Thursday, May 15, 2014

RIOC Board Of Directors Meeting Today - Agenda Includes Giving RIRA $10 Thousand For Roosevelt Island Public Purposes Including Election Machines, Blood Drive, Bollywood Dance Party And Other RIRA Programs

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors is meeting later today. Among the items on the Agenda is:

6. Authorization of Expenditure of Funds to Roosevelt Island Residents Association
Materials to Follow - Board Action Required)
What's that about?

The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) May Common Council meeting passed this motion (by a vote of 18 in favor, 1 against and 2 abstentions) asking RIOC for $10 Thousand in Public Purpose Funds:
Motion to Support Request to RIOC for Funding Movant: Sherie Helstien, Vice-President

“Be it Resolved that the RIRA Common Council hereby approves the attached letter to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation requesting funding be made available to the organization in the amount of $10,000 for services rendered in allocating RIOC Public Purpose Funds in order to continue its work on behalf of the Island and its residents.”

Dear President Indelicato:

The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) was incorporated as a 501(c)(4) non‐profit corporation in 1977.

Over the years, RIRA has represented the residents of Roosevelt Island in interactions with the State of New York and other official entities on quality of life issues that affect the entire Island. Every person residing on Roosevelt Island is a member of RIRA. Its Common Council consists of representatives from every building, elected by the residents of those buildings, every two years. The President and Vice President are elected on an Island‐wide basis. It is therefore recognized as the official representative body of Roosevelt Island.

As part of its activities, RIRA sponsors and/or co‐sponsors multiple free Island‐wide events, i.e., Roosevelt Island Day, insurance fairs for renters, first aid classes, the annual blood drive, and many more events that are vital to the sense of community so treasured by the residents.

RIRA has no source of funds to pay for these functions, other than their own fund‐raising events. Over the last several years it’s been next to impossible to raise funds in the same way RIRA raised them in the past. This is mainly for two reasons. First, the economy is still not back where it was and people are more reluctant to contribute to fund raisers. But the biggest issue is that other Island organizations that received money in the past from local politicians are no longer receiving the same funds. Some aren’t getting any monies at all. Those organizations have now begun doing their own fund raisers and Roosevelt Island is too small a community for non‐profits to be able to compete for funds. RIRA is turning to RIOC to provide funding for their activities.

As a part of their service to the community RIRA agreed several years ago to review applications and make recommendations to RIOC on how Public Purpose Funds should be distributed. Having done so, RIRA has taken itself out of the running to receive PPF for their activities, as that would cause an obvious conflict of interest. This leaves RIRA in the unenviable position of asking for funds from RIOC in order to carry out their mission to the best of their ability.

We believe it’s within RIOC’s charter to allocate these funds to RIRA. Most NYS Public Benefit Corporations manage “things”, e.g., the Power Authority, the Transportation Authority, the NYS Thruway, etc. But RIOC does more than that. RIOC manages a community. As stated in the RIOC enabling legislation, RIOC’s job is to “...create on Roosevelt Island a new community which would retain and heighten the benefits of urban living while preserving a sense of scale and open space for Roosevelt Island residents and New York City as a whole...” Therefore, for all of the reasons stated above, RIRA is requesting $10,000 from RIOC in order to continue its work for the Island.

Respectfully Submitted,

Jeffrey R. Escobar RIRA President
The RIRA May 2014 Common Council Meeting Package included this report about the $10 Thousand funding request.
Introduction to Motion from Sherie Helstien, VP, RIRA:

A week or so ago, I had several face‐to‐face conversations with RIOC staff regarding several topics. I initially asked about the acquisition of available storage space on Roosevelt Island. I mentioned that though RIRA could currently pay for the annual $600 storage rental currently, insurance for the use of the Chapel Community Meeting space, and other possible fees depending on our activities/events, generally RIRA was often cash‐poor and in the future these fees could become onerous. I also inquired about the expected/promised previous funding which we’d received in exchange for our work helping to allocate PPF. This funding enabled RIRA to hold elections using voting machines rather than paper ballots. In the past RIRA was given a hand‐shake promise of a biennial contribution of $5K by Steve Chironis, RIOC’s former CFO, as “payment for services”. As some of you are aware, former RIRA Pres. Matt Katz, had attempted to get a written agreement between RIOC and RIRA for this arrangement but RIOC would not put an agreement in writing.

