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Monday, January 30, 2017

RIOC Withdraws Roosevelt Island Youth Center Operations RFP Three Days After Announcing 2 Bidders Tied For Award - No Explanation Given

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) issued a September 21, 2016 Request For Proposals (RFP) for an operator of the Roosevelt Island Youth Center (Addendum 1 and Addendum 2).


As reported December 20, the three bidders for the Youth Center RFP were the Roosevelt Island Youth Program (RIYP) , the current operator of the Youth Center for almost 40 Years, and two competing local groups, Island Kids and the Roosevelt Island Center Of Community Development (RICCD).

The winning Youth Center bidder was expected to be decided during the January 26 RIOC Board meeting.

On January 23, RIOC announced:
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the Board of Directors meeting previously scheduled for Thursday, January 26, 2017 has been rescheduled and will be held on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. at the Cultural Center Theater, 548 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, New York.
On January 23, I asked RIOC President Susan Rosenthal and RIOC Directors:
Any update on the status of Youth Center operator RFP....
Ms Rosenthal answered later that day:
RIOC’s evaluation process has resulted in a tied score for two of the proposing entities. To resolve this tie, RIOC will conduct a second evaluation of the tied proposals with a new review panel. We expect to complete this phase of the evaluation process by February 3rd, 2017.
Image Of Criteria For Evaluating Youth Center RFP Bidders (Page 15-16 of the RFP)

I followed up:
Who are the two tied entities?
Ms Rosenthal replied:
We will answer all appropriate inquiries at the conclusion of the process.
During January 24 RIOC Operations Advisory Committee meeting (full audio web cast here and here), RIOC Director David Kraut asked about the status of the Youth Center RFP. Ms Rosenthal replied that there was a tie among two bidders but would not answer Mr. Kraut's follow up question regarding the identity of the tied bidders because the RFP was still an "open bid".

At the conclusion of the public portion of the Operation Advisory Committee meeting, the RIOC Board went into Executive Session to discuss the Youth Center RFP.

I'm told that Ms Rosenthal would not disclose the identity of the tied bidders to the RIOC Directors during the Executive Session.



Late Friday afternoon, January 27, all 3 Youth Center RFP bidders received an email from RIOC informing them that the Youth Center RFP was withdrawn and a revised RFP would be issued at a future date.

On January 28, I asked RIOC President Rosenthal and RIOC Directors:
I understand that RIOC withdrew the Roosevelt Island Youth Center Operations RFP yesterday and intends to issue a new RFP in the future.

Susan stated at Tuesday's Operations Advisory committee meeting that there were 2 bidders who were tied for the Youth Center Operations RFP and that these 2 bidders would meet with a new RIOC panel to determine the winning bidder under the RFP.

Why was the Youth Center RFP withdrawn?

What happened between the Tuesday Operations Committee meeting and Friday for RIOC to decide to withdraw the Youth Center RFP?...
Have not received a reply yet from RIOC.

I also asked the Youth Center bidders for comment regarding RIOC's withdrawal of the RFP. Island Kids Nikki Leopold replied:
Island Kids received an email yesterday afternoon about the RFP being withdrawn. We are disappointed to say the least. We've spent considerable time on this process, We were working closely with one of the largest providers of free afterschool programming in the city and met with a major funder who was considering a sizable match to the RIOC funds in the case that we were awarded the contract. We're confident that our proposal would have raised the bar for Island youth services. We look forward to the release of the revised RFP and hope that RIOC will give a timeline in the very near future.
Will update when any statement received from RIOC or other RFP bidders.

Stay tuned for more.

UPDATE 6:45 PM - RICCD'S Dan Sadlier adds:
RICCD received an email Friday afternoon about the RFP being withdrawn. Our RICCD leadership and board came into the bidding process with extensive experience in critical areas that would undoubtedly increase the effectiveness of youth programming in our diverse neighborhood. We eagerly await the revised RFP and hope to better understand the latest change in the RFP process.
UPDATE 2/1, 5:20 PM - RIOC President Susan Rosenthal replies:
On September 21, 2017, RIOC issued a Request for Proposals (“RFP”) for the operation of the Roosevelt Island Youth Center. RIOC received three proposals based on this solicitation. All three proposals complied with the guidelines and were forwarded to a review committee of three RIOC evaluators. The RIOC evaluators followed RIOC and New York State Procurement Guidelines and evaluated the three proposals as detailed in the RFP. This review resulted in a tie score between two of the applicants. Accordingly, on January 20, 2017 all bidders were informed that the evaluation process resulted in a tie score and the two tied bidders’ applications were going to be submitted to a new panel of evaluators for review.

