Tuesday, July 22, 2008

RIOC Seeking Help Writing Roosevelt Island's 40 Year History - Who Controls The Past Controls The Future. Who Controls The Present Controls The Past

Image of George Orwell from allposters.com

RIOC has issued this Request For Proposals, dated July 7, 2008, for qualified consultants to:
... document the development history of Roosevelt Island (1969 to Present).

While the early years of Roosevelt Island, before it was so named, have been well documented by on and off Island landmark and historic conservancy groups, the development years, starting with the Lease and General Development Plan (Dec.1969) have been less so. Though the planning and opening of the original Roosevelt Island residential community (the WIRE buildings) was publicly heralded, there has been very little documentation of the continued development, which more than doubled the population and modified the very detailed physical and social planning efforts establishing this government sponsored “small town in town” urban experiment.

December 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the 99 year lease between New York City and New York State, which gave rise to this experimental urban, East River island community. It provides the opportunity to reflect on what had been promised, what has actually been delivered and where the two do and do not converge. Some expectations have been exceeded and some frustrated; some deemed obsolete and some still out of reach.

RI is finally generating income, assuring its financial security, self sufficiency and ability to finance the completion of the “Plan” as amended. Its contemplated residential components have been built or are underway. As a result RIOC finds itself in the pivotal position of setting and funding service, operational, social and infrastructure priorities which will influence the second half of the lease period
and the ultimate success of this “small town in town” urban experiment. How RIOC manages the legacy opportunity of completing the plan and the promise will be studied for years to come.

In order to project forward, however, there is a need to have a better shared understanding of the past and the present. After 40 years key City Hall officials do not know of the lease and general development plan and are surprised by the notion that Roosevelt Island is entitled to City municipal services, the same standoffs regarding jurisdictional responsibilities have festered for the life of this
community; most lifelong New York City residents have never been here and many think of Roosevelt Island only when the Tram is troubled.

Contacted by architecture and urban studies students and representatives of groups such as the American Planning Association, which last met on the Island in the 70’s, RIOC has no current publications, documents or events trumpeting its successes or proposing future directions suitable for the general public much less for professional groups, students, and elected officials. The most recent compendium of demographics, retrospectives and future planning ideas appears to have been produced in 1994, before either the Octagon or Southtown developments were even proposed, much less built.
The full amended document requesting proposals is here.The submission deadline for bidders on this RFP is July 28 at 2:PM.

This may at first seem to be an unimportant academic study of Roosevelt Island's history. However, it could be very important to the ultimate outcome of controversial Island issues such as the future of affordable housing, development of Southpoint Park and the Coler-Goldwater Hospital campus as well as issues of local governance because whoever determines the historical record, also creates the "facts" upon which future decisions are based. As stated in the RFP about the study:
It provides the opportunity to reflect on what had been promised, what has actually been delivered and where the two do and do not converge. Some expectations have been exceeded and some frustrated; some deemed obsolete and some still out of reach.

Below is the Roosevelt Island General Development Plan as amended (2003)

Also, the Roosevelt Island Master Lease Between the City and State of New York is here.

The quote in the title
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past
is from George Orwell's 1984.


RI 360 said...

I vote for Judy Berdy. To hire anyone else would make no sense.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to RI 360 for figuring this out:

The only purpose of this silly proposal is to legitimize public monies going to a particular volunteer on RI. Obviously, there is nothing stopping RIOC officials from doing their job and picking up the phone and telling the people at City Hall what RI needs. To justify a writing of the Island's history as the solution to City Hall's perceived ignorance of Island issues is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I am sure this RFP is intended to hire Judy Berdy. You have to give it to her, she's been trying to get a job at RIOC for some time. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

RIOC is going to pay Berdy to write that the Kahn Memorial MUST be built as part of RIOC's historical mission.

They kill two birds with one stone:
1. Buy off another critic.
2. Attempt to legitimize the construction of the Kahn Memorial/ the destruction of Southpoint Park.

For a real history lesson, read the speech "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall" by Senator George Washington Plunkitt (1842-1924). This is where the concept of "Honest Graft" is described.

Anonymous said...

What a shame (or sham?!) if after all the efforts of RIRA/MTG/Matt Katz for elected representation of the RIOC Board and the first act of the newly elected Board members is to award a patronage contract to a long time Island resident.