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 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.
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.