Following my conversation with RIOC staff, I was invited back, to a meeting with Charlene Indelicato and informed that in exchange for RIRA’s work with PPF allocations this year, RIOC will propose, upon RIRA’s request, to offer the organization $10K. In order for RIRA to receive the funding this year, we must approve the attached request letter. Approval will be done through the Motion provided. The decision for RIOC to proceed will be taken up at their May 15 meeting. So it is incumbent upon RIRA to act POSITIVELY and decisively at this meeting. RIOC must have the letter as soon as possible prior to their meeting next week.

Further, my understanding is that RIOC will propose creating this as an annual payment through their budget process. However, this proposal will not happen until December when budget discussions are under way. There are no guarantees, but there is a presumption that this will pass muster.

When received by RIRA this year, the funds (and any received in the future) will not have to be held separately but may be co‐mingled with RIRA funds. All activities are the organization’s alone, and have nothing to do with RIOC. In other words, these funds are unrestricted. It goes without saying that this money may be used for RIRA’s usual community programs and events and can also be used to support other organization’s programs or needs, as this organization sees fit.

RIOC’s only requirement is that RIRA provide a copy of the audit of its books annually.

This request has been approved, in advance, by RIOC President, Charlene Indelicato with the oversight of Frances Walton, Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and RIOC’s Attorney, Donald Lewis.

I have every confidence our friends on the Board will support this request.

I strongly urge all Common Councilors to attend the RIOC Board meeting: Thursday, May 15, 5:30 p.m. @ #8 River Rd.
The subject of the $10 Thousand grant to RIRA was addressed during May 12 meeting of the RIOC Board Of Directors Operations Advisory Committee meeting. (full audio web cast here).

RIOC President Charlene Indelicato supports the grant and advised the Board members that the $10 Thousand given to RIRA must be for:
... programic uses and public purpose Island wide uses....
RIOC General Counsel Don Lewis added the funds are not without restrictions and:
... the use of funds will be consistent with the mission purpose of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp...
RIRA Vice President Sherrie Helstien told the RIOC Board Members:
... Whatever programs we in the Common Council decide to put on through our committees, we will have the money to do that. We don't have to worry about funding for those things and anything else we can think of....
Ms Helstien also told the Directors that for a  long time she wanted to put on a Bollywood Dance community party which, in the past, RIRA did not have the money to stage. Now, she said, RIRA would have the money for her Bollywood Dance Party and to do events for all the different ethnic groups on Roosevelt Island

RIOC Director David Kraut expressed skepticism about underwriting RIRA's general operations and cited RIRA's mismanagement of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Mr. Kraut also inquired if RIRA was doing a good enough job of raising money itself and wondered if by accepting money from RIOC, would RIOC:
... own a piece of RIRA...
Ms Helstien said no, RIOC would not own RIRA and that she would give the money back to RIOC if that was the case.

Mr. Kraut finally gave his support to RIOC giving RIRA $10 Thousand but warned:
This can be a real slippery slope we better be aware of it. I am willing to take the step.
Here's full video of the disussion

and the full RIOC Agenda for today's meeting.





5:30 P.M.[1]

I. Call to Order

II. Roll Call

III. Approval of Minutes

1. April 10, 2014 Board Meeting (Board Action Required)

IV. Old Business

V. New Business

1. Authorization to Amend the Contract with Saratoga Associates in Connection with Blackwell House Interior Restoration Project (Board Action Required)

2. Authorization to Enter into Contract with Nelson & Pope Engineers & Surveyors for Design and Construction Services in Connection with Permanent Heating System for Sportspark (Board Action Required)

3. Authorization to Enter into Contract with United Metro Energy Corp. for the Purchase of #2 Heating Oil (Board Action Required)

4. Authorization to Amend the Contract with ENVAC for On-Call AVAC Repair Services (Board Action Required)

5. Authorization to Enter into Contract with Rooftop Films, Inc. for Equipment and Technical Support in Connection with Screenings of Summer Movie Series (Board Action Required)

6. Authorization of Expenditure of Funds to Roosevelt Island Residents Association (Materials to Follow - Board Action Required)

7. Ratification of Amendment of Contract with KONE, Inc. for Elevator Maintenance Services (Board Action Required)

8. Authorization to Enter into Contract with KONE, Inc. for Elevator Maintenance Services (Board Action Required)

9. President’s Report

10. Committee Reports

a. Audit Committee

b. Governance Committee

c. Operations Advisory Committee

d. Real Estate Development Advisory Committee

11. Public Safety Report

VI. Adjournment

[1] The RIOC Board Meeting will commence following a public comment period. The public comment period is not part of the meeting.


Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Advisories Group
UPDATE 7:05 PM - Item 6, the authorization for RIOC to grant $10 Thousand to RIRA was taken off the Agenda at tonight's RIOC Board meeting. It was not discussed or approved.