Since that time, members of the Roosevelt Island community have submitted numerous communications to RIOC generally questioning the legitimacy of the review that resulted in a tie. Some communications included disparaging remarks about bidders. All such communications, attempting to influence the RIOC review committee while the RFP is pending, are inappropriate and are prohibited by State Finance Law. These communications, among other things, caused RIOC to withdraw the RFP on January 27, 2017.

RIOC intends the new review committee to include members of other entities with expertise in child services to ensure the best operator for our children. Once the new review committee is constituted, RIOC will issue a new RFP for the operation of the Roosevelt Island Youth Center.

All bidders and community members are reminded that clear guidelines exist within the RFP and the State Finance Law regarding communications concerning a proposal while the proposal is pending. We ask that the bidders and community members abide by these rules and laws.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.
UPDATE 2/1, 6:35 PM - Island Kids Board of Directors add:
We refute the assertion that Island Kids was an unqualified and inexperienced applicant for the Youth Center RFP.  Island Kids is absolutely qualified for the following reasons.
  • Island Kids has done an excellent job of and continues to develop its board - a true mix of Island residents, parents, nonprofit specialist, including a nonprofit attorney and a nonprofit CPA, marketing and development professionals, and education specialists.  We are proud of the diversity and depth of expertise on the board as Island Kids continues to grow.  Our Certificate of Incorporation is with the Attorney General’s office and in the process of being revised to reflect the full scope of services we intend to provide in the future.  This process started before our response to the RFP was submitted.  Over the last two years, Island Kids Board of Directors has spent a great deal of time working with the Lawyer’s Alliance to update and improve governance procedures including revisions to our by laws and the creation of an employee manual that outlines policies and procedures as well as our legal responsibilities to our employees.  We are known for our integrity and at least three Island non-profits have approached us for advice on matters related to Board oversight and procedures.  
  •  Island Kids has developed strong partnerships with many Island organizations and has an excellent reputation amongst parents for providing high quality programming.  As we crafted our proposal, much thought was put into collaboration with outside organizations with the same high standards of quality and inclusiveness that we pride ourselves on.  Sports and Arts in Schools has that reputation along with 25 years of providing K-12 afterschool and summer programs.  This partnership would have raised the bar on youth services to a level unprecedented on Roosevelt Island and also provides evidence of the organizations strategic capabilities in growing our program.
  • As far as our fundraising capabilities, Island Kids has raised well over $300,000 in the last 10 years, most of which has gone towards scholarships for children in need.  Additionally, in preparation for the possibility of being awarded the Youth Center contract, Island Kids met with a funding partner who was considering a very substantial match to the RIOC funds.  Given the small scope of our program, Island Kids has had great success in fundraising and we were confident that obtaining the Youth Center contract would open up additional funding opportunities. 
  • Finally, we want to address the alleged conflict of interest between Sports and Arts and Schools (SASF) and the New York Junior Tennis League (NYJTL). NYJTL is a parent organization of SASF and they operate completely separately.  The fact that they share an office space is no indication of a conflict.  The Island would have been incredibly lucky to have SASF involved on any level, as their programming is outstanding.  We hope to have the opportunity to work with them if and when and if the RFP is released again. 
 Island Kids refuses to let this latest personal attack deter us from moving forward. The attempt to thwart the process with baseless allegations, distracts all of us from moving forward with the Youth Center RFP which, with the right contractor would provide high quality, free programming, to children who otherwise would not receive such services.  We look forward to RIOC’s response.
This is a developing story. More to come.

UPDATE 12/3 - The Island Kids Board of Directors share this letter they sent to RIOC responding to claims made by Frank Farance regarding the Youth Center RFP:
February 1, 2017

Dear Ms. Rosenthal and the RIOC Board of Directors,

It has come to our attention that a resident of Roosevelt Island has contacted the RIOC Board of Directors questioning the Youth Center RFP process and in doing so has made false assertions against Island Kids and the Executive Director of Island Kids, Nikki Leopold, as related to their recent RFP submission and overall business operations.

Island Kids was and continues to be a vital part of the Roosevelt Island community providing much needed programming for children on Roosevelt Island for over 25 years.  A stalwart presence on the island and part of the island's rich history of non-profit and community based organizations, these unwarranted and false claims have the potential to irrevocably damage Island Kids' ability to address the needs of the children and families on Roosevelt Island.

