Friday, December 10, 2010

Report From December RIRA Meeting & Roosevelt Island Controversy Between Old And New Media - Print Media Fighting Back Against The Web

Image of December 2010 RIRA Common Council Meeting

The monthly Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council meeting held on December 1 began with Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) CFO Steve Chironis presenting RIOC's proposed fiscal year 2011 - 2012 budget.

Nothing new from previous discussions regarding the budget was revealed but it was good to see many of the new Common Council members had reviewed at least portions of the proposed budget and were prepared with questions for Mr. Chironis that he ably answered.

Image of RIOC CFO Discussing RIOC 2011-12 Fiscal Year Budget At December RIRA Meeting

Approval of the proposed fiscal year 2011 - 2012 budget is on the Agenda for the December 15 RIOC Board of Directors Meeting.

More on RIOC's Proposed 2011-2012 Budget here and here.

After Mr. Chironis spoke during the Public Session, Roosevelt Island Community Literary Associates (RICLA) representative Janet Falk spoke to the Common Council members regarding her attempt to bring Roosevelt Island organizations under a common insurance umbrella and urged those interested in participating to contact her.

RIRA President Mathew Katz

Image Of RIRA President Katz (center), VP Polivy (left), Secretary Helstein (right) & RIOC's Chironis (standing) at December RIRA Meeting

then delivered his RIRA President's Report to the Common Council.
RIRA President’s Report – December 1, 2010

1. We have put together some of the basic Council materials to help us in our work. The Contact sheet has been forwarded to you and please let Sherie know if there are any errors. She has prepared table tent cards for each of us to display here tonight and please return them to Sherie at the end of the meeting. Vini Fortuna has created an Attendance sheet that is available on a Google website and I’ve forwarded the link to everyone. Also, you will see that all the 2011 Common Council dates are listed on tonight’s agenda, so please put them on your calendars. I’ve brought extra wall calendars as well should you need one.

2. We’ve been asked to convene our next Common Council meeting on January 5 at the Sportspark gym, 250 Main Street. We were asked to do this because RIOC is conducting asbestos abatement at the Good Shepherd Community Center during the first week of January. I’ve been assured that sufficient tables, chairs and heat will be provided for our needs.

3. I attended the ceremony to mark the reopening of the Tram yesterday. It was truly a gala affair with considerable coverage by the media including the BBC and French television. Some of you may have seen Dave Evans on an ABC broadcast expounding on the Tram and I got my licks in on NY1. By the way, I was interviewed by The New York Times on Monday about the community’s perception of the Tram, and that story appeared in today’s New York section.

4. Today marked the first session of RIOC open office hours. There will be a RIOC representative available every Wednesday between 3 and 5 p.m. at their 591 Main Street office. I met with Community Liaison, Erica Wilder, who will be the point person for this program. The Main Street WIRE and the Roosevelt Islander blog will broadcast this information and I’ve asked RIOC to do the same. The project will continue only if it is utilized and I hope that the community will recognize this opportunity and take advantage of it. The RIRA Common Council should lead the way and I urge you to drop in and introduce yourselves to Erica, a very nice young woman who, among other things, created the Fall for Arts program on Roosevelt Island.

5. During the last Common Council,Vice President, Ellen Polivy, brought the issue of hydrofracking to our attention. This is the practice of using water mixed with toxic chemicals to release natural gas from shale and is threatening the aquifer that supplies New York City’s drinking water. Yesterday, the State Assembly passed a bill previously endorsed by the Senate that now awaits the Governor’s signature. This bill will suspend permitting of hydrofracking in New York State until May of 2011. I know that Community Board 8 has come out against this practice and I hope Ellen will continue to keep us informed.

6. I’ve suggested to the resident RIOC Board Directors that it would serve the community well should they meet occasionally with the residents. While we do have an opportunity to speak to them at the RIOC Board meetings, those are formal affairs at 5:30 in the afternoon, with video coverage, RIOC executives and the DHCR Commissioner in attendance. It might be more comfortable for us to schedule informal get-togethers at a more convenient time. Lynne Shinozaki has suggested that RIRA start the ball rolling by offering a sit-down over coffee or drinks at one of our Island watering holes. I’ll ask if they’re interested at the December 15 Board meeting and let you know.

7. Our primary goal this evening is to elect the chairs of our seven primary committees. Remember, every Delegate is required to serve on at least one committee. Chairs must convene at least three meetings over the course of a year, but the number will be dependent upon the issues and programs each committee undertakes. And as always, I will require written reports of committee meetings by the Friday before Common Council unless the meeting is held after the mailing deadline or late- breaking news needs to be shared verbally. And in January, we will elect a chair of the Public Purpose Fund Committee, the RIRA group charged with allocating $100,000 among those Island groups requesting financial help.

