Thursday, August 25, 2011

Roosevelt Island State Senator Jose Serrano Meets With RIOC Chair To Discuss Appointment Of Conflict Ridden, Non-Elected, Non-Resident To RIOC Board Of Directors - Next Step, Meeting With Governor Cuomo

The controversy over the appointment of non-elected, non-resident, conflict ridden Child School Executive Director Sal Ferrera to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors continues. Yesterday, Roosevelt Island's NY State Senator Jose Serrano met with NY State Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal and RIOC Chairperson Darryl Towns to discuss the concerns of the Roosevelt Island community over this appointment.

Senator Serrano sent the following report yesterday on his meeting with Commissioner Towns:
Today's meeting with Commissioner Towns was an important step in addressing the concerns shared among Roosevelt Island residents regarding RIOC board appointments and governance. I explained to the Commissioner that many on the island viewed the most recent board appointment as a step back from the relatively recent progress that has been made regarding elected island resident representation on RIOC. I also expressed the need for a moratorium on future RIOC appointments until a discussion is had regarding island elections and RIOC appointments.

While well aware of and completely sympathetic to the concerns raised, Commissioner Towns suggested that I speak with Governor Cuomo directly, as he is the person who would implement any policy regarding all future RIOC board appointments. I have begun the process of requesting a meeting with Governor Cuomo, and I look forward to speaking with him regarding the concerns of island residents, and the need for elected resident membership on the RIOC board. Today’s meeting was neither the beginning nor the end of this process with the goal of codifying elected island resident participation on the RIOC board - a goal that would bring about the best possible representation and governance structure for the people of Roosevelt Island."
Below is a briefing document sent by the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Governance Committee to Senator Serrano and Assembly Member Micah Kellner that provides background on the history of bringing elected representation to the RIOC Board.
Historical Perspective

Roosevelt Island -- a planned community of almost 12,000 residents -- has had a fundamentally flawed administration since the 1984 creation of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), a New York State Public Benefit Corporation (in effect, an “authority”). Roosevelt Island is a community of people, not a bridge or transportation system. As in other communities, residents want local control of local matters, recognizing that non-resident managers and board members are ill-equipped to grasp and solve local problems and capitalize on local opportunities.

For many years, patronage and conflict-of-interest characterized most appointments to the Board of Directors and the presidency of RIOC -- our Public Authority, and our de facto local government.

Progress Toward Democracy -- and Backsliding

Fourteen years ago, residents rejected this systemic problem and began seeking a democratic solution. In advisory referenda conducted over the years, huge turnouts repeatedly voted, by margins of 80% to 96%, to ask that greater control of the community be placed in the hands of its primary stakeholders, the residents, through the ballot box.

Progress toward such democratic local governance has focused on the ultimate goal of residents directly electing residents to the RIOC Board. Since 2004, thanks to assistance from Governors George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer, and David Paterson, all seven public seats on the RIOC Board have been occupied by residents. In 2002, Governor Pataki signed a law requiring a five-member majority of residents on the nine-member Board. In 2007, Governor Spitzer appointed a DHCR commissioner and a RIOC president who offered the opportunity for community elections to nominate residents to the Board. Following Island-wide elections in 2008 and 2009, Governor Paterson appointed six residents from the two rosters of community nominees, and thus, until June of this year, six of the seven resident public Board members had been elected by Island residents.

The recent appointment to the RIOC Board of Dr. Salvatore Ferrera has broken the chain of progress toward democratic local rule for Roosevelt Island. He is not a resident and was not nominated in a community election.    Moreover, his position as Executive Director of The Child School, RIOCʼs second-largest real-estate customer, and his public expression of interest in acquiring more Island space for the school, raises potential conflict-of-interest issues – reminiscent of the bad old days. Finally, Dr. Ferrera replaced Jonathan Kalkin, a resident nominated by residents, who has made outstanding contributions to the Island as a highly active and valued Board member, and whose major Board projects are at critical stages.

(Attached is a modified version of an 11x17 timeline, detailing relevant events from 1996 to 2011, that appeared on pages 6-7 in the 7/2/2011 issue of The Main Street WIRE, our local newspaper.


In light of this history of Roosevelt Islanders striving for local democracy, and with knowledge of Governor Cuomoʼs commitment to "strong and vibrant urban communities," we are respectfully seeking serious consideration of the following goals:

Ultimate Goal
Legislation providing that all seven public RIOC Board members be
• Roosevelt Island residents
• elected by the Roosevelt Island community
• seated in order of election results (even if executive appointment and legislative approval must be retained because Board members are State officers)

Immediate Goals
Restoration of our recent electoral precedent
• by having the two incumbents with expired appointments remain in office until weʼve conducted our November 2011 election, for those two seats and for the seat that expires in December 2011
• by having the winners of this Novemberʼs election be appointed to those three seats
• by repeating this election/appointment process in November 2012 for the seats that expire in June-July 2013

A Memorandum of Understanding
• documenting agreement to the Immediate Goals
• agreeing to honor our Ultimate Goals, while the legislation is sought, by continuing this process of November elections preceding term expirations

Regularization of Board term expirations (which are not covered by the legislation governing RIOC)
• so that all seven occur shortly after even-year November elections (in three-four alternation)
• until that revision of all seven expirations is accomplished, a simple adjustment in two terms so that they, like the other five, expire in May-June of odd-numbered years (see attached schedule)
This whole mess began here.


NotNodding said...

You do know that "non-elected" and "non-resident" are perfectly legal and ethically correct attributes for a RIOC director, right? The only thing that's left that you may actually have a case is "conflict-ridden". Why don't we leave the NYP rhetoric at the door and have a civilized RI news blog?

Roozevelt said...

Serrano is just blowing smoke up RIRA's you-know-what.  He could give a rats behind whether Mr. Ferrera is a Board Member or not.  He seeks votes, so meeting with people and making that news is just propaganda.  If people think I'm trying to do something, they'll give me their vote.

Please... after meeting with the Governor, he plans to meet with President Obama.