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Friday, July 28, 2017

Removal Of Pool Table Reveals Long Simmering Tensions Between One Year Old Carter Burden Network Roosevelt Island Senior Center And Roosevelt Island Seniors Association

The removal of a pool table at the Carter Burden Network Roosevelt Island Senior Center has brought into the open long simmering tensions between the one year old Senior Center and the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association (RISA).

According to this excerpt from a July 20 letter sent by the RISA Board and Officers to the Carter Burden Network Board Of Directors:

On Saturday, July 15, The Roosevelt Island Carter-Burden Center, in the person of Lisa Fernandez, an employee, removed and disposed of the large antique pool table from the Roosevelt Island Senior Center located at 546 Main Street....

... This was property that was not Carter-Burden’s to remove and certainly not without RISA’s approval....
I asked Carter Burden Network Roosevelt Island Senior Center Executive Director Lisa Fernandez why the pool table was removed.

Ms Fernandez explained that the Pool Table was removed to add a comfortable seating area for Seniors with newly donated chairs from Cornell Tech's former location at Google.

Ms Fernandez added:

The reason for removing the Pool Center is that only 1 person was using it on a regular basis and more people are able to use the Seating Area. It also became a dumping ground for unwanted items and garbage.

As a dumping spot, I was very fearful of bugs being brought into the center.

To me, it comes down to a more productive, engaging use of the space.

Ms Fernandez notes that the pool table

was offered to RIOC, the Youth Center, Public Safety and listed on the Parents' Network. The pool table was also offered to Dexter, the primary user of the pool table. None wanted it.

The pool table was donated to a Queens based youth organization.

Below is the full July 20 RISA letter sent to the Carter Burden Network.
To The Carter Burden Board of Directors:

On Saturday, July 15, The Roosevelt Island Carter-Burden Center, in the person of Lisa Fernandez, an employee, removed and disposed of the large antique pool table from the Roosevelt Island Senior Center located at 546 Main Street.

There are several problems that were thought by the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association Board (RISA) to have been ironed out, but apparently that is just not so. To whit: Ms. Fernandez

• failed to consult with, and inform the RISA Board, with advance notice, of her wishes and plans regarding the disposal of the pool table;
• failed to adhere to an agreed upon courtesy between the two organizations; and
• failed to inform the RISA Board that she would need to be in the Senior Center that Saturday. This is particularly important since this organization has jurisdiction of the Senior Center on weekday evenings and weekends, as jointly agreed to by Carter-Burden and the RISA Board along with Roosevelt Landings’ Property Manager, Doryne Isley.

We do not understand why it is so difficult for Ms. Fernandez to communicate with our Executive Board in advance of any major change in the Senior Center, especially regarding her weekend plans. Nor do we understand how she could fail, at the very least, to include RISA in the decision to remove RISA property, while also “offering it to other organizations in the community”, while also asking for payment for said property in the form of a “donation” to Carter-Burden. This was property that was not Carter-Burden’s to remove and certainly not without RISA’s approval. Furthermore, if any remuneration for any removed property that belonged to RISA was made to Carter-Burden, it most certainly must be returned to the owner (RISA) of that property. Additionally, Carter-Burden needs to reimburse RISA for the cost of/or actual market rate value of this property.

Let it be understood that there is a small constituency in this community that used the pool table and sometimes came in during the evenings because they were made to feel unwelcome during the day, particularly because Ms. Fernandez used the pool table as a place to prop up Carter-Burden and other announcements, thus causing the table to be unusable, and making those wanting to use it uncomfortable, not knowing they could and should have just removed the items from the table when they wanted to use it for its intended purpose.

With that discomfort, the use of the table dwindled down. Sadly, it seems that Ms. Fernandez then drew from that lack of use, the incorrect conclusion that “no one” or only one person used the table. The table was used consistently and frequently for the years it had been in place and before Carter-Burden staff started piling their announcements there. Furthermore, and more importantly: the pool table was not Carter-Burden’s property to just toss out.

It was purchased jointly by one of the former RISA Board Presidents, Dominic Sciallo and another Roosevelt Island community resident and RISA member, Archie Seale, from their personal funds, as a gift to the Senior Association. Finally, the pool table among several other games, has provided a positive outlet for camaraderie among the veterans in our community who have begun to attend one of our new programs, our “Veterans Socials”, which are jointly sponsored between RISA and The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), providing a positive benefit for RISA as well.

Having no advance discussion with RISA about taking this unilateral action is shameful. Not discussing possible reimbursement, donation or, more importantly, a “replacement” pool table, is the height of rudeness to a segment of this community. Carter-Burden at this point, has shown repeatedly that they have no sense of this community as a whole, nor in working with the long-standing seniors organization in this community. Carter-Burden, which swept in during a very difficult time for our own organization, has generally ignored a segment of the community’s voices, listening only to those with a vendetta towards RISA rather than the elected directors of the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association.

It was thought by the RISA Board, and with the understanding of the current Carter-Burden Executive staff, that we and they had finally come to an equitable agreement on our mutual relationship and use of the Senior Center which included items within that were there upon Carter-Burden’s arrival and did not automatically become your organization’s property upon arrival. Sadly, this past weekend’s cavalier dismissal of our two organizations’ joint understanding of the Roosevelt Island Senior Center’s usage seems to mean nothing to Carter-Burden staff. We fervently wish this were not so, but we are having problems drawing any other conclusion.

It is now up to Carter-Burden to do the right thing by RISA and the Roosevelt Island community.


The RISA Board of Directors
Barbara Parker, President
Donna Chenkin, Vice President
Sherie Helstien, Secretary
I asked Carter Burden Network Director Bill Dionne for comment about the RISA letter. Mr. Dionne replied on July 26:
I have reached out to RISA in the hopes of a discussion and I am waiting for their response. 
On July 25, the Carter Burden Network Roosevelt Island Senior Center celebrated their One Year Anniversary.

Members of the Roosevelt Island Senior Center thanked the Carter Burden Network Staff for their work during the I Year Anniversary Party.

More pictures and video from the celebration coming soon.

UPDATE 7/31 - Carter Burden Executive Director Bill Dionne adds:
Since assuming sponsorship of the Roosevelt Island Senior Center in July 2016, the Carter Burden Network (CBN) has been committed to working collaboratively with the Island’s community including individuals who come to the center and other organizations.

The success of our efforts is exemplified by the fact that our July 25th Anniversary Party was attended by approximately 150 people. The CBN embraces hospitality and inclusivity through initiatives such as Senior law Day where participants were able to talk with professionals and attend workshops on topics of particular interest to them, increasing the number of volunteers and classes like exercise and art, and working with the NYC Department for the Aging and our legislative delegation to enhance the senior center space. The staff in all our sites carry out their work within the environment of welcoming and acceptance that we have created.

We have reached out to RISA in the hope of scheduling a meeting to discuss our mutual issues.