Late this afternoon, prior to the start of the RIOC Board Meeting, RIRA Planning Committee Chair and Island House Common Council Member Frank Farance (the only no vote at RIRA Meeting on subject) sent this email to RIOC President Charelene Indelicato and others:
There continue to be several problems with the RIRA proposal, including your mis-understanding about RIRA and Public Purpose Funds, and Ms. Helstein's substantial misrepresentations about RIRA in their letter.

RIRA is NOT prohibited from applying for Public Purpose FUNDS. RIRA is given the courtesy to provide input to the review process for Public Purpose GRANTS (which are a $100K pool of money). There is no conflict in applying for Public Purpose FUNDS because RIRA's request would not compete with or take away from the $100K that RIRA provides guidance on Public Purpose GRANTS. In the past, as RIRA President myself, I have asked RIOC for $5000 for biannual election machines, these funds (which I presume come from Public Purpose FUNDS) do not affect our $100K in Public Purpose GRANTS. Thus, the reasoning for the RIRA proposal is faulted.

Ms. Helstein states: "As part of its activities, RIRA sponsors and/or co‐sponsors multiple free Island‐wide events, i.e., Roosevelt Island Day, insurance fairs for renters, first aid classes, the annual blood drive, and many more events that are vital to the sense of community so treasured by the residents. RIRA has no source of funds to pay for these functions, other than their own fund‐raising events."

The Roosevelt Island Day event is NOT paid for by RIRA. The RIRA Blood Drive is completely funded by the NY Blood Center and the space is provided by the RI Seniors Association. The insurance fair was free to RIRA, and their letter gives the impression this is a regular event, but I believe it occurred only ONCE in the past two decades. To my knowledge, RIRA has not given a first aid class to the community it the past two decades. RIRA provides early morning bagels as part of its community outreach at a cost of approximately $200 (with contributions from merchants). According to RIRA present treasury, we have $7000 and enough money for 35 years of bagels. Roosevelt Island Day is (largely) funded by the managing agents (Urban American, etc.), the Roosevelt Island Youth Program, and RIOC.

I've heard that RIOC is reducing its funding of Roosevelt Island Day, fewer rides for the kids and such, this is the wrong priority: RIOC favoring $10K in improper funding of a RIRA proposal to fund (say) Ms. Helstein's Bollywood Event vs. a loss of children's enjoyment on Roosevelt Island Day. I note that Ms. Helstein's Bollywood proposal did not fail due to lack of funding within RIRA, it failed due to lack of interest among RIRA Common Council members ... she's presented the idea several times and, via democratic process, it did not garner support. But now RIOC will be funding a Bollywood Event that RIRA never wanted. Are we replacing Ms. Strong-Shinozaki's pet project (gigantic Cherry Blossom Festival) for Ms. Helstein's pet project?

The letter states "Over the last several years it’s been next to impossible to raise funds in the same way RIRA raised them in the past. This is mainly for two reasons. First, the economy is still not back where it was and people are more reluctant to contribute to fund raisers. But the biggest issue is that other Island organizations that received money in the past from local politicians are no longer receiving the same funds.".

Again, this is a misrepresentation and misleading. The only funds RIRA received from politicians were Micah Kellner's funding a couple times for election machines, which then transferred to RIOC in 2010 (as mentioned above) because Mr. Kellner was no longer able to get State funds. As for the other organizations on the Island, they are in need of larger funds because they actually provide services. RIRA is NOT in the business of providing services, but an elected/deliberative organization for representing the community's interests -- just like Congress, it doesn't provide services directly.

RIRA's annual spending over the past two decades has been: $100 for Christmas lights, $200 for bagels on Roosevelt Island Day, approx $50 for flowers/cards for residents who are ill. In future years, RIRA might have to pay for insurance to use the Good Shepherd space, but the annual costs are about $200 for insurance. With the exception of biannual election machines, RIRA does not have the kind of funding needs that other organizations have.

As I see it, the problem with the funding is that, in essence, it is buying "hush" money to influence RIRA, as you have attempted to do with personal relationships with other RIRA members in the hopes of quashing complaints about RIOC. RIRA CANNOT COMPETENTLY MANAGE ANY SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF MONEY. The Cherry Blossom Festival last year was a spectacular example of these kinds of conflicts of interests among RIOC Board members and RIRA Common Council members. And what happened? Those people, including Ms. Helstien who participated in that RIRA committee, gave bogus Financial Reports and refused to provide explanation for a half year. And for the person (Yours Truly) who complained about the bogus finances? He was subjected to baseless expulsion procedures in retaliation for reporting the financial mismanagement.

