Cornell NYC Tech Lease With NYC Economic Development Corp Disapproved By Community Board 8 Roosevelt Island Committee - Full CB 8 Will Vote On Lease Tonight And Manhattan Borough Board Tomorrow
... CB 8 Roosevelt Island Committee recommended disapproval of EDC lease with Cornell NYC Tech at last night's meeting. Full CB 8 Board will vote on the issue Wednesday July 17. The EDC, Cornell and elected officials reps did not look very happy following the meeting. ...Community Board 8 (CB 8) Roosevelt Island Committee (RI Committee) Member Ellen Polivy tells us why the RI Committee recommended disapproval of the NYC Economic Development Corp (EDC) lease with Cornell NYC Tech for the Roosevelt Island campus.
The CB8 Cornell committee voted unanimously to recommend a no vote to the full Community Board asking that our Chair vote at the Borough Board to deny the lease to Cornell. Reasons: not enough of our community agreements and protections are built into the lease to protect the community from Cornell defaulting on their agreements. We are hoping for the EDC to come back to us with a better lease agreement so they can have a unanimous vote at the Borough Board.CB 8 RI Committee Member Jeff Escobar adds:
Simply put and speaking individually as a Committee Member but not on behalf of the Board: there were serious concerns and reservations among members of the Committee that the commitments made and negotiated with Cornell were not sufficiently incorporated and integrated into the terms and the provisions of the lease between the City and the Land Development Corporation, as to be assigned to Cornell, so as to properly protect and meet the interests of the community. Many commitments and items which were previously promised by Cornell to be either flushed out or better defined at the time of the execution of the lease were either "still being worked out," as was repeatedly stated by representatives of both Cornell and the EDC during tonight's hearing, or incorporated by reference rather than integrated as operable provision of the lease.I asked Roosevelt Island's NYC Council Member Jessica Lappin, who negotiated the letter agreement commitments for the Roosevelt Island community with Cornell NYC Tech, for her reaction to the CB 8 RI Committee lease disapproval recommendation. Ms. Lappin replied:
A lease of this size, type and magnitude should be well defined and leave no room for question as to what are the obligations of the parties under the leasehold, the milestone and timelines for certain commitments and events, terms and triggers of default, etc. It became very clear as testimony wore on that this clarity was not integrated within the lease; rather, the EDC thought it more proper to just attach the community commitments of Cornell as an attachment to the lease (vis-a-vis a letter drafted by Cornell, itself, which members of the community and the Committee stated at the meeting does not succinctly and specifically represent the expected community commitments by Cornell) rather than to take the time to review, craft and integrate each of the commitments as specific and actionable provisions, covenants, representations and warranties within the lease itself. It is for these reasons and others which gave members of the Committee pause and unwillingness to merely approve and rubber stamp the disposition, and persuaded the Committee to unanimously vote to disapprove the disposition at this time.
I am confident that with Cornell, RICC, RIRA, RIOC, Community Board 8 and the elected officials working together the commitments made to Roosevelt Island will be met. Everyone wants this project to succeed for the benefit of Roosevelt Island and our city as a whole.The Cornell commitment letter agreements to the Roosevelt Island community are here and here.
The EDC had no comment at this time.
During the July 15 CB 8 RI Committee Public Meeting, Cornell NYC Tech, EDC officials and a representative of Ms. Lappin's office were stunned at the disapproval recommendation by the RI Committee. They maintained that the commitments made by Cornell NYC Tech were fully enforceable even though they were included in the lease as an attachment.
Here's part of that discussion between CB 8 Board Members and the EDC, Cornell and Council Member Lappin representatives.
Full discussion by CB 8 RI Committee members is here.
Regardless of tonight's CB 8 vote outcome, the Manhattan Borough Board (MBB) will vote on the EDC/Cornell NYC Tech lease Thursday morning. The MBB is made up of NYC Council Members from Manhattan and the Community Board chairs but only the NYC Council Members and the board chair that represents the area in which the project is locates votes on the matter, in this case CB8. The borough president also votes.
Community Board 8 will be meeting 6:30 tonight at The NY Blood Center to discuss this and other issues.
EDC President Seth Pinsky announced yesterday that he was leaving EDC to join a real estate firm. According to Capital New York:
... Pinsky, who has served in the position since 2008, has spearheaded some of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's most controversial economic development projects, like the redevelopment of Willets Point, as well as some of its most lauded, like the agreement to create a Cornell-Technion campus on Roosevelt Island....I would have loved to hear Mr. Pinsky's reaction when he was told of CB 8 RI Committee vote recommending disapproval of the EDC/Cornell NYC Tech Lease. Can you imagine?
UPDATE 7/18 - The Manhattan Borough Board this morning voted 10 - 0 with 2 abstentions to approve the EDC/Cornell NYC Tech lease for the Roosevelt Island campus.
Speaker Christine Quinn abstained, as she does on all votes, and CB 8 Chair Nick Viest abstained as well. Mr. Viest explained that CB 8 could not come to an agreement at last night's meeting approving the recommendation of lease disapproval by the Roosevelt Island Committee nor could it reach an agreement on a separate motion to approve the lease. Therefore, Mr. Viest abstained.
The final agreement Cornell must now reach is with the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp.