Friday, October 11, 2013

Roosevelt Island Residents Association Meetings Most Dysfunctional In 17 Years Says RIRA Planning Committee Chair Frank Farance - Examples Include Island Shakespeare, Korean Pavilion And Meeting Procedures

 Image Of September 2013 RIRA Meeting

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Planning Committee Chair Frank Farance reports:
As a RIRA Common Council representative from Island House, I am reporting the very sad state of affairs in RIRA. We are half-way through our RIRA term, the meetings have been the most dysfunctional in my 17-year recollection. Our monthly Common Council meetings start at 8 PM, there is a 15-minute Public Session, and then we get onto the business (President's report, committee reports) and conclude around 10 PM. Our September meeting was the worst ever: Roll Call started at 10 PM. At our October meeting, in reaction to a year's worth of poor meetings, we spent much of the time trying to change procedures, e.g., taking away our right to speak and debate at RIRA meetings. The procedural change failed (another a waste of time), yet we were still prohibited from discussing committee reports.

For the decades history of RIRA, the main purpose of our monthly meetings is information-sharing: the public sharing with us (the Public Session), and us Building Representatives sharing among ourselves in reports, progress, etc. from each of our committees. The monthly meetings are our main governance event where we make decisions. This is all dysfunctional now.

The solution to our problems is not more rules, the solution is following the rules we already have: the RIRA Constitution and By-Laws, and Roberts Rules. The most important and most visible function of the RIRA President is to conduct those meetings properly and efficiently. With four years prior as RIRA Vice President, and years as a CB8 representative, one would have expected Ellen Polivy to be prepared for this role. Unfortunately, she has done a terribly poor job as RIRA President. About a half dozen of us with deep experience have tried to coach her (myself a former RIRA Parliamentarian and RIRA President), but with little success. Her reactions are thin-skinned, emotion-laden, and avoid the topics of substance, e.g., suggestions/feedback from Common Council members she frames as "character assassination".

Sure, a new leader might need some help, but rather than embrace the organization's culture and procedure, she sees this essentially as "Ellen's Meeting": not a meeting of equals in an atmosphere of fairness (we're treated equally), openness (everyone has a right to speak), and transparency (information should be revealed, not hidden).

Rather than learn the basics of running a meeting by Roberts Rules, a year later, she still is unable to competently take a vote. Some suggest getting rid of Roberts Rules, which devolves into chaos. Our October meeting saw the first time a Public Safety Officer was guarding our meeting, presumably Ms. Polivy (as RIOC permit-holder for the space) was ready to eject anyone she thought was unruly.

These problems have had significant negative effect upon our community. Just to highlight a few, at the September meeting, thanks to Ms. Polivy's poor actions, our community has lost the Island Shakespeare (IS) organization -- they have decided to move off of Roosevelt Island. IS was looking for a more permanent home for their temporary productions, but rather than Ms. Polivy moving this topic to (say) the RIRA Planning Committee (as RIRA Presidents Matt Katz, Steve Marcus, and I have done the decade prior), Ms. Polivy allows a free-for-all discussion, including members of the public to participate in ganging up on IS, with Ms. Polivy worrying out loud "I'm worried that you'll burn down Motorgate" (the outdoor steps area on the East Promenade between Motorgate and the bridge was a possible temporary site). Ms. Polivy's comments were inflammatory (no pun intended), and furthered this pile-on mentality.

What should have happened was: IS would present their suggestions to the Planning Committee, there were some concerns/suggestions about their prior use/permits, the issues would have been vetted and resolved with related organizations and appropriate RIOC staff, and then the Planning Committee would come back to the RIRA Common Council with a package of information, options, and recommendations -- all presented in a civil manner. Ms. Polivy is resistant to that approach. In departing, the head of IS described the September RIRA meeting with the words like "blindside pummeling", "extreme exaggerations", and "invective lies". Ms. Polivy, your concern about Island Shakespeare's Burning Down Motorgate is now moot, but the Island has lost an important organization.

Another example was the UN development committee to present an expansion project that would be constructed in the UN area (visible from the southern tip of the Island). Because one of the presenters happened to be Peter Krokondelas (who consults on a variety of projects, including the Cornell effort), RIRA members who are also in Ms. Polivy's other organization (RICC) focused upon Mr. Krokondelas' involvement and they could not seem to think past the Cornell effort: complaints about Cornell ("Why can't you give the community $70 million?") were lobbed at the UN. The UN people looked truly perplexed in that some RIRA members could not think clearly and could not keep separate in their mind: the Cornell project HERE on the Island versus the UN project OVER THERE on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Again Ms. Polivy should have delegated this to the Planning Committee where Common Council time would have not been wasted on free-for-all discussion.

