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Saturday, July 2, 2011

NYPD Transit Canine (K-9) Unit Installing Equipment For Temporary Agility Training Course On Roosevelt Island Empty Southtown Lot

Image of Southtown's NYPD Canine Unit Training Obstacle Course Being Set Up

The equipment has started getting set up for the NYPD's Canine Unit Training Agility course in the empty Southown lot across from the Riverwalk Bar & Grill.  Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) VP of Operations Fernando Martinez explains from this earlier post:
The northern lot will be used on a temporary basis by the NYPD Transit K-9 unit.  As you know, they currently train and patrol on RI.  The unit will establish an agility course at the site for training purposes.  NYPD may start training in late June or early July.
More on the NYPD Transit Canine unit from earlier post.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Report From RIOC President Leslie Torres - Roosevelt Island Tram, Red Bus, Motorgate and Good Chapel Plaza Renovation Updates, Southpoint Park Grand Opening August 3, Movies In The Park and Happy Summer


You Tube Video of RIOC President's Message to June Board Meeting

Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Lesie Torres sends the following report to Roosevelt Island residents.
As this is the last column for the summer, I wanted to wish all of you a fun and safe summer. Roosevelt Island is a great place to spend time outdoors, and I hope you all get to enjoy our parks, green spaces, barbecues, and events (see more information below).

Transportation Update

Roosevelt Island was originally envisioned as a car-free Island. But, it’s hard to anticipate how things will develop, and so we are constantly evolving and assessing the services we provide. As we plan for the future, we are focused on maintaining a clean, green environment, with energy efficient public and private transportation.

We recently held a community meeting to update residents on all Island transportation issues. Here are a few highlights from that meeting. For more information, please look for the Roosevelt Island News, a newsletter that will be out in a few weeks. We’ll make the newsletter available on our website, through Facebook, email it via our email system, and leave copies in key spots throughout the Island.

Tram Updates

After a 34-year run, we retired our old tram and replaced it with a modern, state of the art tram that will transport over two million riders this year.

The new tram has eight backup systems, offers a smoother ride, and is significantly more reliable. However, as with all new major transportation projects, we have come across some issues that needed to be resolved.

Recently, we made upgrades that have resulted in a smoother ride. The sway over the towers has been greatly minimized.

We are aware of ongoing problems with the Metrocard vending machine and have been working with the MTA to resolve these issues.

Due to increased tourism on the weekends, we will be running both tram cabins from noon until 7p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Red Bus and Motorgate Updates

You may have noticed that there are now benches at the bus stops. Next we’ll be giving Motorgate an upgrade. If you are interested in more information, check out our upcoming newsletter, Roosevelt Island News.

Good Shepherd Chapel Update

Due to ongoing delays in the contracting process, work on the Chapel plaza has been delayed. The good news is that we finally have clearance to move forward. The work will commence in July. The contractor has 90 days to complete the work. Unfortunately this means the plaza will be closed for much of the summer. We apologize for any inconvenience, and hope you will find the upgrades worth the wait.

South Point Park Opening

On August 3rd, we will host an official ribbon cutting ceremony for South Point Park and open it up to the Public. Please check our website, www.rioc.ny.gov, later this month for more information.

Movies in the Park

Bring a blanket, family and friends, and join us for family movies under the stars. The fun starts at 8pm on Firefighters Field. Food and drink will be available for purchase.

The Goonies 7/9/11 (Rain Date: 7/17/11)
Star Trek 7/23/11 - (Rain Date: 7/31/11)
Up 8/6/11 (Rain Date: 8/14/11)
Tron 8/20/11 (Rain Date: 8/28/11)
The Incredibles 9/3/11 (Rain Date: 9/4/11)
A version of the RIOC President's column also appears on RIOC's web site and the July 2, 2011 Main Street WIRE. 

Roosevelt Island Rivercross Mitchell Lama Co-Op Mortgage Refinancing Terms, 10 years $50 Million Interest Only Loan With Principal Paid At End Of 10 Years - How Repaid Unanswered, Isn't That How The Economy Got Into This Mess?

