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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not A Good Start For NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's Ethics Reform and Good Government Plan - It Stops At Roosevelt Island With Appointment Of Conflict Ridden, Non Resident, Non Elected New RIOC Board Member, Shame, Shame Shame

You Tube Video Of Governor Cuomo's Clean Up NY Politics Plan - but Not Roosevelt Island

I had a brief telephone conversation yesterday with Roosevelt Island's Assembly Member Micah Kellner regarding the appointment of the new conflict ridden, non-resident, non-elected Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board Member Sal Fererra, the Executive Director of the Child School/Legacy High School .

Mr. Kellner said that Sal Fererra was officially confirmed to fill the vacant RIOC Board Seat formerly held by Jonathan Kalkin and the Governor plans on removing all of the current RIOC Directors as their terms expire. Mr. Kellner addresses this issue in his June 2011 newsletter:

RIOC Steps Backwards
In an 11th hour appointment over my objection, the Governor, along with the Senate Republicans, decided to roll-back democracy on Roosevelt Island with the removal of Jonathan Kalkin from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation’s Board of Directors.

I’m extremely disappointed that the gains in representation that Island residents have fought for have been ignored. Residents need to have a greater say in Roosevelt Island’s decision-making process and appointing a non-resident to the RIOC Board is not the way to do that. RIOC’s decisions impact Island residents more than anyone else, and the needs of those who live on the Island should outweigh Albany politics.

I will not stop fighting to make RIOC more accountable to the residents it serves. Jonathan’s energy and ingenuity brought terrific innovation to Roosevelt Island and there’s no way that he can be replaced. This is a great loss for everyone who cares about Roosevelt Island. 
A very reliable source who I will call Deep Motorgate, adds:
Think about it:  When the Governor's office takes the stand that they'll be removing our elected representatives as their terms expire, it's making the point that they're taking control of this process.  What else could they have meant?  It can only mean that they're planning to replace them with people selected by them, not re-appointing the people the community elected.  There is however one section of the law that the Governor must follow which requires that 4 of his 5 direct appointees must live on Roosevelt Island.  The community MUST let it be known that anyone who wants to sit on the RIOC Board in the future MUST first run for the seat or they will not be welcomed.
This appointment and the way it was done has really pissed off alot of Roosevelt Island residents. Even those who have not been involved in  Roosevelt Island governance issues in the past. From Roosevelt Island resident Bill Long:
The cause of self determination on Roosevelt Island suffered a severe setback last week when Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Senator Martin Golden, along with the rest of the Senate Finance Committee, approved Governor Cuomo's appointment of a new RIOC Director. I sent the following message to a number of state officials. I hope other Roosevelt Island residents will join in the effort to protest this usurpation of our rights. Contact your RIRA Common Council representative, or me at for further information.

As a Roosevelt Island resident, I strongly object to the way in which Dr. Salvatore Ferrera was appointed to the Board of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp.

Roosevelt Island residents have fought for years for the basic right of having a say in who runs an organization that affects our lives as deeply as RIOC does. We reached agreements with multiple Governors, including the Paterson, Spitzer and Pataki administrations, that resulted in two elections of nominees for that Board.

With this latest appointment, which took place without any input even from our own elected leaders, all those efforts have been swept aside.

We insist that future appointments abide by those prior agreements and that Island residents have a say in who is appointed to those positions.

Bill Long
The Octagon

Roosevelt Island Residents Association President (RIRA) Matt Katz calls for action:
Call for action: Our democracy is being challenged

Dear Fellow Resident of Roosevelt Island:

There may be nothing I do as President of your Residents Association that is more important than this request.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has violated Roosevelt Island’s newly established tradition of community elections to nominate members of this community’s Board of Directors.

Both his Democratic predecessors honored the collective voice of residents and appointed members of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation’s Board of Directors from a roster of residents nominated by residents. This was an important forward step toward rule of Roosevelt Islandby the voting of residents, not the confused decisions of outsiders.
Governor Cuomo ignored this tradition recently, and – without consultation of any kind – put a non-resident on the RIOC Board.

We don’t know whether he did this out of ignorance of the established tradition of local elections, as part of a political deal, or specifically and directly to offend every resident of Roosevelt Island.

We must tell Governor Cuomo, in no uncertain terms, that this kind of high-handed dealing with the Roosevelt Island community is completely unacceptable.

Please contact the governor. Put it in your own words if possible. If you cannot, just mail the enclosed editorial from The Main Street WIRE, with your signature and your name and address.

  • Write a letter:

  • The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York

Please do this today to help us avoid a return to the bad old days when off-Islanders made bad decisions without regard to the needs of Roosevelt Island residents.

Thank you.
I sent the following inquiry to Hudson/Related Developer David Kramer whose company has extensive real estate interests on Roosevelt Island:
Has there been any impact from the recent appointment of Child School  Executive Director Sal Fererra to the RIOC Board and Jonathan Kalkin's replacement as RIOC Director on executing Roosevelt Island Main Street Master Leaseholder agreement?

