Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Resident Directors Send Letter To NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Objecting To Conflict Ridden, Non-Resident, Non-Elected RIOC Board Appointment - Join The Protest Demonstration Tomorrow In Front Of Governor's Office

Five of the six resident Directors of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors sent the following letter to NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo ( Governor Cuomo's Facebook Page is here) objecting to the appointment of Child School Executive Director Sal Ferrera to the RIOC Board of Directors.

June 22, 2011
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

This letter is being sent by the undersigned members of the RIOC Board of Directors in response to Salvatore Ferrera’s appointment to the RIOC Board.

While we are making no judgment on Mr. Ferrera’s personal qualifications to fill a seat, we, and the community-at-large, have many issues with his appointment that are not reflective of him.

1. As Executive Director of The Child School, Mr. Ferrera holds a significant office of interest with respect to the conduct of business of the Board of Directors. It has been the position of prior gubernatorial administrations that members on the Board may not hold other offices on the island such as participation in the Residents Association or memberships on individual co-op boards or building committees;

2. Mr. Ferrera is not a resident of Roosevelt Island. Prior gubernatorial administrations and the Supreme Court of the State of New York have agreed on the principles of representational democracy as one of the guiding principles of the composition of the Board. Through this process all parties agreed that members of the Board should be chosen from amongst its citizenry;

3. Mr. Ferrera was not elected by popular vote for inclusion in the nomination list. The democratic selection of nominees to the Board that prior gubernatorial administrations observed in good faith with the residents is in alignment with our national democratic principles. In that pursuit, over the course of decades, the citizens of the Island have labored to negotiate a process by which candidates for the Board may be selected from the community by popular referendum. At this time there is only one remaining Board member who was not selected via this process.

While we understand that the members of the Board serve at the behest of the Mayor of the City of New York and the Governor of the State of New York, and our continued service to the People of the State of New York is dependent upon that mandate, the undersigned, and the community-at-large question the wisdom of removing Mr. Kalkin from the Board at this time. Mr. Kalkin’s service to the community has been exemplary. His enthusiasm for improving conditions for the general population of the community is well noted. His knowledge and skills are necessary for the completion of critical phases of major projects underway at this time.

We respectfully request that the installation of Mr. Ferrera in the Board seat of Mr. Kalkin be postponed until such time as expiring appointments can be resolved through the process of public referendum previously mentioned.


Ms. Fay Fryer Christian, Member, RIOC Board of Directors
Dr. Katherine Grimm, Member, RIOC Board of Directors
Mr. Howard Polivy, Member, RIOC Board of Directors
Mr. Michael Shinozaki, Member, RIOC Board of Directors
Ms. Margie Smith, Member, RIOC Board of Directors
The signed copy of letter is here. The only resident RIOC Board Director to not sign this letter was David Kraut.

Bravo to these RIOC Board Directors. They showed guts in not remaining silent and speaking the Truth to Governor Cuomo.

In response to an earlier post a reader asked:
Why is his appointment being labeled "undemocratic"? Why is it being labeled "conflict ridden"? Did anybody in the RIRA ever read what he is saying?...
Responding to the conflict of interest question, I responded:
The issue is whether Mr. Ferrera's real estate entanglements as the Executive Director of the Child School, which leases 50 Thousand Square feet of space on Roosevelt Island at an incredibly low $6 sq ft with publicly announced plans for additional Roosevelt Island real estate holdings, constitutes a conflict of interest in his role as a RIOC Director making decisions on the disposition of that real estate.

Mr. Fererra's dual role as RIOC Director and Child School Executive Director is both a conflict of interest in reality and perception and he should resign from the RIOC Board.

This has nothing to do with whether any current Directors operate businesses on Roosevelt Island. To my knowledge only Dr. Grimm does so.

Take a look at the NY State Authorities Budget Office Model Code of ethics and then tell me whether Mr. Ferrera's RIOC appointment is a conflict of interest.
I also raised the conflict of issue question with RIOC President Leslie Torres and the RIOC Directors in the following inquiry I sent this afternoon:
The NY State Authorities Budget Office (ABO) Model Code of Ethics states:

1.    Directors and employees shall perform their duties with transparency, without favor and refrain from engaging in outside matters of financial or personal interest, including other employment, that could impair independence of judgment, or prevent the proper exercise of one's official duties.

