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Friday, June 19, 2015

NY State Senator Jose Serrano and Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright Pass Legislation Allowing RIOC To Provide Public Purpose Fund Grants To Roosevelt Island Non Profit Organizations - Next Step Is Governor Cuomo's Signature

The New York State Senate and Assembly passed legislation earlier this week to allow the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) to continue allocating Public Purpose Fund grants to Roosevelt Island non-profit organizations. The legislation was sponsored by Roosevelt Island's State Senator Jose Serrano and Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. and sent to Governor Cuomo for signature.

As reported last March:

... the annual distribution of approximately $100 Thousand in Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Public Purpose Funds


to Roosevelt Island non profit organizations has been jeopardized because of the New York State Authorities Budget Office (ABO) January 13, 2015 Policy Guidance Statement saying in part:
... State and local authorities, as defined by Section 2 of the Public Authorities Law, whether created as public benefit corporations or formed as not- for-profit corporations, have only those powers explicitly granted or necessarily implied by statute. Accordingly, state and local authorities may engage in only those activities and exercise those powers which are expressly authorized in law or which are incidental to performing their statutory purposes.

Authorities Budget Office Policy Guidance: This limitation applies to the power of a state or local authority to award its monies in the form of grants and loans to public or private interests. Such financial assistance is prohibited unless expressly authorized in statute....

... A state or local authority, unless otherwise empowered under the law, may not grant or loan its monies to public or private corporations, private businesses or interests, civic associations, charitable groups, educational institutions, not-for- profit corporations, or any other social, religious, fraternal or cultural organization....

... 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.
Senator Serrano issued this June 18 Press Release:
On Monday, June 15th, the New York State Senate passed Senator José M. Serrano's bill, S5813, which authorizes the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) Board of Directors to continue to provide grants to not-for-profit organizations that provide services to the Roosevelt Island community.

Since 1989, The RIOC Board has distributed funds for capital improvements and other community needs through the Roosevelt Island Public Purpose Fund program. In January 2015, the Authorities Budget Office issued a broad policy guidance, which due to it's ambiguity, temporarily halted this longstanding practice and prohibited RIOC from distributing grants. Serrano's legislation would expressly clarify that the RIOC Board has the authority to distribute the public purpose funds, and continue to provide this much needed financial assistance to deserving local non-profits.

"For over 25 years, The RIOC Board has been providing much needed funding of vital services for the Roosevelt Island community. I am pleased to have worked with my Roosevelt Island colleagues Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright and Council Member Ben Kallos on this important issue. I'm grateful that this bill has passed both houses of the legislature," said Senator Serrano.

"I am pleased that my office was able to work closely with the Roosevelt Island Residents Association's Government Affairs Committee and Senators Serrano and Golden to draft a bill that will support local not-for-profits and government agencies that serve Roosevelt Islanders," said Assembly Member Seawright.

With time running out until the end of session, getting this legislation through the Republican controlled Senate was no easy feat. Having passed both the Senate and Assembly, where it was sponsored by Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, the bill now heads to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's desk to be signed into law.
According to the Senate Bill 5813 sponsored by Senator Serrano and Brooklyn Senator Martin Golden, the RIOC grants are not to exceed 3% of its operating budget (approximately $25 million for fiscal year 2015 -16):
Section 1. Legislative intent. This act shall authorize the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to distribute public purpose funds to not-for-profit community organizations whose purpose is to benefit Roosevelt Island residents by enhancing their quality of life through education, artistic and cultural enrichment, improved health or better environment.

S 2. Chapter 899 of the laws of 1984, relating to the creation of a public benefit corporation to plan, develop, operate, maintain and manage Roosevelt Island, is amended by adding a new section 4-a to read as follows:

S 4-A. NOT-FOR-PROFIT GRANT DISTRIBUTION. 1. THE CORPORATION IS AUTHORIZED TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE IN THE FORM OF GRANTS TO NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATIONS OR GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES THAT PROVIDE DIRECT SERVICES OR BENEFITS TO THE RESIDENTS OF ROOSEVELT ISLAND, NOT TO EXCEED 3% OF THE OPERATING BUDGET OF THE CORPORATION, AND UPON THE APPROVAL OF A MAJORITY OF THE ENTIRE BOARD OF THE CORPORATION. 2. ON OR BEFORE MAY 1, 2016, THE CORPORATION SHALL POST A REPORT ON ITS WEBSITE THAT SHALL LIST
The bill was sent to Governor Cuomo
for his signature.

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