Any comment on Jonathan Kalkin's replacement from the RIOC Board and the new unelected, non resident who works for an organization with extensive real estate holdings on Roosevelt Island with plans for developing more projects on Roosevelt Island?
Mr. Kramer replied:
I was sorry to learn that Jonathan Kalkin wasn't reappointed to the Board since he's been such a great resource for the island and was the main catalyst for the Master Leaseholder RFP. We're proceeding to finalize our agreement with RIOC, which shouldn't come as a surprise since the vote of the entire RIOC Board was unanimous. I hope Sal Fererra also serves with distinction, and I look forward to working with him as a RIOC Board Member and also at the Child School. 
I responded:
As a follow up, do you think it would be proper for an employee of Urban American or other real estate owner/lessee on Roosevelt Island to be appointed to the RIOC board as well?

Why do you think there is no conflict of interest on Mr Ferrera's appointment or does it just not matter because for whatever reason the Governor wants him.

 I don't really expect Mr. Kramer to reply.

 Roosevelt Island resident Judy Berdy sent the following message to Mr. Fererra:
Mr. Ferrera,I fully respect you as the leader of the Child School and wish you full success with the school.

However, I feel that your appointment to the RIOC Board of Directors is inappropriate and would present numerous conflicts of interest.  You also lack knowledge of the island and its community.

I suggest that your refuse the nomination and use your talents in administering the Child School.

RIOC Board Members have been and should only be residents of this community.  We are sure that you were appointed as  an outsider seeking political favors appointments.  This is not how the island is to be administered.
Mr. Fererra replied:
Thanks you for your input
Roosevelt Island resident Raye Schwartz sent this message to Mr. Fererra:
Dear Sal,

Please recuse yourself from this appointment, generated by a nomination from a state senator who is not even a representative of our election district.

If you accept it this community will work to block every effort and deal you attempt to make to help the kids of The Child School. It’s not that we don’t want to work with you, but rather, we have worked for over a decade to earn the right to elect residents to this board.

If you support this right by not accepting the governor’s appointment, then the person we could elect will surely have the backing of our community to help further the needs and growth of the school. Keep in mind that this community is comprised of 12,000+ residents and still growing!
To Governor Cuomo:
Your appointment of Sal Ferrera to the RIOC board is an affront to every bit of decency we thought you stood for, and must be rescinded immediately so we can rightfully elect a resident of our choice. Be reminded that this community of over 12,000 people worked hard to get you elected and we will remember your action the next time around!
and to Brooklyn State Senator Martin Golden:
Your nomination of Sal Ferrera to the RIOC Board is an example of the obvious misuse of power. You have nothing whatsoever to do with this community and thus have no right to meddle in our affairs! I urge you to rescind that nomination immediately.
The anger over Mr. Fererra's behind the scenes Albany power broker's closed door stealth appointment to the RIOC Board replacing Mr. Kalkin is only growing as more people learn of this abuse of the Roosevelt Island community by Governor Cuomo and Sal Fererra. This is just starting.

Additional information available at previous posts including video of Roosevelt Island residents organizing to reverse Mr. Fererra's appointment.

UPDATE 6/30 - Roosevelt Island residents and RIOC Directors urge Mr. Ferrera to resign during June RIOC Board Meeting (includes video of statements)


Yet another RIer shaking his head said...

Get elections going so the governor can hopefully replace expired directors with elected ones. It seems the RIRA and the MTG just slacked off once they got their first resident board members. Do not let anybody's terms expire!!!!! Is it so hard? Tradition or not. The appointment of elected resident directors was not law, it was a favor. You guys have a very long way still to go and you better stay on the ball.

That said, I hate that Fererra is called "conflict ridden". Aren't the resident board members just as conflict ridden? Are they not voting on issues that could be in their financial favor down the road?

Yet another RIer shaking his head said...

Oh, and I am really insulted by this statement from Ms. Schwartz: "If you accept [the appointment to the RIOC board] this community will work to block every effort and deal you attempt to make to help the kids of The Child School."

What's with the fighting words? Are we not trying to take the high road? Are we turning into toddlers on the playground?

She also said "[...] so we can rightfully elect a resident of our choice." I am baffled. The only thing that happened was that the state ignored the new tradition of appointing people from a pool of elected residents. The other thing that is happening that the state wants to clean up a bit.

I am very sure with the rule in place that 4 out 5 appointees must be living on this island Albany would be happy to see an elected pool of qualified residents. There is none.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Everyone keeps saying Jon Kalkin was replaced. He wasn't replaced. His term expired, and the Governor's Office decided for whatever reason not to renew him. That's their choice. He served, and served well - but his term to serve EXPIRED.

I hope Sal F. will serve as well, if not better. To those that say they are going to work to block anything for the Child School, think about what you are saying? You're talking about kids here...

SML said...

Ferrara has as much a stake in the island through his association with the school as do residents. It is likely that the school will stay on the island at least as long as most residents. I'm not sure who RIRA and the MTG represent other than themselves. I know I consider myself a New Yorker, not a Roosevelt Islander. The more the island is considered a housing development or, better yet, a neighborhood in New York City, the better this place will be to live. RIRA and the MTG still seem obsessed with thinking that this is something separate from the city, rather than a part of it.