Another example is the Korean Pavilion (a large, 500-sq-ft gazebo) to be built in Southpoint Park, see video at Even after the September RIRA meeting, and myself (as Planning Committee Chair) arranging for the Korean association to address a variety of important community concerns (e.g., Where might this large structure be placed?, and What about other community organizations that would request their own structures in Southpoint Park?), Ms. Polivy was Gaveling Through her own proposal in RIRA to approve this organization's request without the normal RIRA review. In our October meeting, motions were made to prohibit the rights of members to express their points of view during this debate.

As a last example, RIRA representatives to RICC were to be elected the beginning of our term in December 2012, but Ms. Polivy delayed their election until the after the main City planning activities were over with Cornell. Now, a year later and without notice, Ms. Polivy gives us a half-dozen nominees for these RIRA representatives to RICC: the nominees' names are embedded in her Presidents report, there was no open call for volunteers or nominees, just Ms. Polivy's selections. She needed immediate approval for her selections and, again, they were Gaveled Through.

For whatever reason, Ms. Polivy is unable lead the Common Council in a fair and competent manner -- her resistance to improvement has resulted in its ongoing dysfunction in countless ways. RIRA members (that's all of us residents, not just the Common Council), you have a stake in this, you need to advocate to your building representatives that you want this fixed right away. We can't have another year of dysfunctional meetings, of community organizations abandoning the Island, and ill-conceived resolutions.


YetAnotherRIer said...

To be fair here, somebody should have reached out to Polivy and get her side of things before publishing Frank's obviously quite biased report.

RooseveltIslander said...

I asked her if she wishes to respond and will include any response as an update.

OldRossie said...

No one can do it all better than you, Frank...

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer: The letter was sent to the RIRA Common Council (including Ms. Polivy) for review: checking for any factual errors. A minor one was found and it was corrected before being published.

I note that I submitted the letter in the role of Common Council member from Island House, not RIRA Planning Committee Chair.

Frank Farance said...

OldRossie: We lost Island Shakespeare because of Ms. Polivy's really poor leadership: she allowed and participated in a pile-on at the meeting. In fact, it turns out that: (1) there were significant exaggerations and mis-truths said about Island Shakespeare, (2) all of the issues of substance were minor and could have been easily/quickly resolved, which should have been done in committee where there is a forum for back-forth interactive discussion.

I also point out that a significant portion of the Common Council believes Ms. Polivy is poorly running the meetings, which is why we had over a majority (22?) of Common Council members (but not 2/3 of the full CC membership) wanting to change procedures in response to these poor meetings. Even conducting the 2/3 vote was difficult because we didn't have the updated membership/attendance lists (which would tell us the exact number of members).

The problems aren't just the past two meetings, it's been the past YEAR of meetings (half our term). The complaints today are virtually identical to complaints made 9 months ago. And the request for procedural changes has been a half-year: attesting to others' dissatisfaction with her leadership.

Bill Blass said...

The rira are all losers.its time to get rid of all these losers.the frist to go should be frank

Bill Blass said...

Oh sorry.cant get rid of Frank.he knows everything and he can tell you what you did and didnt do in your life.

Bill Blass said...

This blog is the best thing to happend on this island.the wire is a rag .its time to get rid of the wire

CheshireKitty said...

Fed up: Your comment veers toward being anti-democratic. You say "Don't start none - won't be none" as if free speech = trouble, whereas the truth is free speech = First Amendment right. If you don't wan't "none" why not go live in North Korea, and worship the Kim family: They have no "trouble" - since they have no free speech.

Fed up said...

Kitty, I thought you were one of the smarter posters on this blog, but if you (or anyone else) thinks Guerra left because of Frank, the drunk couple and the crybaby with the blue beard, you must be nuts.
From what I heard (from those who know him) and what I believe, is he didn't want to keep taking the "non-sensicle" abuse he was taking because of the alleged actions of others - who were obviously cleared by outside investigating agencies.
One of the 3 officers involved in the "alleged brutality" is now in the Academy for the NYPD, and the other 2 are still working in our community, never having been suspended for one minute.
The community got on him for not firing the officers involved, but how would he get rid of union workers without something substantive to go on besides the account of some residents playing detective.

CheshireKitty said...

Not incendiary enough, Yet?

CheshireKitty said...

It'll all play out in court one day, if you're referring to the Jones case.

You expect me to feel sorry for Guerra? Hah!

It wasn't just the extreme abuse cases - there were many other cases of abuse, incredible mis-handling of minor incidents that escalated needlessly to arrests. Guerra was behind the culture of abuse. He spawned it, in a way.

