned from the committee when I was a RIOC Board candidate. I'm no longer a candidate so I rejoined). I was excluded from the discussions, too -- RIRA meetings are public. When I was elected RIRA President, I learned that Southtown and Octagon people were really unhappy about the dominance of the so-called Old Guard and wanted an equal say. But you don't have a say in the MTG, which thinks it controls Island-wide elections and state legislation. You can try to join them, but they won't let you vote because you haven't been around for 13 years and they'll keep their discussion private (yup, you can't even go to a meeting). Meantime, even though you and I will not meet up to their standards and 13 years of membership to allow us to vote and participate, they expect legislators with five minutes preview to make informed decisions about Roosevelt Island, and they expect the RIRA Common Council to approve MTG's positions with ten minutes of discussion. According to an MTG member, the reason for delaying the vote is so that there can be a staggering of candidates: four one election cycle, three the other cycle - but we can accomplish that with RIOC elections this year. The "core" members are Ashton Barfield (Rivercross), David Bauer (Rivercross), Linda Heimer (Rivercross), Sherie Helstien (Westview), Matt Katz (Westview), Dick Lutz (Rivercross), Nurit Marcus (Rivercross) -- who all voted against the RIOC elections this year -- and Joyce Mincheff (Roosevelt Landings), who voted in favor of RIOC elections this year. RIRA Government Relations Committee chair Ashton Barfield tells us that MTG has no leader. I spoke to David Bauer, former MTG Chair, and he was very disappointed in this recent vote: he feels that it is difficult to promote democracy when you don't have a democratic process yourself. Meanwhile, when I complained about the secrecy, MTG member Ellen Polivy (RIRA Vice President and whose husband would benefit from RIOC elections postponed two years) chided me, "Frank, put your effort into more important ventures than trashing the careful and deliberate work of a committee with long tenure". Anyway, I hope that some of you complain at the upcoming RIRA meeting, and I hope that you join RIRA -- we cannot be making decisions in a self-selected, secretive way. A neighbor told me: democracy is not about getting an election, it's about getting the second election. There's a lot of stuff going on here with the RIOC Board and manipulation of the election process.

11. Upcoming RIRA meetings. Aside from the short-notice town meeting (see above), the next meeting is on September 15 at 8:00 p.m. in the Good Shepherd Community Center; future meeting is October 6. I can't believe the summer is over. :-(

A version of the RIRA President's message is also published as the RIRA column in the 8/28/10 Main Street WIRE.


Anonymous said...

Wow. So, I really used to hate Frank and his style but, man, I am on his side now.

What the f is going on with this RIOC board? Is there indeed something going on in regards of speeding up the privatization process and make the Rivercross and WV members rich? Keep the current folks on the board so they can rush it through?

This is all developing into some kind of conspiracy somehow.

Anonymous said...

Where is the State Ethics Committee on this? Has anyone contacted them?

Anonymous said...

Island house wants to go private too - and in case you didn't know - Frank lives in IH and is also pushing for that privatization.

Anonymous said...

Presumambly PSD will read this blog and comment. Let's see their comment before we rush to judgement.

Anonymous said...

Bravo to Frank Farance to try to shed some light on the what may be going on here on RI, with RIOC and RIRA.

He is trying to get transparency on all these isssues.

Shame on the MTG, who once proclaimed how important it was to have a "democratic" environment in place on Roosevelt Island with regard to self governance, Residents appointed to RIOC.

Now, they have the nerve to keep other people out of their meetings!!!

Elections should be held every two years, not when certain members of RIRA thinks they are necessary.

It seems to be that certain members have their own interests at heart, not the Island's.

I am tired of hearing about just "Privatization" of all the WIRE buildings.

I have been on this Island for 28 years, does anybody here remember why this Island came to be developed?

It was developed back in the late 1960's under the Nelson Rockefeller Administration under Ed Logue, who thought it would be a good idea to have a place for working and middle class New Yorkers to live.

When we moved here the Slogan was " Safe, Affordable Housing for EVERYONE"!!!

That seems to be now out of the picture.

Eastwood, now "Roosevelt Landings" was destroyed by a horrible deal and God only knows what is really in the works for IH and WV, WV is where I have lived for 28 years now.

Stop the Secrecy and special interests NOW!!!

This Island was not meant to be run by the MTG or certain people on RIRA or RIOC to further only their vested interests.

There should be some kind of investigation going on, i.e, an Ethics Committee.

Maybe the AG should look into this before he becomes potentially our New Governor.

Everyone knows that RC wants go go Private, IH and WV are trying- which is all fine and good, as long as it is done in the right way.

What about the residents that don't want to or can't buy their apartments and have been here for a long time.

What has happened to the Roosevelt Island I knew that all banded together- all the Buildings and would make their voices known and speak out.

Now it has turned into the separate Buildings- WIRE just trying to go on their own separate paths and most of the Residents in those Buildings don't know what is going on in their own Building.

That is the case right now with WV.

This is a disgrace to the name of FDR.

Also, you cannot forget about the long term residents at Coler and Goldwater who have been here way before any residences went up.


Thank you again to Frank Farance for trying to throw the spotlight on Jonathan Kalkin- Real Estate-RIOC Board Member- what is going on?

Why are there still so many empty storefronts in the middle of Main Street, i.e, the Bakery, Pizza Store, Fish Store, Liquor Store?

Also- the MTG and RIRA and RIOC.

I don't know what to think when I read all of this....

28 years

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the RIOC board did not become more competent by placing elected island residents into it. All the complaints from the times before how things would be so much better with actual residents on the board have not been addressed.

Anonymous said...

"Be careful what you wish for."

Now we have BM's in place who you thought "would look out for you" & you realize that "they're only looking out for themselves."

We'll have a chance to Vote for someone else during the next elections... If the MTG allows it.


Anonymous said...

Is the MTG the only committee that is in charge of organizing these elections? Can't you just get the votes with RIRA together to dissolve this group and start from scratch?

I guess that assumes that anybody on this island actually cares for RIRA and wants to participate.