Island Kids has and continues to value its partnership with RIOC. We refuse to believe that RIOC has in any way, either deliberately or intentionally, conducted the unlawful behavior that Frank Farance states. In addition, Island Kids was thrilled to be considered as a candidate for the bid as called for by the RFP and is profoundly saddened by the individual's egregious allegations of collusion in the RFP process on the part of RIOC and Island Kids. 

The Board of Directors of Island Kids also wishes at this time to address the false assertions made by the individual concerning the relationship between Island Kids, the PTA, and SASF.

Nikki Leopold was the PTA President between 2008 and 2010.  During that time, she wrote the public purpose application for both Island Kids and PS/IS 217 PTA.  At some point the Island Kids EIN was inadvertently written into the PTA proposal in error.  As PTA members change year to year, the number was pulled from the old proposal and entered into the 2014 PTA public purpose proposal.  RIOC did, in fact, follow up on this error.  Sean Singh called both Nikki and Erin Olavesen to inquire about the issue.  Nikki explained the mix up and the issue was resolved.  At no time has either organization intentionally used the others EIN for any purpose. Both Island Kids and the PTA can verify that all public purpose payments have been made to the entities separately and proof of payments can be produced if necessary. Additionally, the correct EIN numbers for both organizations can be found on their tax returns. 

Regarding the alleged conversation with Charlie DeFino, there is not much to say.  The idea that Nikki Leopold is presently collecting money for the farmer market is preposterous, she has had no direct involvement with the PTA since 2013, when her daughter left the school.  For a brief period, she continued to assist with the Farmers Market in her capacity as a PTA board member during the Board transition in 2011. Perhaps that is the conversation Mr. DeFino recalls. The PTA keeps records of all transactions regarding the Farmer’s Market including receipts for cash payments and I’m sure that they would be happy to confirm that. 

We refute the assertion that Island Kids was an unqualified and inexperienced applicant for the Youth Center RFP.  Island Kids is absolutely qualified for the following reasons.
  • IK has done an excellent job of and continues to develop its board - a true mix of Island residents, parents, nonprofit specialist, including a nonprofit attorney and a nonprofit CPA, marketing and development professionals, and education specialists. We are proud of the diversity and depth of expertise on the board as Island Kids continues to grow. Our Certificate of Incorporation is with the Attorney General’s office in the process of being revised to reflect the full scope of services we intend to provide in the future.  This process started before our response to the RFP was submitted.  Over the last two years, the Island Kids Board of Directors has spent a great deal of time working with the Lawyer’s Alliance to update and improve governance procedures including revisions to our by laws and the creation of an employee manual that outlines policies and procedures as well as our legal responsibilities to our employees.  We are known for our integrity and at least three Island non-profits have approached us for advice on matters related to Board oversight and procedures.  
  • Island Kids has developed strong partnerships with many Island organizations and has an excellent reputation amongst parents for providing high quality programming.  As we crafted our proposal, much thought was put into collaboration with outside organizations with the same high standards of quality and inclusiveness that we pride ourselves on.  Sports and Arts in Schools has that reputation along with 25 years of providing K-12 afterschool and summer programs.  This partnership would have raised the bar on youth services to a level unprecedented on Roosevelt Island and also provides evidence of the organizations strategic capabilities in growing our program.
  • As far as our fundraising capabilities, Island Kids has raised well over $300,000 in the last 10 years, most of which has gone towards scholarships for children in need.  Additionally, in preparation for the possibility of being awarded the Youth Center contract, Island Kids met with a funding partner who was considering a very substantial match to the RIOC funds.  Given the small scope of our program, Island Kids has had great success in fundraising and we were confident that obtaining the Youth Center contract would open up additional funding opportunities. 
  • In regards to Sports and Arts and Schools and the attempt to point out a conflict of interest with NYJTL, Mr. Farance is grasping at straws.  NYJTL is a parent organization of SASF and they operate completely separately.  The fact that they share an office space is no indication of a conflict.  The Island would have been incredibly lucky to have SASF involved on any level, as their programming is outstanding.  We hope to have the opportunity to work with them when and if the RFP is released again. 
Island Kids refuses to let this personal attack deter us from moving forward. The attempt to thwart the process with baseless allegations, distracts all of us from moving forward with the Youth Center RFP which, with the right contractor, would provide high quality, free programming to children who otherwise would not receive such services.

Respectfully,
The Island Kids Board of Directors

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