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Thursday, November 10, 2016

RIRA Recommends Public Purpose Funds Allocations Of $100 Thousand To These Roosevelt Island Non Profit Organizations

The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council yesterday approved the recommendations of RIRA's Public Purpose Funds Committee for the allocation of $100,000 to local Roosevelt Island non-profit organizations.

  Pile Of Money Image From Passive Income Genius

RIRA Public Purpose Funds Committee Chair Dave Evans reports:
I am pleased with the outcomes related to the discussion by the Common Council of the RIRA Public Purpose Fund Committee report Wednesday evening, November 9. This was done as part of old business in advance of formally seating the recently elected Council under new business.  After discussions in response to various questions, the report that recommended funds for all nine applicants was approved.

Subsequent to completion of a few administrative details, the report is envisioned for review and approval during an upcoming meeting of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors as early as next month on December 8. For all of this, I am extremely thankful for the efforts of the smart, dedicated ladies who served on the Committee.
Below is the memo sent by the RIRA Public Purpose Funds Committee to RIOC.
The RIRA Common Council’s PPF Committee reviewed the RIOC-provided applications of nine qualified applicants, one of which is new to the Island, seeking funds for their respective programs. The Common Council approved the Committee’s report during a meeting on November 9, 2016 and also took note of the increasing need for public purpose funding in our growing Roosevelt Island community.

Given the above need and having in mind current PPF-related legislation associated with PPF distribution, we are anticipating increased funding as early as the next fiscal year distributions. The legislative stipulation, that up to 3% of the RIOC operating budget is for such funding, offers prospects for serving the qualified non-profits, and thus the community, in a more robust manner.

Further to the above, it is with pleasure that we provide you the attached funding recommendations for your review and approval. If any questions, please let us know and also when this matter will be on the agenda for the review and approval consideration of the Corporation’s Board. The Committee will provide under separate cover the Summary Sheet/Evaluation Forms its members were asked to complete and the other documentation you do and might require.

We thank RIOC for its continued support to the community and for the on-going the efforts associated with public purpose funding. Additionally, we thank you for allowing the RIRA-Common Council to provide inputs to the important process of availing grants to qualified Roosevelt Island applicants....
And the Committee recommendations for allocation of funds to the respective organizations.
Roosevelt Island Residents Association – Common Council

Approved November 9, 2016

Summary of FY 2016-2017 Public Purpose Fund (PPF) Committee Funding Recommendations Date Finalized - November 9, 2016

SPECIAL NOTE 1: THE COMMITTEE STRONGLY URGES THAT FUNDS RECOMMENDED TO ANY ORGANIZATION(S) THAT FOR REASONS ARE NOT USED IN WHOLE OR IN PART BE EQUALLY DIVIDED FOR DISBURSEMENT TO THE REMAINING APPLICANTS FOR THESE FUNDS.

SPECIAL NOTE 2: THE COMMITTEE STRONGLY URGES THAT RIOC IMPLEMENTS SOONEST THE APPROVED PPF-RELATED NYS LEGISLATION THAT STIPULATES THE ALLOCATION TO QUALIFIED ISLAND ORGANIZATIONS OF PPF AT UP TO 3% OF THE RIOC OPERATING BUDGET.

Following are the Committee funding recommendations...:

1. Carter Burden
Amount Requested: $20,000 Amount Recommended: $5,400

Carter Burden is new to the Island as of 1 July 2016 to specifically manage the Senior Center. They bring with them broad experience in availing programs/activities for seniors 60 or older. Two and one/half percent of their over $8M operating budget is devoted to the Island. Their operating hours are Monday thru Friday, 9am – 5pm. The programs offered (e.g., exercise, health/wellness, technical classes, etc.) as well as meals are free to recipients. Carter Burden envisions offering high quality programs and seeks Public Purpose Funds to cover costs such as for consultants and other costs associated with the aforementioned examples of classes offered. Given the above, the Committee believes PPF would be appropriate to at least initially help cover costs of their programs here as they settle onto the Island.


2. Island Kids

Amount Requested: $20,000 Amount Recommended: $10,400

The Island Kids program is well-known and well-received on the Island. The Public Purpose Funds are envisioned to especially help provide a foundation for establishment of an after school scholarship program for K-3. There is also the well-known and highly regarded summer camp program for pre-K through 10. Though these programs do have a cost, such is not meant to serve as a barrier to participation. In fact, the goal is to be inclusive, using scholarships to help ensure that children, who otherwise could not attend, can attend free or at a much reduced rate. The Committee believes this organization provides a valuable service to the Island. Given the continuing growth/increase of young families as part of the Island population, the demand for these services will most likely continue to increase.