2.    Directors and employees shall not directly or indirectly, make, advise, or assist any person to make any financial investment based upon information available through the director's or employee's official position that could create any conflict between their public duties and interests and their private interests.

3.    Directors and employees shall not accept or receive any gift or gratuities where the circumstances would permit the inference that: (a) the gift is intended to influence the individual in the performance of official business or (b) the gift constitutes a tip, reward, or sign of appreciation for any official act by the individual. This prohibition extends to any form of financial payments, services, loans, travel reimbursement, entertainment, hospitality, thing or promise from any entity doing business with or before the Authority.

4.    Directors and employees shall not use or attempt to use their official position with the Authority to secure unwarranted privileges for themselves, members of their family or others, including employment with the Authority or contracts for materials or services with the Authority.


5.    Directors and employees must conduct themselves at all times in a manner that avoids any appearance that they can be improperly or unduly influenced, that they could be affected by the position of or relationship with any other party, or that they are acting in violation of their public trust.

Has the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) investigated whether newly appointed RIOC Director Sal Ferrera's position as Executive Director of the Child School which leases over 50,000 square feet from RIOC in addition to the Child's School's publicly announced plans seeking additional Roosevelt Island real estate for an Arts Center, Equestrian Center and Boat House complies with the requirements of the ABO's Code of Ethics?

If RIOC has investigated whether Mr. Ferrera is in compliance with the Code of Ethics, what was the result? If RIOC has not investigated whether Mr. Ferrera is in compliance, will RIOC do so immediately.

Thank you.
Have not heard back from Ms. Torres yet.

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Planning Committee Chair and former President also wrote to Governor Cuomo. Mr. Farance believes that:
Dr. Salvatore Ferrera is not the right candidate for the RIOC Board, but not for the reasoning stated by RIRA.
Below is the letter from Mr. Farance to Governor Cuomo:
Date: June 28, 2011

Dear Governor Cuomo:

I am writing about the appointments to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) Board of Directors.

Recently, you appointed Dr. Salvatore Ferrera to the RIOC Board which sparked great objections from Roosevelt Island community leaders and elected officials. These objections to Dr. Ferrera's appointment are sincere, well intentioned and passionate, but I believe they blur the essential issue and ignore past mistakes in Albany and on Roosevelt Island, including us residents, too.

For about a decade (c. 1996-2006), Roosevelt Island was controlled by real estate interests. Prime East River real estate was sold at 60 cents/sq-ft. Over one thousand units of affordable housing were lost. Although there were some one-shot fees, RIOC's spending cannot be sustained long-term and RIOC is poised to go bankrupt in 2021 (see "http://rioc.com/pdf/11-12ApprovedBudget.pdf" PDF page 11). In short, all of the real estate entities got their special deals, and the State of New York will need to bail out RIOC in about ten years.

Dr. Ferrara, Executive Director of The Child School (TCS), represents one of the largest commercial tenants of RIOC. Dr. Ferrara has expressed interest in acquiring additional space for a boat house and dock, an equestrian center, and more storefront retail space. Simply, it is impossible for Dr. Ferrara to maintain a RIOC director's fiduciary interest without conflict among TCS's interests. If Dr. Ferrara's directorship is permitted to continue, this will escalate to each real estate entity having their own "sponsored" RIOC director and diminish unencumbered input from resident directors. The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA), in collaboration with RIOC, have devised an election system for resident director nominees to assist in your selection, which helps better implement the law for appointing resident directors.

In summary, I strongly urge you to withdraw Dr. Ferrara's support in favor of a candidate who has substantial financial expertise to help RIOC's long-term finances. For future appointments for resident directors, I strongly urge you to consider candidates from our director nominee election system.


Frank Farance
The RIOC Board of Directors are meeting tomorrow afternoon at 5:30 PM at the Manhattan Park Community Center (8 River Road) There is an opportunity for the Public to speak up on any topic you wish, including this recent RIOC Board Appointment, in a Public Session prior to the start of the meeting but you have to sign up here first in order to be allowed to speak.

This should be a very interesting meeting.

There will also be a protest rally in front of the Governor's office tomorrow, June 29. According to RIRA:
Join your neighbors and friends at the Governor’s Manhattan office. Remind our Governor that the U.S. Constitution imparts the right to live in democracy to all citizens of the U.S., and that our forefathers died to protect democratic principles, not make the world safe for Public Benefit Corporations and government by appointment!

