RIRA Reports On Roosevelt Island Public Purpose Funds Process - NY State Authorities Budget Office Policy Guidance Potential Roadblock To Funding
Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Jeff Escobar and Public Purpose Funds Committee Chair Dave Evans report on the current status of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Public Purpose Funds process.
According to Mr. Escobar and Evans:
RIRA AND PUBLIC PURPOSE FUNDS 2015Yesterday, I asked RIOC President Charlene Indelicato:
Every year since the construction of Manhattan Park, not-for-profit organizations operating and providing services and programming to the community on Roosevelt Island have been able to apply for RIOC Public Purpose Funds (PPF), which was established and made available by New York State to support community uses. The overall purpose is to help qualified organizations whose activities benefit Roosevelt Island residents by availing funding so that they may startup or continue their mission of enhancing the quality of life of Roosevelt Island Residents. The PPF process – which began in 1989 and has occurred every year since – seeks to make decisions and determinations as to which Island 501c organizations will receive a portion of the funds available.
As such and in that the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) strives for “voluntary sharing” of certain responsibilities and the “common good” for all Island residents, RIOC has historically looked to RIRA to make funding recommendations for the consideration of the RIOC Board as it pertains to those community organizations applying for PPF. To this end, RIRA has been grateful to RIOC for providing it over the years the opportunity to be involved; albeit a difficult challenge that RIRA has accepted.
Why does RIRA preface its role in the PPF process as a difficult challenge? Because historically and given the number of qualified applicants, the total funds requested from the Roosevelt Island community often times more than doubles the total $100,000 budgeted funding for this particular effort. From the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association to Gallery RIVAA to Island Kids, every Island resident has in some way been touched by the PPF process, and their Island life enhanced, through an applying organizations’ education, artistic and cultural enrichment programming. Difficulty aside, RIRA continues to believe that the PPF work is consistent with its broader purpose of serving the community.
On Monday, January 5, procedures and guidelines for the 2015 Public Purpose Grant application process were posted on the RIOC website (www.rioc.ny.gov/grants), and an extensive, but good, overhaul by RIOC of the procedures in the process has been implemented. Organizations and programs hoping for assistance this year are strongly encouraged to review and familiarize themselves with the new rules and guidelines, as there are several changes to this year’s process, including a Letter of Intent, applicant presentations, and a special email address for all inquiries pertaining to the application and/or process. Moreover, one key change is that the general public may participate in the PPF process, as well, and review and provide input to individual applications.
RIRA, itself, is also coming to an understanding of the changes in the rules and guidelines, as well as its role and participation in the “Community Review Period”. Though there will be experienced members on the Committee, the Committee Chairperson will have training sessions to ensure each is familiar with the new procedures and, as RIRA understands, will require RIOC’s acceptance of each Committee member. Further, the Community Review Period (the actual review of applications) apparently will not start until the necessary affidavits have been completed by each Committee member and accepted by RIOC. To that end, RIRA is in the process of forming and selecting its PPF Committee and members, which will be comprised of representation of each of our Island Districts to the extent practicable. RIRA fully expects that the Committee it recommends to RIOC will be satisfactory and able to meet its requirements.
Following the receipt of the PPF applications, the most detailed aspect of the PPF Committee’s work will be to review and deliberate as to the merits and bona fides of each application. The most exciting could be the actual community presentations where applicants will brief the Committee followed by question/answer sessions and then, open question and answers inclusive of the public. Finally, the most difficult aspect will be independent Committee member evaluations of the applications followed by Committee funding recommendations to the entire RIRA Common Council for submission to the RIOC staff and Board.
Clouding and complicating the PPF process is the January 13, 2015 policy guidance released by the New York State Authorities Budget Office (and cited in a number of local news outlets) which reiterates the1999 and 1982 opinions of the Office of the State Comptroller and the New York State Attorney General that state and local authorities may only accept and expend or pass through loans, grants and contributions it receives from other federal, state, or other public or private sources but not grant or loan its monies awarded by the State, provided that such funding is consistent with the public purpose of the state or local authority and the statutory or programmatic limitations imposed on the use of those funds. With RIOC’s budget and operation – and the PPF itself – being funded primarily by the land rents of each of the buildings and developments that comprise Roosevelt Island but not by the State, coupled with the purely advisory and guidance nature of the opinion by the Authorities Budget Office and the fact that the aforementioned opinion has remained unchanged since 1982 and 1999 when the PPF process was underway, it is a question whether this guidance will come to bear on this year’s PPF process. RIRA itself is analyzing this issue, as well as is RIOC in conjunction with other New York State entities, as to whether the PPF process will continue on.
Regardless, given RIRA’s work in prior years, it is confident that, should the PPF process continue, RIRA will complete this effort in good order and with great pride in serving our Roosevelt Island Community. If you or your organization are interested in participating and/or applying for Public Purpose funding, go to www.rioc.ny.gov/grants, or email Erica Spencer-EL, RIOC Community Relations Specialist, at Erica.Spencer-EL@rioc.ny.gov.
Has there been any change in the Roosevelt Island Public Purpose Funds grants following this January 13 Authorities Budget Office Policy Guidance:Ms Indelicato replied:
... All state and local authorities which, as a matter of practice or policy, grant or loan their monies to such entities without specific legislative authorization are directed to immediately end such practice or policy so as to comply with applicable state law and the opinions of the State Attorney General and State Comptroller...
As you can see, Policy Guidance 15-01 was issued on January 13th and is NEW guidance. RIOC has been in the process of discussing the guidance with similarly situated NYS authorities, and relevant units of NYS government.More on the RIOC 2015 Public Purpose Funds process from previous post.