Image of Rivercross Building Entrance

Very soon, if not yesterday or today, Roosevelt Island's  Rivercross Mitchell Lama Co-Op Building will be refinancing their existing mortgage, made possible by the recent ground lease extension granted to Rivercross by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC). Some Rivercross residents have expressed concerns with the proposed terms of the mortgage refinancing and unhappiness with what they perceive to be the Rivercross Tenants Corp Board of Directors and management company's failure to adequately provide information on the mortgage refinancing and other issues impacting the Rivercross Building. For instance, a Rivercross resident wrote to me:
...we currently have a 30 yr fixed (I think) 5.45% 25 million dollar mortgage.  The board wants to change to a 50 million dollar mortgage with 25 going to pay off current mortgage, 15 to improvements and 10 to put in the bank to pay real estate transfer taxes "if and when" we leave Mitchell Lama.  The way they want to finance it is with an interest only 10 year 5% mortgage which would take the yearly payment from 1.7 million to 2.5 million.  It is just unbelievable to me that the Board wants to do this, it seems very fiscally inappropriate.  Do they not realize that a 10 year interest only mortgage is a bad idea?
and:
... there is a pre-payment penalty for the current mortgage, which has about $22 million left on it - so $3 million dollars are automatically flushed down the proverbial drain with this new mortgage.  In addition, the board plans to keep the other $10 million in the bank, getting maybe 3% interest while paying 5% interest on it - effectively throwing away 2% of $10,000,000 annually ($200,000 annually) until "if and when" Rivercross privatizes.
Some residents have expressed concern that the terms of the proposed Rivercross Mortgage Refinancing is a very good deal if Rivercross is privatized and a shareholder plans on selling within the 10 year loan term but a very bad plan for those who intend to stay longer as well as any future buyers at Rivercross who will then have to make the $50 million balloon payment or refinance again under very different, the fear is, much higher interest rate environment.

Another Rivercross resident expressed concern over the proposed mortgage refinancing terms this way:
... To pay off the 50 million, it is hoped that money will come in from "flip taxes" should the building privatize. Whatever is not covered by flip taxes or other funds at hand, the building will have to borrow again. If borrowing seems impossible, it is logical to imagine any entity loaning 50 million would have the right to take over ownership of the building.

For people who:
1) are looking to sell their apartment as soon as privatization takes place, or
2) who might have a life expectancy of less than ten years, or
3) have alternate living quarters
there can be less concern over the future of such a loan.

However, any one who would like to continue living in Rivercross, there are four possibilities at the end of ten years :
1) everything works put nicely and "aren't we lucky?"
2) there will be a special assessment to pay off the loan not covered by funds on hand
3) the general economic situation will make a further loan not feasible
4) the building will be taken over by the outfit loaning the 50 million and whatever  ownership equity that came with privatization will disappear.

The proposal seems clever, but is also seems to have a substantial risk level for anyone intending to live here beyond ten years.

One further point, putting the 50 million loan in place practically guarantees privatization, since the overhang of that size loan will be a crusher for sure, without the anticipated flip tax income.
I asked the Rivercross Board to comment and they responded on May 20:
Fact, the interest on the new 10 year loan will be paid every month on a current basis, without raising maintenance.

The principal due in 10 years will be very substantially below the $50 million borrowed, whether Rivercross leaves the Mitchell-Lama Program or not.

If Rivercross leaves the ML Program under the proposed Affordability Plan supported by HCR, accumulated Transfer Fees will reduce the principal due in 10 years by about $15 million.

If Rivercross does not leave the ML Program about $15 million of this borrowing will not be used at the end of 10 years.

In the mean time, Rivercross will have the funds to invest in energy efficiency improvements that will save substantially on its electricity costs and heating bills, not to mention shareholder comfort and environmental benefits, during most of the 10 year period.

Also, the interest rate on the new mortgage will be lower than our current mortgage.

Therefore, this refinancing is good for all Rivercross shareholders, whether they plan to sell their apartments or stay for the long term.
I followed up with the  Rivercross Board including this question:
What is the basis, other than speculation and hope, for the Rivercross Board to conclude that Transfer Fees from future unit shares will reduce the mortgage principal by $15 million in 10 years?
Here is the May 27, 2011 response from the Rivercross Board:
Here is a revised statement from the Rivercross Board regarding the mortgage refinancing. The Board would appreciate it if you would print the statement in its entirety rather than trying to summarize what you think Rivercross is doing. With respect to your question about what happens in 10 years when the principal balance of the loan has to be paid off, this was discussed in detail at the Rivercross annual meeting. The Board intends to issue a follow-up memo for the benefit of shareholders who did not make the meeting in person. When that follow-up memo is distributed to shareholders, we will forward you a copy.

The Board has approved proceeding with replacing the building’s current mortgage (carrying an interest rate of 5.45%) with a new $50,000,000 mortgage. The proceeds of the new mortgage will be used as follows: First, to pay off the existing mortgage (approximately $25,000,000, including prepayment fees); Second, to create a $15,000,000 capital improvement fund to pay for energy-savings investments (new windows, a more energy-efficient heating system and submetering); and Third, to create a $10,000,000 fund to pay the real property transfer taxes that may have to be paid if and when Rivercross leaves the Mitchell-Lama program and becomes a private coop.

