Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Farance Charges Local Roosevelt Island Main Street Wire Newspaper With Conflicts Of Interest, Bias, Inaccurate Reporting And Manipulating News For Benefit Of Some Residents

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Island House Common Council Member Frank Farance writes:

In the March 22, 2014 issue of the Main Street WIRE, the Editor Dick Lutz singles out three RIRA Common Council members who are doing their best, which includes making transparent much of the problems to the rest of the organization's members (the residents). In other words: do legitimate and substantiated points deserve expulsion proceedings and a (bogus and erroneous) talking-down from the Editor of the newspaper whose staff is influencing the news, and doing it secretly? (not!)

Dick Lutz had no problem printing complaints about Keith Guerra (including some unsubstantiated complaints about him taking small favors/food, which turned out to be false). But it was all in the name of Openness, Fairness, and Transparency, right? So why are the complaints about Guerra not considered The Politics Of Destruction? Yet, genuine and legitimate complaints concerning Openness, Fairness, and transparency against the RIOC Board, RIRA, etc. are considered The Politics Of Destruction?

Truly, Dick Lutz has poor journalistic standards, he doesn't fact-check his reporting, he and his reporting suffer from racial/ethnic bias, he (along with others) manipulate the news and RIRA committees, and he has his own significant conflicts of interests that can question his ability to report objectively/truthfully on the Island. Rather than take up many pages, you can see the full details on the RI Blog at the page "".

The WIRE's April 26 Editorial, Dick Lutz has doubled down on this double standard with a No Complaints Against Volunteers Or Their Motives policy for its Letters To The Editor. It's a double standard because the WIRE finds it acceptable to write an editorial incorrectly attributing motive (Politics Of Destruction) to three RIRA Common Council members (volunteers), including myself, yet us residents are prohibited by WIRE policy to raise questions about Openness, Fairness, and Transparency of elected members that represent our community, regardless of their volunteer status. Consistently, I have expressed concerns about Openness, Fairness, and Transparency -- resident or not, volunteer or not. Furthermore, the WIRE inoculates itself from criticism by touting (opposite page of its editorial) the WIRE staff are volunteers and, thus, would also be shielded from complaints about the WIRE staff and the WIRE's problematic reporting and journalistic ethics.

Or said differently, as residents read the WIRE they get incomplete or inaccurate reporting where one's scratches his/her head thinking: I Don't Know The Whole Story, clearly there is a story, there are holes in the WIRE's reporting, and I wish someone would tell us what is going on (transparency) since these organizations purport to represent us. Because of the ongoing efforts to quash reporting in many fronts (the WIRE, certain old-timer RIRA Common Council members, etc.), residents reading the WIRE continually get the impression there are key parts that are not being reported.

Here are some highlights:

1. The WIRE manipulates the news, example #1: The discussion in Matt Katz's 2011 redistricting testimony did have a racial/ethnic bias, and four elected officials responded with letters to the WIRE. But it was Dick Lutz who contacted the officials to ask them to withdraw their complaints because the WIRE did not have space to print them. Meanwhile, that same week Dick Lutz was requesting RIRA Common Council members (via E-mail forwarded by Matt Katz) to provide ADDITIONAL letters to the WIRE to counter Helen Chirivas and the RIRA Housing Committee's complaint about racial/ethnic bias in the WIRE and the Katz redistricting testimony, i.e., the WIRE says it has no room for complaints against Katz or the WIRE, but has lots of room to complain about Chirivas. At the RIRA meeting, Sherie Helstien motioned to table the Housing Committee report, which Matt Katz quickly acknowledged, and there was no possibility discussing this. The WIRE and Katz, via a kinda quid-pro-quo where they covered for each other, successfully quashed the community hearing about legitimate concerns concerning racial/ethnic bias. So to those who say Write A Letter To The WIRE, that's a bunch of baloney: you'll get WIRE staff (Lutz, Katz, Helstien, etc.) working against you.

2. The WIRE manipulates the news, example #2: Lutz correctly recalls that I lost to Katz in the RIRA 2010 elections. For Katz and I the election was mainly argued over RIOC 2010 elections: I though they should be held, as scheduled, and I complained about the secret meetings of the Maple Tree Group - MTG (which is now called the RIRA Legislative Subcommittee - LSC); meanwhile Lutz (and other WIRE staff) were voting in these secret meetings, which had the effect of cancelling the RIOC 2010 elections (among other pitfalls). In June 2011, the Governor appointed Sal Ferrera to the RIOC Board, and that whole MTG group went ballistic. Katz's gambit had failed spectacularly: there were no candidates because those MTG people manipulated the elections process. Instead of having candidates to advocate, the Island was left with the idiotic position of explaining why we chose to cancel the RIOC 2010 elections. A huge loss of credibility for the democracy / self-governance efforts because, in fact, thanks to Dick Lutz, Matt Katz, and several other WIRE staffers, the elections were manipulated. And done secretly.