I also point out that your own RIOC Board Member Margie Smith, a former RIRA Common Council member, should be well aware of all of the misrepresentations in Ms. Helstein's presentation and RIRA letter. As I've recommended previously, many of these irregularities in process, scope, procedure, and specification need to be corrected before the RIOC Board approves such an agreement.


OldRossie said...

Yea, that'll be well spent...

CheshireKitty said...

I'm amazed at this story - a stolen toy?! That's too bad. Sure hope whoever grabbed the toy reconsiders and turns it in.

YetAnotherRIer said...

I think this underlines the problem about Frank: I don't think he had the right to write this letter to the RIOC while still being a member of the RIRA (not legally but definitely ethically). He had his vote and he voted "no," but he did not stop there. He had to go over everybody's heads and write to Ms Indelicato himself. He undermines everything with these actions. Frank, if you dislike the RIRA so much, why don't you just quit and start your own thing instead of destroying it?

Heather Wolfe Taylor said...

Oh no! I hope you find it, Susy. :( Maybe someone will turn it in.

Frank Farance said...

Will Refer The Fraudulent RIRA $10K Proposal For Investigation

To Common Council Members:
[also forwarded to RIOC Board]

I don't understand how 18 Common Council members voted for a proposal that was riddled with misrepresentations that, in essence, is a *fraudulent* proposal from a NYS not-for-profit corporation to the State agency RIOC for funding. It's not just one person who made a mistake, with a vote of 18-1 it's a corporate mistake, too.

Furthermore, the idea of this proposal was improperly developed: Ms. Helstien seems to have arranged everything in a back-room discussion with Ms. Indelicato. Ms. Helstien presented this rushed proposal that Had To Be Decided Immediately (reminds me of Ellen Polivy's rushed proposal on the Korean Pavilion, which now has failed). Ms. Helstien then gave a presentation to us, which turned out to be significantly inaccurate itself, based upon later rebuttal by RIOC staff, including Ms. Indelicato. I don't know why RIOC Board Director Margie Smith, who was present at the RIRA Common Council meeting, didn't clarify any of the points that Ms. Helstien was making. Either Ms. Helstien was misrepresenting what Ms. Indelicato said (one kind of serious problem), or Ms. Helstien was accurately portraying what Ms. Indelicato said (a different kind of serious problem). This deserves investigation.

Ms. Indelicato shares responsibility for this poor presentation to RIRA. Why? Because, if according to the bogus reasoning of the WIRE that RIRA people don't have experience in finances (the WIRE's whitewashing rationale of Lynne Strong-Shinozaki's bogus Cherry Blossom Financial Report, Ms. Helstien was part of the committee that approved the bogus report), then why would Ms. Indelicato have reason to believe that Ms. Helstien would competently explain these financials/provisions to RIRA? And, with my E-mail an hour before the RIOC Board meeting, why does Ms. Helstien then (minutes later) contact the RIRA Treasurer and tell him NOT to come to the RIOC Board meeting (he had already planned on attending). Even if the item were taken off the agenda, the Treasurer could have been available to RIOC Board members afterwards to better inform them regarding my concerns in the E-mail ... but my facts would have been validated by the Treasurer which, I presume, was not advantageous for Ms. Helstien and her proposal. Ms. Helstien, why discourage RIOC Board members from being informed about RIRA?

Really, y'all put forth a bogus proposal, which now might lock RIRA out of receiving funds for a very long while: do State agencies want to give money to non-profits who have given them fraudulent proposals? (Probably not.) It seems y'all don't recognize there are consequences to making poor decisions. Y'all were blinded by Ms. Helstien's presentation that RIOC would give RIRA $10K in unrestricted funds, that RIOC would not tell RIRA what to do with the money, that RIOC explicitly did NOT want to KNOW what we did with the money, that RIRA could actually put the money in the bank and accumulate $10K year after year, and other very implausible provisions.

This shows precisely how money is a corrupting influence: y'all were blinded by receiving money and it significantly affected your decision-making.

Simply, we (as directors of the RIRA corporation) have the responsibility govern and represent the corporation properly and, clearly, there are significant failures. Unfortunately, given the resounding support of the vote on the fraudulent proposal (18-1) and RIRA's poor history this term on handling financial/governance matters, I believe external intervention is necessary.

Frank Farance
Island House

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, RIRA is the body that represents the Island, we are elected representatives. Maybe you should ask, why RIRA members make poor decisions or engage in poor actions? There is nothing unethical about reporting fraudulent behavior and, in fact, it is one's responsibility to do so: think of all the reporting hotlines, as advocated by the government and advertised on subway posters.