The proposed new mortgage would be for a term of 10 years and would only require the payment of interest (no principal) during the ten-year term. As a result, even though the mortgage is for a significantly larger amount, the building’s debt service under the new mortgage (assuming a 5% rate fixed for 10 years on the new mortgage) would only increase in 2012 from $1,768,000 to $2,500,000.

The building would be able to pay this increased debt service without any further increase in maintenance.

This refinancing is good for all Rivercross shareholders, whether they plan to sell their apartments or stay for the long term.
On May 31, I replied:
Thank you for your response. I will publish the Rivercross Board's statement in full and unedited as part of my post on subject.

To clarify the statement, I have been told that there is approximately $22 million left on the existing Rivercross mortgage and that there will be an approximately $3 million prepayment fee on the existing mortgage. Is that true?

Please forward me the Board's Statement on it's plan to repay the mortgage principal when issued. If possible, I would like to include it in Roosevelt Islander Blog post on subject which I will publish this week. If not possible, will publish it when received.
Here I must admit a mistake in that I have not followed up with the Rivercross Board as quickly as I should have to find out how they plan on repaying the $50 million mortgage principal. Having not heard back from the Rivercross Board I sent this email on June 22:
Just following up to see if the Board has issued the memo describing how it intends to pay back the principal balance of the mortgage that you indicated would happen in your message below. If so, can you please forward it to me, as promised, so I can include it in Roosevelt Islander Blog post.

I will publish post on Rivercross Re-financing soon so if there has been any change since last communication or any addition you would like to make, please let me know.
On June 24, the Rivercross Board's representative replied:
The Board has not issued any further memos on the subject.  I expect that there will be a memo issued by the end of next week.
As of the time this post is published, I do not know if the Rivercross Mortgage Refinancing has been executed.

A person who saw my messages to the Rivercross Board objected as unfair the way I phrased the "other than speculation and hope" in regard to the repayment of $50 million mortgage principal question to the Rivercross Board.

I replied to that person:
The question you highlight is not intended to be accusatory nor infer the Rivercross Board is incompetent or trying to mislead anyone.  I am just trying, in a responsible manner, to find out what the facts are regarding this refinancing which I think is of interest to the Roosevelt Island community and contains public policy questions regarding commercial real estate/affordable housing/mortgage lending that has implications beyond Roosevelt Island.

The question is merely intended to obtain a specific basis for the assumptions stated by the RIvercross Board regarding the likelihood of repaying a portion of the $50 million mortgage refinancing with $15 Million in Transfer fees from co-op unit sales over the 10 year period of the loan.

As you know the US and Global economies have been undergoing and are are still undergoing, severe financial difficulties. This is due in large measures to Real Estate Loans that were taken out by borrowers and issued by banks that were based upon very faulty economic assumptions concerning the ability of borrowers to pay back the mortgage. Many of these loans were issued based upon the hope and speculation that the real estate market would continue to rise in value during the following years enabling the faulty loans to be paid off in subsequent sales or refinancings.

I don't think it is unreasonable or unfair to inquire if this lending process is repeating itself on Roosevelt Island. Again, I am not stating or inferring that it is, but asking questions to determine if it is or is not.
As stated before, the Rivercross Board never provided any information, as they promised, regarding how it intends to pay back the $50 million mortgage refinancing principal when it come due in 10 years.

Here is the Rivercross Ground Lease Extension and Term Sheet from RIOC.

UPDATE 7/5 - Received this message from a Reader on July 1:
Board memo received this morning --
"We are delighted to advise you that we have completed the refinancing of the Building's mortgage this morning. .... at an interest rate of 4.64%." Later on in the memo they note "... annual debt service ... will only increase  from $1,768,000 to $2,352,000." without further noting that the first figure includes payments on principal while the second does not.

Roosevelt Island Resident Believes Newly Appointed RIOC Board Director Is Wrong Candidate But Not For Reasons Stated By RIRA - Criticizes Some For Hypocrisy and Double Standards

Roosevelt Island Residents Assocition (RIRA) Planning Committee Chair and former President Frank Farance shares his thoughts regarding the recent Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board appointment:

I believe Dr. Salvatore Ferrera is not the right candidate for the RIOC Board, but not for the reasoning stated by RIRA.

To paraphrase Prince, RIRA protests as if it were 1997. The Governor has appointed Dr. Ferrera and we're all in a tiz over no democracy, back door deals, lack of transparency, non resident appointments, colonial rule, and so on. Even the Yankee Doodle parodies sung at the protest are the same, except Pataki is replaced with Cuomo. We have not learned from our mistakes, and keep making them. At least three areas come to mind.