3. Life Frames, Inc.

Amount Requested: $19,900 Amount Recommended: $6,200

The Life Frames program continues to be directed by an energetic leadership and supporting staff inclusive of parental support. Observations continue to confirm that many children actively and enthusiastically participate in the gardening activities, primarily at the gardening site behind the Youth Center Building 504. At this primary operating location and, when the children are there with instructors, it is a delight to observe the joy and lessons it provides them. As noted in prior years, Life Frames seems well-funded in California but continues to face more challenges in growing its funding efforts in New York City. Even taking note of the operating budget, the percentage of it applicable to Roosevelt Island is not clear. The funding challenge continues to impact the programs of this organization with a rich history on the Island. As such, better clarity relative to the breadth of what Life Frames actually does on the Island beyond the aforementioned gardening could be beneficial.


4. Main Street Theater and Dance Alliance

Amount Requested: $35,000 Amount Recommended: $19,300

It is obvious that MST&DA has continued to make significant strides to the point it seems fully recovered from the tragic storm Sandy that affected them and others on the Island. Importantly and most noticeable, their programs (for all age groups) and membership continue to expand, with many opportunities for the Island population. Of special note, in addition to their offerings for Island young adults, is the high number of children at PS 217 they touch at all grade levels. They partnered successfully with Beacon and Island Kids to provide theater at no cost to their summer programs. Going forward, MST&DA desires to maintain and expand staff, arts education, and further enrichment of Island cultural life. These goals are worthy of public purpose funding.


5. PS/IS 217 Parent Teachers Association (PTA)

Amount Requested: $28,840 Amount Recommended: $18,000

The Island PS-IS/217 is fortunate to have an active PTA that provides broad/significant support to its overall mission to educate children of the community. The essence of the funding request is to sustain continued support to a program (Salvadori Centre Globe) that focuses on a project-based approach to learning math and science. Grades 3, 6, 7 and 8 (comprising 180 primarily Island students), will benefit from this program in an effort to further increase the number of students who achieve proficiency ratings on the NY State exams. The committee believes this enrichment effort could provide medium to high benefit and will contribute to and enhance student performance in science, technology, engineering and math now and in the future. It is thought that Salvadori contributes to increases in test performance and in mitigating the loss of our promising students to other schools.


6. Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA)

Amount Requested: $10,000 Amount Recommended: $10,000

The RIDA efforts continue to include strong advocacy for quality of life matters for the disabled population of the Island. The RIDA bus comprises 60% of the costs associated with their program(s) for the disabled. Over 70 disabled individuals living on Roosevelt Island derive benefits that improve their quality of life through enhanced mobility. Included are motorized and manual wheelchairs as well as other mobility-related devices to support their needs. The bus is capable of transporting ten wheelchair passengers and others. RIDA also assists with transportation for the food program of the Manhattan Borough President. This benefits the disabled (and others) by availing food from June through November. Such collective efforts are of high value to the Island.


7. Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS)

Amount Requested: $25,700 Amount Recommended: $8,800

The RIHS Kiosk is well located and it is hoped the signage will help encourage pedestrian traffic its way. Though not sure of the feasibility, the Committee thinks management considerations going forward should include an adjustment of operating hours that coincide to heaviest pedestrian traffic. For example, such might be later in the day/early evenings and weekends. With estimates of 45,000 visitors per year, a strategically located donation receptacle could prove beneficial. Similar considerations have been suggested in prior years. The funding requested that resonated most with the Committee included funds that could be aimed at additional staff support and support to the Historian.


8. Roosevelt Island Senior Association (RISA)

Amount Requested: $30,000 Amount Recommended: $12,100

RISA is showing its flexibility in serving the senior population after recent changes on the Island. Part of the strength of this new RISA, according to their objectives, will be arrangements for serving the needs of seniors with new operating hours, inclusive of weekends. The Committee noted the broader age range that could benefit from senior-oriented programs and activities, thus potentially a greater number of participants. The funding recommended is intended to give the new RISA an opportunity to show its mettle.


9. Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association (RIVAA)


Amount Requested: $44,000 Amount Recommended: $9,800

The RIVAA application has been rather consistent over the past few years. RIVAA struggles with rent and utility bills and these costs of operations form the essence of a request for PPF funds. The application for the funds also clearly shows arrears of $10k for rent in addition to current charges. In prior times, the Committee has suggested aggressive fund-raising efforts, attention to gallery membership and prospects for dues to help off-set expenses. The aforementioned has not worked for RIVAA nor seemingly pursued with rigor. The question remains to the Island as to how there can be a boost to the operating viability of such a pleasurable gallery, appropriately situated at a nice location on the Island.
RIRA Island House Common Council Council Member Frank Farance raised objections to RIRA's approval of the Public Purpose Committee recommendations. Mr.Farance sent the following email to RIOC President Susan Rosenthal, RIRA President Jeff Escobar and others earlier today:
Last night at the RIRA meeting, we approved (on very short notice) a set of allocations for PPF applicants. At the prior RIRA meeting, we approved (via last minute proposal) the group of people reviewing the PPF applications. RIOC notified the public about presentations with very short notice (24 hours). Everything is being rushed, and we could have done this much better....

... While Jeff Escobar asked Common Council members for their interests, and then determined who would be Conflicted Out (I believe his decision-making is, largely, correct), what happened thereafter was not consistent with RIRA's Conflict of Interest Policy and not consistent with NYS law, as described by the Attorney General.

At last night's meeting, people who were Conflicted Out were permitted to participate in the discussion, including discussion of money allocations, of which several of them had financial interest (as PPF applicants), and spouses of RIOC Board members participated in the discussion. For example, Sherie Helstien is a member of the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association (RISA) whose PPF money allocations were being discussed last night, and she participated in that discussion, including suggesting different money allocations (which would benefit her organization). Lynne Strong-Shinozaki participated in the discussion, who has several conflicts (Trustee of RI Historical Society, one of the PPF applicants, and spouse of RIOC Board member). In additional, Lynne was discussing RIOC PPF, including the RI Youth Program's receiving Public Purpose Funds.

RIRA Conflict of Interest Policy: "Any Common Council member in attendance shall in advance of or as soon as it is recognized during Council consideration of a matter representing a conflict of interest shall not deliberate or vote on such matter and shall so indicate by stating "not voting due to conflict of interest"."

Apparent Violation: Those who were Conflicted Out participated in the deliberations.

RIRA Conflict of Interest Policy: "A member with a financial Conflict of Interest is required to leave the room during deliberations and voting. A member whose Conflict of Interest is due to a relationship with government or with other Island entities (see Part II below) is not required to leave the room during deliberations and voting."

Apparent Violation: Those who were Conflicted Out with financial conflict of interest participated in the deliberations.

Attorney General Guidance: "3. Requirement that the person with the conflict of interest not be present at or participate in board or committee deliberations or vote on the matter giving rise to such conflict. (N-PCL § 715-a(b)(3))."

Apparent Violation: Those who were Conflicted Out participated in the deliberations.

Attorney General Guidance: "4. Prohibition of any attempt by the person with the conflict to improperly influence the deliberations or voting on the matter giving rise to such conflict. (N-PCL § 715-a(b)(4))."

Apparent Violation: Some of those who were Conflicted Out improperly influenced the deliberations.

I raised a Point Of Order (via Roberts Rules) to object to the improper discussion by Conflicted Out members, but Jeff Escobar ruled my objection as not a Point Of Order. I believe it is a Point Of Order because it involves the organization's procedures as per discussion in meeting conducted by Roberts Rules.

On top of that, the proposed allocations were described inadequately: we (RIRA) have no idea what the money will be spent *FOR*. Yes, we know WHO is recommended, but not WHAT it will be spent for. Several of us asked Dave Evans (Chair of the RIRA PPF Ad Hoc) questions about the spending of the monies and criteria used, but largely there were a lack of answers. The discussion was shut down as Lynne(!) made the motion to table the decision-making ... Lynne's involvement seems wholly inappropriate, in light of her conflict.

In other words, if you read what was given to RIRA for decision-making, it is hard to know what we are getting for our money, i.e., RIRA is making decisions about recommending RIOC's spending of money without knowledge of what it will be spent upon. This lack of detail is inadequate for RIRA's decision-making, and inadequate for an organization making recommendations to RIOC.

I recognize that these concerns need to be addressed in a short time frame. I am available if you need further information.
More information on Roosevelt Island Public Purpose Funds including October 26-27 presentations made by Public Purpose Funds applicants to the RIRA Public Purpose Funds Committee are available on audio at the RIOC web site here and here.

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