8. And finally, I urge you all to go out and find a virgin to sacrifice some time before December 21 to insure that the Winter Solstice will guarantee that days begin to lengthen once again. Seriously, Sherie and I lit the first Chanukah candle this evening and, as we begin this month of celebrations, we wish you a Happy Chanukah, a Merry Christmas, a good Kwanzaa and a healthy and prosperous New Year. Together, I know we’re going to do great things for Roosevelt Island in 2011.
The remaining portions of the meeting were devoted to nominating, voting and appointing the chairperson(s) of the various RIRA committees. Former RIRA President Frank Farance was voted Chair of the Planning Committee, a position formerly held by Mr. Katz. Essentially, the result of the 2010 RIRA Presidential election was a switch of positions between Mr. Farance and Mr. Katz - both now holding positions formerly held by the other.

The RIRA President"s Report delivered to the Common Council and included above is different than the RIRA President's Report which had previously been appearing in this blog (since February 2009) during the tenure of Frank Farance and once during Mr. Katz's current term as well as in our local print newspaper, The Main Street WIRE. The RIRA President's column as well as the RIOC President's column (which has been appearing in this blog since April 2009) had been appearing only in the print newspaper (and it's online version) before the establishment of this Blog.

The RIRA President's Report to the public may no longer be appearing in this blog. At the direction of the Main Street WIRE Editor, Mr. Katz has decided to allow that Editor to set the terms and conditions for how the RIRA President's Column may appear on the Roosevelt Islander Blog. According to the Editor, only a small snippet of the RIRA President's text may appear in the blog with a link to the WIRE's online version for the complete column. That is unacceptable to me. I had previously been publishing the entire column as well as linking back to the WIRE and will not publish the RIRA President's column unless it is whole and complete. If any of you wish to read Mr. Katz's RIRA President's column, it will only be in the print version of the WIRE as well as it's online version unless Mr. Katz changes his mind and allows me to post the entire version of the column - which I am happy to do.

The Main Street WIRE editor also tried to persuade Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Leslie Torres to stop sending the RIOC President's column in full to this blog but, again, only provide a snippet with a link to the full article in the WIRE. Unlike Mr. Katz, Ms. Torres refused to comply with the Editor's request. Ms. Torres told me that she will continue to provide her column in full to the Roosevelt Islander Blog. However, yesterday I learned from Ms. Torres that she will delay sending her column to this blog to comply with the WIRE's production and weekend distribution schedule. I had previously received her columns on Wednesday and usually posted them on Thursday's. Ms Torres now tells me that she will send the RIOC column to the Blog on Friday afternoon although I think and hope she is open to sending her column out earlier.

That's a brief summary of the nonsense that has been going on for the last month in Roosevelt Island media land. I have offered both Mr. Katz (who is listed as the circulation manager on the WIRE's masthead) and the Main Street WIRE Editor the opportunity to present their views on this ridiculous situation. To date they have not responded but will post any reply they have on topic if they wish.

UPDATE 9:45 PM - Clarification - Both Mr. Katz and the Editor have presented their views on this issue in several email messages between the three of us but they have declined my request for permission to post their messages.


Anonymous said...

Hope everyone who voted for Matthew Katz is happy...

Trevre said...

Explain to me again the reason why RIRA and RIOC would consider realeasing documents to one news source before another? If the Wire really did make this request, they have just lost a reader.

Anonymous said...

Really? BOYCOTT THE WIRE!! SERIOUSLY. See if Dick likes them apples. He's getting desperate.

JPH said...

Rick, do you not feel comfortable recapitulating their arguments? This is the kind of petty but outrageous behavior I've come to expect from this place. At least with Farance it was amusing. Still I want to know exactly why the Wire warrants this privilege. For 2 years under Farance's presidency it wasn't an issue.

Is it just a good-faith effort to keep island media policy consistent with the soviet-style architecture?

Anonymous said...

Who reads the WIRE anyway?

It's a 10 page paper with 6 pages of ads. The RIOC President & RIRA President have colums that take up a page. Nagging letters to the Editor take up another. That leaves just 2 pages for stuff folks might want to read while in the bathroom. Good thing it's free, b/c it would never be worth paying for.

Anonymous said...

Roosevelt island is looking more and more like Albany everyday...give me a break


JPH - I can summarize their arguments but I prefer to give them some additional time to make the case themselves.

If they don't avail themselves of the opportunity then I will characterize their case myself although I find it difficult to make such nonsensical points.

Anonymous said...

I wonder who will report develop-ment with respect to the Master Plan for Main Street, if ny.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there's no real way to boycott the WIRE - they give it away for free, and no one knows if you read it or not.

Anonymous said...

Well, we could talk to building management of each apartment complex and suggest not to accept the WIRE anymore. I am very sure if they stop being hung at our doors advertisers will start pulling ads.

We could take the entire delivery of boxes and carry them back to where they came from before anybody had the chance to distribute them inside the buildings.

Anonymous said...

It's not quite as clear cut as it would seem on the surface. Unlike a public update being written for general media distribution by an organization, these "columns" were originated years ago by the WIRE. The editor asked the President of each organization to write a column for his newspaper. This was long before the blog every existed.

Unlike a blog post, these columns get handed in to the newspaper, edited and fact checked for accuracy, just like all the other columns in the paper. The WIRE is on a schedule so they get the columns a few days before they're published. Oftentimes there are changes made and the final result is what appears in the WIRE on Saturdays. If the blog posted the columns they day they were received, they'd be posting drafts of what will appear in the WIRE.

It seems unlikely that a small group of adults can't find a compromise agreeable to everyone. There's no attempt to hold back the news, or to give one media preference over another. There's no breaking news in either of these columns. So, what's the rush in publishing? It's a small Island; it's local news; if both sides agree, the information can come out in both media at the same time. Why is that so bad?

As for publishing the entire column, I think it should all be published, not just a snippet. As long as there's a link to the WIRE also.

Anonymous said...

Please point out a RIRA or RIOC columns from the last two months that were different in the WIRE compared to the blog. If it is really just about editing we should see differences. I haven't.

JPH said...

Anon at 9:43 AM --

Thanks for the historical perspective. Definitely useful to note that the sole reason for existence of the columns was the initiative of the WIRE.

However, you state: "There's no attempt to hold back the news, or to give one media preference over another." That's precisely what's happening -- the WIRE has asked for the exclusive right to run the full columns, and in RIRA's case Katz has acquiesced. Thankfully Ms. Torres has not, but that's exactly what the WIRE has requested. Barring that, the WIRE wants to see that no one is capable of publishing the reports prior to the print/online publication in the WIRE. They are effectively asking to "hold back the news".

I like the WIRE, I like community newspapers generally. They're a great part of the fabric of the community. But let's not act like this is not about privileging the WIRE over the blog.

Rick -- if I've mischaracterized any thing above please correct.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should write letters to the WIRE in protest.


Yes, JPH is correct. I'll post more about this tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Everyone that was sitting on a committee was surprised to find their conversations in print. Why this would make someone resign from the PSC beats me. My main problem with reading these minutes, standing outside of the loop, is that it is only a snap shot of what was discussed. And there were even other minutes which follow these, where issues were discussed, and some decisions made. And another vote after that meeting, where an action item was voted down. This event is still not written having happened only days ago. There is nothing to inform you that in our last meeting, the one with Chief Guerra, the committee was very productive. We spoke of our concerns, he listened, and the following day we were informed he had heard us and was implemented several changes.

Problems started when a call was made, from the Lieutenant at the 114th to Chief Guerra. At this point we discovered, through a third party, that the intentions of a call that I had made to the 114th had been misunderstood. Clariftication of police procedure and protocol had been the point of my call, made at the committee's request. To our dismay the purpose of the call was misinterpreted and seen as purposely malicious. If I had known that any conversation with the Lieutenant from the 114th, concerning police coverage in Sector Robert would put someones job on the line I wouldn't have made it. We would have contacted a different precinct to find our answers, if necessary. Honestly from the tone of the conversation I didn't think it had caused any negative repercussions for the Officer, and if it did we would like to correct it because to have done so was not our intention.

Because of the way the situation was handled the Committee was unable to find resolution. The focus of conversations became defensive, and in the end, the concerns brought to our attention were never fully addressed. We never had a chance to discuss the concerns that these residents had shared, in a productive way which we regret.

In retrospect, there were too many cooks in the kitchen, and all contacts to any officials outside of the community should have been handled differently, and will be in the future. This issue ended up being blown out of proportion. The time the committee devoted to this issue did not prove that these complaints were justified. We were unable to find any justification for requesting rotation, and unanimously voted not to.

I would like to apologise personnally to the Officer, and to Chief Guerra for all the drama that has surrounded this issue, and for any misunderstandings that may have affected their ability to carry out their jobs. What has happened, including the strain on what was a decent working relationship between us, is not what we wanted and was certainly not our intention. As we have stated, the interest of the Committee is to work with our law enforcement officers on the Island to provide a safe, secure environment for the residents of Roosevelt Island.

If any resident feels that the PSC is not moving in the right direction, or if you do, please take the time to consider joining. And if you don't like the Chair, we don't really care, we just want your thoughts. And for those who commented that our expectations are too high, remember this, we've come a long way from where we were under Frye. Don't discount our officers ability because of how much you think they are paid.
Crime is down, and the number of complaints over the past 3 years have dropped from 10 to 4.


Erin Feely-Nahem
Committee Chair.

on that note, this has not been viewed prior to distribution by the other committee members, therefore it is solely my opinion, although I think they would agree.

Anonymous said...

Who are these concerned residents everybody at the RIRA talk about? I have been living on this island for a little more than 10 years now and I still have to meet anybody who actually takes the RIRA seriously. I never dealt with them nor did anybody I personally know on Roosevelt Island.

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised since I am living in Manhattan Park. But even the folks I know in the WIRE building don't care much about petty local politics. I am very sure the RIRA does not represent any type of majority on this island.