Mistake #1: We Suffer Our Own Hypocrisy and Double Standards

We say we want the Governor to use our RIOC nominee election process, except that we don't want to have elections so our "in" people can have longer terms as directors. Mr. Kalkin opposed RIOC elections last fall, but now he wants differently. We complain about democracy, but we residents don't follow democratic principles ourselves. We complain about campaign contributions to Brooklyn politicians, yet RIOC Board members hold campaign fundraisers in their apartments for our politicians. We complain about the lack of process in Dr. Ferrera's appointment, but RIRA's Government Relations Chair was just "elected" outside RIRA's process. We complain about back-room deals, except when we do the same thing for legislation forwarded on behalf of the residents. We complain about Dr. Ferrera's conflicts of interest, yet we don't see our own conflicts for resident RIOC board regarding privatization.

Nine months ago Maple Tree Group (MTG), the Island's so-called leaders for democracy held secret and exclusive meetings, and excluded members from voting and chose to skip RIOC Board elections for 2010. Afterward, the exclusivity was rationalized by "even if you disagreed, you wouldn't affect the vote" -- certainly not the principles of transparent and informed decision-making. MTG's process and decision was unconscionable. As an entity that promoted "democracy", they wanted elections after terms expired. Who in the world holds elections after terms expired? MTG wanted their "in" directors to continue, future directors would suffer shorter terms, and they geared their process to favor some directors over others.

Their rationale was that the present directors needed to get more experience, i.e., the directors wouldn't really have a full 4 years. When it was pointed out that future terms (2014, 2016, 2018, etc.) with these delayed elections would have these same problems of expired directors with no candidates ready, they said that the next term (e.g., 2016 and 2018 elections) would be shorter for those candidates. In other words, for the present directors a shorter term was unacceptable so they could get more experience, but for the next set of directors a shorter term with less experience is OK. This is why it seemed that MTG was all about keeping the present set of directors. They said there wasn't enough time in 2010, but there was enough time in 2009 to have RIOC director nominee elections in the same time frame.

At the September 2010 RIRA Common Council meeting, members asked: What is the plan if the Governor wants to appoint someone? They said: if it's Fay Christian's or Jonathan Kalkin's seat, then we'll ask for them to be reappointed; if it's David Kraut's seat, then we'll ask for someone else. There were good number of people in the room who didn't like David Kraut, so this seemed acceptable to them -- certainly not a transparent process, not a fair process, not a democratic process.

Although it might have been possible to have 2010 elections, Matt Katz and other MTG members boycotted the elections. In other words, RIRA could have an election, but all the key volunteers refused to participate, thus dooming the 2010 elections.

MTG put forward Take-All-The-Marbles legislation for all RIOC directors to be residents; and they gave the Governor a Poke-In-The-Eye wanting three candidates for new RIOC Presidents (the Governor vetoed the legislation). Meanwhile, resident board members fired the RIOC President (over privatization issues for resident members' buildings), and resident board members did not stand up for their stated principles and accepted Leslie Torres as the sole candidate.

Mistake #2: We Haven't Incorporated What We've Learned

We're still talking colonialism and democracy. We have democratically elected officials. Because of the financing of Roosevelt Island, we're not going to be an incorporated village, we will likely remain a public benefit corporation. We understood this ten years ago, but we don't convey this to the residents and we still use the same rhetoric of "democracy".

Our RIOC board just wrote a letter to the Governor complaining of Dr. Ferrera's appointment (think: the Supreme Court writes to the President complaining of his nominee). Our RIOC board fired the RIOC President. Resident board members now are participating in these "democracy" demonstrations. Do they think this will cause the Governor to want to reappoint them and consider the Island's elected nominees, or will this cause the Governor to ignore our preferences. I'm guessing the latter.

Mistake #3: We Can't Believe Non-Residents Can Help Our Island

The Governor vetoed last summer's legislation for good reason. We don't understand that the State, the Governor, and the Executive Branch all have substantial interests in Roosevelt Island. We don't respect their interests, we don't believe a non-resident can help. An executive will tell you that outsiders can provide necessary expertise, but we just don't listen: only residents will do.

The Governor can appoint a non-resident. I don't understand why we are getting so upset over this.

We (the Island) should focus on How To Best Implement Law for RIOC Directors. The rhetoric should be: our director nominee election process is the best way to mechanize the selection of candidates for resident RIOC directors.
The issue regarding the RIRA and the Maple Tree Group's (MTG) decision not to hold RIOC Nominee elections last year was reported on in this September 14, 2011 post. Here's an excerpt:
... ELECTION CONSIDERATIONS AND OUR CONCLUSIONS
Over the past four months, MTG has been compiling and assessing information about RIOC Board election dates, appointment dates, tenure durations, and term-expiration dates, in order to arrive at what seems the most appropriate timing for the next RIOC election. The following is a presentation of the results of our deliberations, the rationales underlying our conclusions, and the pros and cons of the choices....