3. The WIRE manipulates the news, example #3: It's like Summer of 2010 all over again. These latest shenanigans of the RIRA LSC include secret meetings where letters to legislators advocating positions on Island legislation:

- the RIRA LSC committee had secret meetings (essentially, facilitated via private E-mail discussions)
- there are no minutes of RIRA LSC meetings
- the RIRA LSC committee is presenting itself as representing the Island in legislative matters yet there was no input from the community, RIRA Common Council, or the Government Relations Committee
- there was no possibility for the community to participate in this RIRA LSC effort
- the letter was signed by the "chair" of the RIRA LSC committee when no such appointment of chair had occurred

On top of that you have Matt Katz (former RIRA President), Ellen Polivy (former RIRA President), Sherie Helstien (current RIRA VP), and Dave Evans (Chair of the Constitution and By-Laws Committee), and none of them know that these meetings, discussions, and decisions need to be made in publicly held meetings? Or said differently, with the exception of Evans/Polivy, the committee (Ashton Barfield (chair), Linda Heimer, Vicki Feinmel, Matt Katz, Sherie Helstien) is comprised of and led by WIRE staff?

Dick Lutz seems to focus on Helen Chirivas, but she has been reporting much of these unpleasant facts. Lutz's response looks like retaliation against Chirivas for exposing the almost-all-WIRE committee secretly meeting and presenting itself as the legislative committee that represents Roosevelt Island.

4. The WIRE has low journalistic standards, example #1: It doesn't fact check. Lutz implied that Joyce Mincheff quit RIRA and as RIRA Secretary because of my E-mails. Not true. This has been the third or fourth time Mincheff has quit RIRA, including the prior term under Matt Katz when she didn't like Katz, and the second time (I believe) she quit as RIRA Secretary. Had the WIRE investigated Mincheff's repetitive quitting, a clearer explanation would have been had that Ms. Mincheff has quit many times.

5. The WIRE has low journalistic standards, example #2: In an on-line complaint against Chirivas, Lutz takes a video sound bite out of context to try to make a point, but the full videos need to be posted so the community can see what had actually occurred, including the shenanigans of the LSC meeting. The WIRE has not provided the videos. Additionally, Lutz's complaints are unsubstantiated in a variety of ways (just like the expulsion proceedings against me). See the link above for more details.

6. The WIRE has significant journalistic conflicts. My understanding of Lutz's explanation is that the WIRE, while a For-Profit business, is operating out of the Rivercross Community Room, and that the WIRE have access to the space for free, but Rivercross rules only allow access to the space for organizations, not to For-Profit businesses.

Based upon his explanation, if someone were to complain to the Rivercross management or the Rivercross Board, he would lose his space. Thus, avoiding complaints is essential to Mr. Lutz having free access to the operating space of the Rivercross community room, right? All it takes is just ONE complaint, right?

So if the WIRE were to report something unpleasant about (say) the Rivercross privatization, in which approximately 360 apartments stand to cash out with hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in profits, including some Rivercross Board members who stand to gain millions of dollars in profits, and the Editor's own apartment with cash-out benefits -- then it is reasonable to believe the WIRE cannot report objectively/comprehensively or reveal the complete truth because the WIRE's operations might be at stake, and much of the WIRE's main staff are from Rivercross (Dick Lutz, Ashton Barfield, Linda Heimer, Vicki Feinmel, and a handful more) who might suffer financially in less profit-taking in the selling of their apartments.

In other words, the WIRE journalistic conflict of interest arises from multiple interests, such as financial and operational. Which means that reporting on broad swath of RIOC/Island issues (Rivercross/etc. ground leases, board members' conflicts of interest, billion-dollar debt/liability, assessments, etc.) could be both unpleasant and unprofitable for fellow Rivercross residents, including much of the WIRE staff.

Thus, there are serious questions about the objectivity, truthfulness, and completeness about the WIRE's coverage of our community.
Mr. Lutz, Mr. Katz, Ms. Helstien, Ms. Polivy and Mr. Evans were offered an opportunity to respond and rebut the allegations made by Mr. Farance. All declined to do so.


PAUL said...

3 weeks ago, I reported the shower covered in lice/bugs, over several hundred bugs on the walls. They remedied the situation immediately, and wrote to me. So I'm not sure we need a users group to formalize and complicate matters. Roosevelt Island does not need another committee of oldsters complaining about conditions. And then the life guards will become even more officious then they are already.

YetAnotherRIer said...

I think I had to stop right when I read this: "... three RIRA Common Council members who are doing their best, which includes making transparent much of the problems to the rest of the organization's members"


CheshireKitty said...

You're going to tell me Chirivas didn't do her best - alongside Nahem, Feely-Nahem, and the others in the PSC - to unseat Guerra? And not just succeed in unseating Guerra but also in getting two of the worst PSOs suspended? The PSC was ultra-effective - mostly thanks to Erin, but also thanks to the other PSC members, including Chirivas, that contributed. (And let's not forget Farance, who actually broke the Jones story.)

Yet, unlike some others - as Nahem wrote in his recent WIRE letter - Chirivas draws a clear line of responsibility for the abuses of the Guerra years straight to the RIOC Board, to the Margie Smiths, the Dave Krauts, and the others who were remiss in their oversight of the PSD.