How about the case of the Greek mom that ended up arrested in front of her kids because she made a U-turn to save some time? They didn't have to arrest her. Actually, she was unlucky to get a ticket in the first place since so many motorists get away with U-ies on Main St., as we all know.

The culture of abuse/brutality was allowed or likely, promoted, by Guerra. He even said he would never not support one of his officers, in connection with another infamous abuse incident, the one where the wheelchair-bound elderly patient was left unattended on the sidewalk while her HHCA was hauled in to PSD to be arrested for no reason at all - merely for trying to communicate with an Accesoride driver, and not jumping to it immediately when a PSO asked the driver to move along.

I'm sure the growing accumulation of stories like these affected the Board, and finally pressure was brought to bear on Guerra to quit.

His brand of macho toughness had no place on RI - over-enforcement, zero tolerance and so forth. RI is a quiet, basically law-abiding, community. He tried to practically militarize the PSD. There was no need. Most people on RI just go about their business, minding their own business. Protection is of course needed, just as in all areas of the City. But not to go overboard, with needless force escalation, arrests, brutality, etc.

Fed up said...

I guess your mind is made up. I wasn't asking you to feel sorry for him, or anyone else for that matter. I don't feel sorry for him, because he got out of here. All I'm saying Kitty is that there are always 2 sides to a story. You seem to always believe the side of the person complaining about PSD. What about the other side of the story? What about maybe the truth lying somewhere between them? No law enforcement agency gets the benefit of the doubt. Everything is always their fault. But, I don't agree with that mindset. I visited the 114 Pct and sat with the Inspector, and he showed me that crime had steadily gone down on R.I. That's what Guerra's bosses wanted, and that's what he worked to do. Many here appreciate that. Maybe you and the others should have had an issue with the bosses at RIOC, or their bosses above them. That's all I'm saying. Hopefully, you will give McManus a chance, because I don't know if you've noticed, there have been some incidents under his watch that have garnered scrutiny. I'm willing to give him & PSD the benefit of the doubt. Are you?

CheshireKitty said...

Frank is discussing an interesting aspect of law enforcement: The interplay of individual rights vs societal rights.

The problem of mass addiction to many substances has been enabled by industrialization. Industrialization is not a hallmark of capitalism. (Parenthetically, the worst ecological disasters ever occurred because of unbridled industrialization under communism in E. Europe/USSR.)

In modern society, under both communism or capitalism, consumers are encouraged by saturation advertising to buy addictive products that are not necessarily healthy, such as tobacco. Capitalism per se is not the culprit. The mass market and mass advertising/propaganda enable mass addiction.

The encouragement of the smoking habit as "as healthy" was wide-spread in the PRC under communism (prior to its current pro-capitalist system). Propaganda to get people to smoke was used there, just as advertising to get people to smoke, was used here. In China, smoking was widespread and viewed as "healthy".

It would be nice to think mass socialist revolutions solve all social ills. Unfortunately, that has not turned out to be the case. Did mass alcoholism really decline or even significantly dwindle in Russia when the Tsar fell? The idea may have been that the enthusiasm for the new system would cause people to stop smoking or drinking/taking drugs. But did that really happen?

Unfortunately, the problem is extremely complex and cannot be totally solved with even a complete change in the political/economic system.

The fact is, when revolution occurred in China, it wasn't enthusiasm for the new system that solved the drug addiction problem: It was bullets. That was the way the new leadership dealt with drug addicts. If anything, the system of China at least back in the day of Mao/Chou was highly "conservative" - intolerant of drug users.

Addiction, whether to tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, is a medical problem. Society must decide how far it wishes to go in banning harmful addictive substances. Obviously alcohol prohibition did not work. Today, society is healthier with the increasing bans on smoking in public or shared areas such as workplaces, restaurants, etc.

Some states such as Colorado have elected to decriminalize marijuana - at least for medical purposes. It is a matter of opinion if this is a good thing or a bad thing: Just as with the well-known serious problems stemming from excessive alcohol use, the same problems can flow from excessive pot use. Addiction to either pot or alcohol overturns the famous saying: Everything in moderation. The result is, of course, wrecked families, wrecked lives.
Probably, pot will one day be legal on a Federal level, and the pot industry will market precisely dosed pot-based products to the populace, exactly like tobacco or alcohol products are marketed. At that point we will have 3 addictive and potentially harmful substances that will be legal: Tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.

Currently however, there is a Federal prohibition against pot, even though Cuomo feels those caught with a small amount of pot should not be prosecuted. Still, since the law of course makes pot smoking/distribution etc illegal, the law should be enforced. Maybe one day there will be an initiative in NYS to decriminalize marijuana - at least for medical purposes - just like in Colorado. Until then, l/e has no choice but to continue to enforce the anti-pot, and of course, all the other anti-drug laws.