... 1. Our first conclusion was that RIOC elections must be held in conjunction with RIRA elections, which are themselves held in conjunction with the even-year November federal and state elections. The rationale for these conjunctions is obvious: the turnout for the other elections optimizes the turnout for our local elections, and thereby optimizes the validity, for the community, of the voters' choices. Our vote was unanimous for this conclusion....
In order to understand better the reasons for delaying the RIOC Board nominee election and before reaching any conclusions on this issue, I would suggest reading the full post.

Also, Mr. Farance sent a letter to Governor Cuomo regarding the new RIOC Board appointment which is included in post earlier in the week as is the letter from the RIOC Board which Mr. Farance criticizes.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Controversial New Appointed Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Director Tells NY Times Had He Known Of Community Opposition That Would Result, He Never Would Have Accepted Position - Respectfully, You Know Now, Please Resign!

Roosevelt Island Democracy Protest Rally Image From Francine Lange

The Roosevelt Island Democracy protest demonstration in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo's office yesterday has succeeded in at least one very important area - publicity from the NY Times who sent a reporter to cover the protesting Roosevelt Islanders.

 Roosevelt Island Democracy Protest Rally Image From Francine Lange

Reporting on the recent stealth appointment of non-resident, non-elected, conflict ridden Child School Executive Director Sal Ferrera to the Roosevelt Island Board of Directors by the NY State Senate and Governor Cuomo, the NY Times reporter obtained this quote from Mr. Ferrera:
...“If I knew this was going to happen, I would not have taken the position, but at this point, I’m not going to withdraw,” he said. “No one told me this would be like going into a tempest.”...
and:
... Reached for comment, a spokesman for the governor said the appointment was made at the recommendation of State Senator Dean Skelos, the Republican majority leader. Mr. Skelos’s office did not return calls for comment on Wednesday evening.

Gov. Cuomo’s spokesman said, “The administration is committed to true and fair representation of the Roosevelt Island community.”...
Upon reading Mr. Ferrera's comment in the NY Times article, I sent the following inquiry to Mr. Ferrera:
In NY Times article describing your appointment to the RIOC Board, you state"

...“If I knew this was going to happen, I would not have taken the position, but at this point, I’m not going to withdraw,” he said. “No one told me this would be like going into a tempest....”

I understand that this has been a difficult time for you as well, but now that you know the community's reaction, particularly after tonight's RIOC Board meeting, can you please explain why you don't resign now and spare everyone in the Roosevelt Island Community, including yourself, the additional anguish, hurt and distraction caused by your appointment to the RIOC Board.

Any response would be greatly appreciated by me and the Roosevelt Island community.

Thank you.
So, what happened at this evening's RIOC Board meeting, Mr Ferrera's first as a Board Director? It began with a Public Session in which Roosevelt Island residents expressed their strongly held objections to Mr. Ferrera's appointment and replacement of Jonathan Kalkin as RIOC Director.


Judy Berdy Speaking At RIOC Board Meeting Public Session


Ellen Polivy Speaking at RIOC Board Meeting Public Session


RIRA President Matt Katz Speaking At RIOC Board Meeting Public Session


Bill Long Speaking at RIOC Board Meeting Public Session

Also, during the Public Session, Roosevelt Island Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney's representative Brice Peyre read the following statement for Ms. Maloney
I am greatly dismayed by the Governor’s recent actions regarding the composition of the Board of Directors of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC). 

By removing from the RIOC Board a Roosevelt Island resident chosen in a fair and impartial manner by other Roosevelt Islanders and replacing him with an unelected non-Islander, the Governor has performed a great disservice to the thousands of New Yorkers who live on Roosevelt Island. 

Roosevelt Islanders engaged in a hard-fought, painstaking effort over a long period of time to secure some measure of greater self-governance.  In recent years, these efforts finally bore fruit in the form of democratically held elections conducted by the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, elections whose results were respected by previous Governors, who appointed the leading vote-getters to the RIOC Board of Directors.

It is extremely unfortunate that that process now seems to have been reversed.  I urge Governor Cuomo to honor the expressed wishes of Roosevelt Island residents in future elections by choosing their preferences for service on the RIOC Board.
The RIOC Directors then proceeded with the regular course of business for their June Board meeting but added an additional item at the end of the Agenda to address the question of Mr. Ferrera's appointment and replacement of Mr. Kalkin.

Here's what happened.





Mr. Ferrera, please resign. You acknowledge in your statement to the NY Times that had you known of the hard feelings and opposition your appointment would generate that you would never have accepted it. Don't double down on a mistake and hang tough. Move on with the business of the Child School and leave the RIOC Board of Directors to others - unless of course you are willing to run in the next election.