The protest will on Wednesday, June 29, from 11 am to 1 pm. We will be across the street from the Governor's office, at 633 3rd Ave. Watch this website and the kiosks for updates.
Image From RIRA

Click on image to Enlarge

UPDATE 7/5 - RIOC President Lesle Torres June 29 reply regarding conflict of interest investigation into Mr. Ferrera:
Please be advised that RIOC does not conduct investigations of its Board Members.  That is the prerogative of the appointing bodies (i.e. the Governor and State Senate). Moreover, the duty is on the appointed individuals to conduct themselves in accordance with the applicable ethical standards.


Anonymous said...

good for cuomo

Janet said...

Bravo to the RIOC Directors for standing up for representative democracy.

Yet another RIer shaking his head said...

The "community-at-large"? Let's see how many signatures the RIRA has collected by now... 79. 14,000 residents and 79 signatures. How again is that representative for the "community-at-large"?

What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Mr. Fererra is not a capitalistic pig trying to make a penny or two at the expense of the community of Roosevelt Island. He is running a not-for-profit school that helps children with disabilities. We all should support him and his school. How can anybody doubt that he is not going to be good for all of us? Having somebody with real vested interest (more than the other selection of resident directors), i.e. seeing the bug picture of what Roosevelt Island could be.

I wonder how many are going to show up for the protest. Maybe 40?

unbelievable said...

RIRA is a total joke. At max 50 participants/members at any given time. I just can't believe councilwoman Lapin and Serrano actually pay them any mind.

RIRA is good for nothing and should be disbanded. There is no need for this waste of time, resources and fight.

Why is there even a fight? The man might be the perfect candidate.

If no one realized, RIOC is a public benefit Corp and non necessarily a 100 percent state agency. They can pretty much do as they wish.

Anonymous said...

This Blog is becoming a one-sided joke. I used to consider it un-biased reporting, but Rick's one-sided view on this is rediculous.

"Conflict ridden"... what about Dr. Grimm owning a medical practice on the island?

What about current Board members who live in Rivercross looking to push privatization so they can get paid?

A letter to the Governor from Frank Farance? He was vetted for a Board position and got rejected.

Come on Rick, give both sides, not just the one you agree with.

Anonymous said...

I notice that David Kraut didn't sign it. Wow that guy is just a spineless person. Wasn't he President of RIRA at one point. I guess that is why they keep him. He will keep quiet and sellout anyone to keep his seat. Hey Kraut if you are so sure of your record of doing absolutely nothing but preserving your own seat, why don't you run in the next election? What a joke. Roozevelt, why don't you learn to spell ridiculous correctly and try to get a coherent thought in while you are at it.

fuller said...

Sorry if this is obvious, but how are you guys seeing who signed the petition and who didn't?

Anonymous said...

I was talking about the letter from the board to the governor. Kraut didn't sign it. Guess he was too busy doing nothing at Trellis or writing stupid comments anonymously here. Sellout.

Anonymous said...

Hey e3e6b174-a27b-11e0-bfd5-000bcdcb5194, your name is RIDICULOUS!

You get on Mr. Krout for not signing that stupid letter to the Governor, yet you fail to realize that the RIOC Board serves on behalf of the Governor.

Bill Long heads the rally flyer with come protest back room deals, and Fay Christian's son has a summer job with RIOC every year. Why is that ok?

Anonymous said...

we need ron vass to help us

RooseveltIslander said...

RIOC President Torres says it is not up to RIOC to investigate whether RIOC Directors have a conflict of interest.

To Roozevelt - I do give both sides of any issue, or more, even when it disagrees with my own position.

I have offered Mr. Ferrera plenty of opportunities to present his views and when provided by him, have published them.

Also , any of his supporters are always welcomed to present their views as well.

Islandresident540 said...

Uh oh There is a significant amount of information coming out to the Island community that we did not know about certain RIOC board members I guess eventually there will e some drastic changes within RIOC and it's directors..This Governor looks like he plays no games ..There has already been 2 replacements on the board..This ha been somethig that needed to be addresed for sometime now! What an individual board memer does is a direct refferendum on Albany... Time to clean house !!!!

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