Report From RIRA President Ellen Polivy - Roosevelt Island Outreach, Elected RIOC Board Members, RIOC Executive Staff Appointments & Emergency Preparedness
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Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Ellen Polivy sends the following Report To The Community:
Dear neighbors, I hope that you had very happy holidays, and that you’ll have a happy and healthy new year. I received a New Year’s card with a wish that I’d like to pass along: “May your dreams turn into your reality, and your efforts into great achievements.”
Enhanced RIRA Outreach to the Community
Over the holidays, our Communications Committee Co-Chairs and I worked on the RIRA website, and planned improved ways to communicate with Islanders. We decided to set up a building-by-building email list in order to efficiently and effectively reach every resident on Roosevelt Island, for three specific purposes: with emergency information in case of a disaster, for civic matters requiring a fast response, and for community polls and surveys.
The disaster information is obviously of utmost importance. It allows communication in times of emergency, when people need rapid assistance and information. One such use, discussed after Hurricane Sandy, is that the unaffected residents could have provided supplies or shelter to people who needed help.
The value of the list for civic activity is equally compelling. Too many times in the past, some governmental action affecting residents has caused great consternation, and it has been difficult to disseminate information and organize the community response.
A near-term need for such civic action could be the appointment, by the governor, of unelected residents to the three seats on the Board of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) for which the community voted in February 2012. Of the three winners, two are incumbent elected residents who continue to serve but in expired terms, and the third is a former Board member, an elected resident who would replace an unelected resident. It is even possible for the governor to appoint a non-resident to one of these three seats.
Why Would It Matter if the Governor Appoints Unelected Board Members?
The RIOC Board supervises the organization that provides all local community services. Elected Board members have to answer to their neighbors -- during their terms when solving vexing problems and addressing competing needs, and during re-election campaigns when running on their records.
The Island has been fighting for a long time for a genuinely democratic voice in local government, and advances have been slow. We got legislation mandating that five of the seven public Board members be residents. And Eliot Spitzer’s and David Paterson’s administrations respectively suggested and then supported elections to nominate residents for gubernatorial appointment. But, despite many attempts, we’ve never succeeded in getting legislation passed by both the Senate and the Assembly and signed by the governor that would require direct resident elections of RIOC Board members.
As a consequence, any governor still has enormous power over our community. He can ignore some or all of our nominees, including a re-elected Board member who doesn’t please him. He has full sway over the appointments.
What Can the Governor’s Power Mean for Residents?
When Board members answer to the governor’s office instead of to fellow residents, they may be told what to vote on, or how to vote. Those decisions are not always in our best interest. And when a Board member doesn’t live in our community, s/he doesn’t experience our needs. Outsiders put the needs of the State in front of the needs of the residents, and they go home to somewhere else after the Board meetings.
We’ve already had an example of the current governor’s power:
removal of Jonathan Kalkin -- an active, elected, resident Board member -- when his appointment expired (even though two other expired appointees remained in office);
replacement of Kalkin with unelected non-resident Salvatore Ferrera (whose good leadership of The Child School is irrelevant in terms of representing residents);.
The recent departures of top RIOC executives without replacements in sight is also a cause for concern. With Cornell coming to the Island, with important RIOC staff vacancies, and with no appointments to the three expired Board terms, our community is vulnerable.
Will we still have elected Board members in a year, after three more appointments expire in mid-2013? Will we return to the days when Roosevelt Island was a dumping ground for political favors? Or will we be able to keep, and build on, the gains that we’ve made, and have a real voice in our community and in our future? Right now, we really don’t know how our governor will treat us. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.
What Can We Do?
My solo voice shouting is too soft to be heard in Albany. For me to be effective, you must back me up and shout with me. Are you willing to let your voice be heard, to do what it takes to be heard? Imagine if every adult on Roosevelt Island were actively watching Albany -- 10,000 individuals alert to government sleight of hand and willing to shout about it. The more voices we have, the louder the message.
We need to be ready to send a message to Albany that we’re watching closely. Right now, we have nothing specific to shout about. We’re waiting and watching. Will our RIOC Board elections be honored? When will the new RIOC President and Vice President be selected, and what will be the selection process?
The First RIRA Poll
To get the Island prepared both for emergencies and for civic action and occasional surveys, please return the information requested in the poll, as indicated below.
Be sure to register at least your contact and location information, so that you can be reached in an emergency, even if you don’t currently want to be contacted for civic action and/or surveys.
You can access the poll at http://go.riraonline.com/action.
If you don’t have email, we’ll contact you in the future by either phone or flyer under your door.
Those who can’t fill out the poll online can use the form below. Submit it in an envelope addressed to RIRA POLL, and drop it off at your door-station or Public Safety
(550 Main St.).
Please specify any disabilities that may need special assistance in emergencies:
Providing the information above automatically enrolls you on the emergency list.
Are you willing, when asked, to take the following grass-roots action?
(It could be either to thank someone or to complain.)
Send an email? yes no
Send a post card? yes no
Send a letter? yes no
Make a phone call? yes no
Answer an occasional survey or poll? yes no