Governor Cuomo, please return Mr. Kalkin to the RIOC Board of Directors and let Roosevelt Island move forward!!!

UPDATE 11:20 PM - The Albany Times Union Capital Confidential Blog covered the Roosevelt Island Democracy Protest too:
... Katz alleged there would be a conflict of interest since the Child School leases space from RIOC. Ferrara said he would recuse himself from any matter involving the school, and didn’t see any conflict.

A Cuomo spokesman had not immediate comment on the protests or the appointment. Ferrara said he sent a letter of interest and a resume to Senate Republicans. He was confirmed on June 15, along party lines.

“I just thought we needed to slow things down and figure out what happened,” said Sen. Jose Serrano, a Bronx Democrat whose district includes the island. “My hope is to have some conversation going with the governor’s office. We want to move toward self-governance for the island, and at least have a say in who constitutes the RIOC board.”...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Roosevelt Island Protest For Democracy Demonstration Today At NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's Manhattan Office From 11 AM to 1 PM - Tell RIOC Board What You Think During Public Session of Directors Meeting at 5:30 PM

Image From RIRA (Click on image to Enlarge)

According to the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (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.
Starting at 11 AM until 1 PM, join your Roosevelt Island friends and neighbors in this protest demonstration for Democracy. If you work in midtown, come by during your lunch hour - 3rd Avenue and 41 Street.

Later today (5:30 PM), the RIOC Board of Directors are meeting 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 the 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.

Information on the reasons for the Roosevelt Island Democracy Protest available from previous posts.

UPDATE 6/30 - Approximately 30 to 40 people attended the Roosevelt Island Democracy Rally in front of Governor Cuomo's Manhattan office yesterday between 11 AM - 1 PM.

Here are some scenes.





A NY Times reporter covered the protest demonstration as well.

Kayaks Paddling East River Passing Roosevelt Island's Lighthouse Park


Roosevelt Island resident Ana shares this photo of a young bicyclist watching kayakers paddling the East River passing Roosevelt Island's Lighthouse Park.

If you are interested in kayaking, check out the nearby Long Island City Boathouse.
The mission of the all-volunteer Long Island Community Boathouse is to provide western Queens residents, employees, and visitors with educational and recreational paddling programs. Our programs raise awareness about estuary ecology with the goal of restoring the natural beauty and health of New York Harbor for today’s and future generations.

We will achieve our mission through three primary programs:
  • Our “Weekday Paddles” provide beautiful views of Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. Paddlers will also be able to experience one of the most sensational sunsets in New York!
  • “Weekend Paddles” open new visions of the harbor to paddlers!
  • Free Hallets cove paddles. We host Sunday “walk-up” kayak rides in the protection of Hallets Cove, at the northern end of Socrates Sculpture Park. Children are welcome if accompanied by a parent.
More on Kayaking from previous posts.

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.

Sincerely,

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.

and,

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.

Sincerely,

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.

Report From Roosevelt Island Gang Awareness Summit For Adults Presentation With Ron "Cook" Barrett

Roosevelt Island Public Safety Director Keith Guerra reports on the June 23 Gang Awareness Summit For Adults:

I would like to thank the many members of the community that attended our 2nd Community Outreach Summit on Gangs. The superb turnout is a reflection of the interest the residents and business owners have in this neighborhood. Please remember that "it takes a village to raise a child" and the more we get involved, the better our children will be. Structured Programs and community interaction are the key. If you see something that does not look right, please say something. The Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department's phone number is 212-832-4545.

"Together we can make a difference."
During Director Guerra's opening presentation he said it was important that Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department share as much information as it can with the residents and business owners on Roosevelt Island so that folks can be informed with what's going on. He also indicated that the recent Roosevelt Landings shooting incident was isolated, not random in nature and the victim was not seriously hurt. Mr. Guerra's emphasized that he believes Roosevelt Island is still the safest neighborhood in at least the Borough of Queens and that the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department wants the residents to feel safe.

Here's a video of Director Guerra's opening remarks and a portion of



the presentation directed at adults by Gang Expert Ron "Cook" Barrett

AM New York Reports on Patient Life Inside Roosevelt Island's Coler Goldwater Hospital and Attempts To Get Out and Live Independently

Image of Coler Goldwater Hospital Patient From AM New York Via RJ Mickelson

AM New York reports on what life is like for some patients at Roosevelt Island's Coler Goldwater Hospital and the attempt by others to obtain independent living outside of the hospital:
Robbie Cunningham would like to live independently but sees no way to get out of the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital & Nursing Facility, his home for the past four years. “I’m not sick,” he said. “I’m a quadraplegic."