When Chirivas called for these Board Members to be term-limited out at a recent meeting of the Legislative Subcommittee, she was viciously attacked by attendee and evidently LSC member RIOC Board Member Margie Smith as well as some of Smith's colleagues on the LSC. Smh.

There is no excuse for RIOC Board Members whose terms have expired to remain on the Board. Cuomo needs to replace them now.

OldRossie said...

Was this before or after Chirivas submitted motions to RIRA she never intended as serious motions, admitting she didn't take RIRA seriously? That's the same Chirivas common council member, right?

CheshireKitty said...

Chirivas never admitted that. You are confusing Chirivas with CK. The motions were essentially correct and Chirivas never withdrew them. Whistle-blowers should receive immunity and appreciation for their efforts, and the WIRE door-to-door distribution system, if someone can prove it's offensive to a sizable proportion of the population, should be discontinued. The WIRE resolution thus was premature - but not humorous. And, if the WIRE is not in fact offensive to a sizable proportion of the population, then a resolution opposing WIRE door-to-door delivery is not in order.

Chirivas second motion: The whistle-blower protection motion, should be reshaped and resubmitted to the CC. People that speak up at the CC should not be subject to removal for their speech. There are whistle-blower protection laws in effect at all levels of gov, Rossie.

CheshireKitty said...

About a third of the park was fenced off because of the unsafe footbridges. Yet, those bridges could have easily been repaired long ago. Why aren't things sensibly or rationally prioritized? The Lighthouse lighting system was repaired before the bridges. Does this make sense? So the Lighthouse is illuminated at night but we can't use the entire park - very nice.

OldRossie said...

Really? That's strange, because in the comment linked below CheshireKitty lays claim to the motion filed by Chirivas. Not too surprising I guess, considering any regulars here know well who you are...

CheshireKitty said...

That's been corrected - thanks for pointing it out.

No, you are wrong: If I were Helen, I would be commenting under that name. You can surmise or guess all you want, but you cannot prove that CK is Helen.

OldRossie said...

WOW, you actually edited the comment to make it look like you are not Helen!! that's amazing.

Trevre Andrews said...

I don't disagree that it should have been done faster, but I also don't know the facts. My main problem is with RIOC not being forthcoming with information. Why is the tip of the park closed? What all is broken? What needs to be fixed to open it again? Fine if it takes a long time to do something but there should be a good reason for it and that reason should be communicated.

CheshireKitty said...

Amazing? Why? Although it would be a tedious task, I could edit all my comments to make it clear that CK is not Helen, and vice versa.

OldRossie said...

In the below comment, CheshireKitty makes her point saying "I myself tallied the ballots along with Ike". Is she not Helen, or are her comments just meaningless? I'm sure we can keep going with this, considering the number of rants....

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riSwimmer said...

This group is "by invitation only". A couple of residents from the island have taken it upon themselves to 'speak for the community' yet the group is a closed group (meaning they get to decide who joins it). This is in opposition to the democratic process. This wonderful for example is an excellent example of a fabulous open community hub which is a true treasure in that it allows anyone to post their opinion whether named or anonymous. When dissent is discouraged and people with very specific interests in mind are in control of the group - then it's not a true community group.

That said -- many of the things they are trying to do are correct -- but they should do it IN OPEN. Not hiding behind a secret private group.

I think it's fair to say that it's a basic premise of the democratic process to give open access to all. Do you really want to hear what the full swimming community has to say or is it just those personally selected by you that are allowed to speak?

When the Sportspark Group is opened up to allow everyone with a legitimate concern write their opinion in their own voice without being chastised by the self-selected 'voice of the community' then perhaps your 'findings' presented to RIOC will carry more legitimacy.

As it stands right now, as far as I'm concerned - you're on a mission and not all of us swimmers may agree with you on every point. If you truly care for to find out what the community has to say then you would OPEN UP THE GROUP and hear what everyone has to say.

riSwimmer said...

While I may agree with some of the recommendations (but for sure not all) when you post using the email address "" you are posing as a representative of all SportsPark users and that is simply NOT the case.

In fact Roberta Kleinman along with Fred Gautier (mentioned as earlier in this blog as "leading an organizing effort") have independently decided to start a *private* GoogleGroup, and misleadingly named it "SportsparkUsers" group -- as if it speaks for all Sportspark Pool users.

It does not.

OldRossie said...

so we understand: you agree that the group is doing the right things, but you are unhappy with who they allow in the group?
Can't we just be happy that someone is taking action?

Kwa said...

I agree with Paul. I too reported the issue with the bugs (did not know they were lice . . . ew) and they fixed the situation right away.

I like this pool just because it is a "barebones" operation, making it affordable to ALL members of the community. This place has everything I need - a pool and a place to store my crap while swimming laps. There is no need, in my opinion, for all of the glitz and glamour with hefty price tags.

However, I do have some issues with the water temperature in different parts of the pool. Maybe Sportspark could have some kind of overnight locker storage system where people could pay a fee for an assigned locker. I know that it is a drag to have a swim, shower, change, drag your crap back home and then go back out to catch the train/ tram to work or carry your damp clothes/towels with you. It just make life less efficient.