In the nursing home, he explained, “I have tremendous constraints on what I can do. I would like to choose what kind of food I eat, when I eat and when I go to bed.”

Cunningham, 52, feels safe at Coler, a sprawling Roosevelt Island facility, but he doesn’t feel free. “As long as I’m alive, I want to keep moving,” said the Manhattan makeup artist, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident seven years ago....
Click here for the whole AM New York article.

The Goldwater campus of the Hospital will be closing in several years and is being sought after by Stanford University as a site for an applied sciences and Engineering School.

More on Coler Goldwater Hospital patients from earlier posts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Real Estate Conflict Ridden, Non-Resident, Non - Elected Child School Executive Director Sal Fererra Intends to Stay on Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors - First Sought Appointment To RIOC Board This Month, June 2011


A post earlier today stated:
Mr. Fererra still has not stated publicly whether he will resign or stay on as a RIOC Board member as he had previously promised to do by last Monday.
Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Matt Katz just forwarded this response he received from Mr. Fererra:
To the Editor,

I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has called or emailed me regarding my appointment to RIOC. Your thoughts and opinions are deeply appreciated; indeed, they are much needed in order for us to continue to enhance Roosevelt Island together. I also want to address the concerns recently expressed by The Wire regarding my motivations in seeking to be appointed to the RIOC board.

I have rigorously devoted my professional career to education and ethical public service. Over the years I have led or participated in community enhancing projects. These projects were always developed in partnership with the community, very well received and have proven to be highly successful. Not surprisingly, shortly after arriving on Roosevelt Island as the new president of the Child School, I sought to continue my 30+ years of public service. I immediately opened up the facilities of the Child School to residents. I encourage Child School employees and students to become more engaged in the life of our community regardless of whether or not they are full time residents. I also applied in June to be appointed to the RIOC board. I sought appointment hoping that I could, in a more direct way, assist in enhancing the life of our beautiful island. I did not seek to be appointed by the Governor in order to engage in unethical conduct or to promote my own interests or return some phantom political favors.

As a member of the RIOC board, I will work tirelessly to enhance the resources that should be improved or made available to our community. From the very first day I begin my tenure of service on the RIOC board, I will also insist upon a culture of responsiveness and transparency so we can achieve our common cause together. I agree that the voice of the residents on Roosevelt Island is and should remain the most powerful decision-making body on the RIOC board; six out of the nine currently appointed members are residents of the island. The democratic process on the Island remains, and will continue to remain intact. "I will, of course, recuse myself from any RIOC board decision involving the Child School."

The Wire article was correct in saying that I will be doing favors for people. Unfortunately, the article did not specify for whom. So let me state for the record that the only "favors" I will do are favors for the Roosevelt Island community, namely, the New Yorkers who live, study, work and enjoy the beauty of this island. Please remember that we—child and adult, resident, employee and visitors—all contribute to the creation of a vibrant, open and healthy community.

I sincerely look forward to collaborating with everyone to achieve the goals of the community, namely, making Roosevelt Island the best place to live, work and enjoy life.
After receiving the letter, I inquired of Mr. Fererra to confirm if he first sought appointment to the RIOC Board this month - in June. Mr Fererra responded with a "Yes".

Roosevelt Island's Minute Men and Women Fighting Back Against Albany's Colonial Rule Appointment To RIOC Board Of Directors - Sign Petition, Join June 29 Protest Demonstration At Governors Office and Speak Up At Next RIOC Board of Directors Meeting

 Image of Massachusetts Minute Men From National Park Service

Like their American Revolutionary War Minute Men ancestors, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) is fighting back against the appointment by New York Governor  Andrew Cuomo of the real estate conflict ridden, non-resident, non-elected Child School Executive Director Sal Fererra to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors. This is how RIRA is planning to fight back. According to RIRA: 
Fight for Democracy

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Senate Finance Committee created a tsunami that swept democracy into the East River for Roosevelt Islanders. Governor Cuomo appointed an unelected, non-Island resident, Dr. Sal Ferrera, Executive Director of The Child School, to replace our elected Board member, Jonathan Kalkin on the RIOC Board of Directors. Ferrera’s bid was backed by Republican Senator from Brooklyn, Martin Golden, who received a campaign contribution from Ferrera’s prior workplace. 

We need to send the message to Governor Cuomo, Senator Golden and Dr. Ferrera that back-door politics, ignoring democratic principles, and treating Roosevelt Island like a colony, where favors and money buy their way into our governance, is totally unacceptable!

You can help fight against this secret, behind closed door political deal that spits in the face of Roosevelt Island residents by signing this online petition.

RIRA is also organizing a protest demonstration at the Governor's Office this Wednesday June 29:

... 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. Be sure to wear your red, white and blue and bring signs...

And RIRA is encouraging Roosevelt Island community members to speak up later that day at the RIOC Board Meeting

Tell RIOC's board how unsatisfied you are
Attend RIOC's board meeting on Wednesday June 29, 5:30pm at Manhattan Park Community Center (8 River Road). Sign up for a slot to address the board at the public comment period.
Roosevelt Island's NYC Council Member Jessica Lappin sent the following letter, dated June 24, to Governor Cuomo:
I’m writing to discuss the governance of Roosevelt Island and the constitution of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) Board of Directors.

For nearly a decade and a half, the residents of Roosevelt Island and their elected leaders worked together to develop a better process for appointing individuals to the RIOC board.

As you know, during Governor Spitzer’s administration, we were finally successful in reaching an arrangement whereby community elections would be held for the purpose of selecting residents to be considered for appointment to the RIOC board. While not exactly direct democracy, this was a major milestone in the Island’s fight for self-determination.

Your recent decision to scrap that process without informing or consulting the community or local elected officials is extremely disappointing.

This is a very important issue for my constituents on Roosevelt Island and for me personally. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this matter more fully at your earliest convenience.
Protest movements need songs to rally behind. Roosevelt Island's version of Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan all rolled up in one is Joyce Mincheff who has written these lyrics.

To the tune of Yankee Doodle:
Andrew Cuomo thinks he's king
He acts like Lord and master
He took away democracy
And left us with disaster!

States enforce democracy
Like Maine and Carolina
We are US Citizens-
We don't live in Red China!

Our fathers died on foreign shores
They sacrificed in battle
We're not an asset to be ruled
Like trains, canals, or cattle

Andrew Cuomo keep it up
You're showing your true colors
Ours are red and white and blue
While yours are all the others!
To the tune of The Wanderer:
King Andrew is the guy
Who stripped away our vote
He thinks we're not an island
Just an asset with a moat!
And when he wants to play
That game of politics-
He trades away democracy
Appointing all his picks-
Well he's a hypocrite, yes he's a hypocrite,
Tradin' around, and 'round, and 'round and 'round, and 'round and 'round
Well he's a hypocrite, yes he's a hypocrite,
Tradin' around, and 'round, and 'round and r'ound, and 'round and 'round
You're just an autocrat
Clear through and through
Back-dooring deals
No- nothing is new.
You can decry,
Protest and defend,
Appointing our board's
Democracy's end.
Mr. Fererra still has not stated publicly whether he will resign or stay on as a RIOC Board member as he had previously promised to do by last Monday.

If Mr. Fererra truly believes he is acting in the best interests of the Roosevelt Island community, he should resign his RIOC Board Directorship immediately and run in the next scheduled election for RIOC Board nominations.

More information on the reasons why Roosevelt Island residents are upset at this appointment to the RIOC Board from previous posts.

UPDATE 5:15 PM - Mr. Fererra responds with a letter explaining his decision to remain on the RIOC Board of Directors.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nice Night For Opening Of Roosevelt Island Summer Outdoor Movie Series With Showing Of Iron Man 2 - Next Up, The Goonies on July 17

The Roosevelt Island Summer Outdoor Movie Series began last night at Firefighter's Field with the showing of Iron Man 2. I was not able to stay for the movie but here's what is was like as the crowds started to arrive, find their spot on the grass and pick up some food



Also, a view from above of the crowd waiting for the show to begin.


The remaining schedule for the Roosevelt Island Summer Outdoor Movie series is:
7/9/11 - The Goonies (Rain Date: 7/17/11)
7/23/11 - Star Trek (Rain Date: 7/31/11)
8/6/11 - Up (Rain Date: 8/14/11)
8/20/11 - Tron (Rain Date: 8/28/11)
9/3/11 - The Incredibles (Rain Date: 9/4/11)

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Southown Networking Breakfast Meet and Greet Yesterday Morning in Riverwalk Building Lobbies - Good Way To Meet Your Roosevelt Island Neighbors

Image of RIRA Networking Breakfast at 405 Main Street from Todd Williams

A Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Networking Breakfast was held Saturday Morning for residents of Riverwalk Buildings at 405, 415, 425 and 455 Main Street in Southtown. The Building Lobby meet and greet allowed RIRA volunteers to familiarize  Riverwalk residents about RIRA and and to invite them to participate in future RIRA activities.

Free coffee was provide by Starbucks, bagels and breakfast snacks from the Riverwalk Bar & Grill, information was distributed, Roosevelt Island caps were sold and most importantly, new relationships were formed.

Future RIRA Networking Breakfasts are intended for other Roosevelt Island buildings as well.

Excellent job by RIRA's Social, Cultural, and Educational Committee, Robin, Lynn and the other volunteers.