Friday, October 17, 2008

Why Is RIOC Hiding Kahn/FDR Site Control Draft Agreement From Roosevelt Island Public Review Prior to Signing?

Image of Deaf, Blind and Mute Monkeys from John Fenzel

In response to this post requesting RIOC President Steve Shane make public the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute's (FERI) proposed conditional site control draft agreement for the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial boondoggle, Mr. Shane responds:
And how, pray tell, would you have me or anyone else deal with the collective comments of the Island's 14,000 residents? Is there some body of super review for every document that RIOC negotiates?
If any member of the Board wants to directly participate, he or she could call me and we would be delighted to discuss their concerns.
I do not need you to demand that RIOC confirm the New York City Council's appropriation message. When the Conditional Site Designation Agreement requires the demonstration of funding, either it will be there or it won't.
I reply:
Neither I nor anyone else on Roosevelt Island that I know of is asking to negotiate this or any other agreement on behalf on RIOC. I am only asking to review the current Southpoint site control draft submitted by FERI to evaluate whether they have complied with the promises they made to the Roosevelt Island community during the 9/11 Board meeting.

At the 9/11 RIOC Board of Directors Meeting, FERI officials made certain promises and representations to the Roosevelt Island community regarding their acknowledgment of the need for reasonable funding timetables and deadlines that they would meet for the Memorial Park, including building the park area of the Memorial prior to building the "Room" at the southern tip. In fact, some of the Board Members yes vote was based on those promises by FERI. It is not unreasonable for the Roosevelt Island media, which includes the Roosevelt Islander blog, to inquire whether or not FERI has kept this promise by reviewing their draft proposal for site control prior to the execution of any definitive agreement tying up this magnificent location for the length of the Agreement.

I again request that you make the draft publicly available.
Mr. Shane answers:
No. Neither you nor any other member of the community is going to be in such a position.
A reader commenting on this post, Amy W, asks this relevant question:
Don't the people have a RIGHT to know?
Apparently, the answer according to RIOC President Shane is a loud and resounding NO?

Unfortunately, Mr. Shane fails to understand, or does not deem it relevant, the reason it is so important to reveal the contents of FERI's proposed site control draft agreement prior to execution. As stated above, FERI made certain promises and representations which were relied upon by the Roosevelt Island community and RIOC Board of Directors during the 9/11 meeting in which the conditional site control was approved. Making the requested draft agreement public will demonstrate whether or not FERI has kept those commitments. If they have not, how can any of their representations ever be believed or reasonably relied upon? Moreover, if FERI has again reneged on their commitment, the conditional site control approved by the RIOC Board should be re-evaluated and revoked!

As we all know FERI has a long and dismal history of failing to comply with their prior commitments and promises to the Roosevelt Island community and there is absolutely no reason to believe that is still not now the case. Before any agreement with FERI is finalized, both the RIOC Board and the community should know whether FERI's representations at the 9/11 meeting were just another example of their empty promises. Unfortunately, Mr. Shane's refusal to make the draft public creates the impression, whether true or not, that acceding to the wishes of FERI is of greater priority than protecting the interests of Roosevelt Island.

Also, FERI recently announced that they hired the politically connected Howard Rubenstein public relations agency. Perhaps the first bit of advice the PR agent will provide to FERI will be to follow through on promises made to the Roosevelt Island Board of Directors and community, but don't hold your breadth.

Troubling as well is Mr. Shane's refusal to reconfirm with the NYC Council that the $4 million in public taxpayer funding is still available for the Kahn/FDR memorial boondoggle in view of the severe New York State and City budget crisis. As reported in Newsday:
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn yesterday warned city residents to brace for deep budget cuts, some of which she said will "sting badly," as the city and nation continue to reel in an anemic, unpredictable economy.

"It will not be easy," Quinn said. "It will not be pain-free. "
In this article describing potential cuts to East River Ferry service, the NY Times reports:
With city grants to nonprofits drying up and schools ordered to slash $185 million from the current budget, it is perhaps understandable that subsidizing a luxurious amenity for a few hundred owners of fancy condominiums might not seem a priority.
It is equally, if not much more, understandable that New York City will not subsidize Council Member Jessica Lappin's $4 million funding allocation for the Kahn/FDR memorial boondoggle from the City's capital budget when there are so many more vital needs that require public taxpayer funds.

In view of the NY State and City budget crisis, this statement by Mr. Shane, in my opinion, does a great disservice to the interests of Roosevelt Island:
When the Conditional Site Designation Agreement requires the demonstration of funding, either it will be there or it won't.
It is difficult to understand why RIOC will not reconfirm the availability of these funds unless they just don't care about the changing NYC budget realities and are determined to shove FERI's conditional site control agreement through, despite the potential likelihood of public funds no longer being available. The harm to Roosevelt Island is that this agreement ties up Southpoint Park for a longer period of time thus preventing development of a real waterfront park by a competent organization.

Is RIOC acting like the blind, deaf and mute monkeys pictured above in not making FERI's draft site control agreement public and re-confirming with the NYC Council that the $4 million allocated for this boondoggle is still available? It sure looks like that to me.

UPDATE - 10/20: Mr Shane responds that I have misread the RIOC 10/11 column in the Main Street WIRE regarding who sent or submitted the draft conditional site agreement. He may be right about that and I am checking into it. From Mr. Shane:
While appreciating your personal desire to inflame, I suggest you read carefully the statement in my last WIRE column, to wit "The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI) group has been sent a draft of RIOC's Conditional Designation and Funding Agreements, ..." The operative word which you have erroneously characterized is "RIOC's", indicating that these documents are our drafts, prepared by our General Counsel, consistent with prior and similar matters.
You have failed to share with your rapt audience my perfect willingness to post the documents to your web site when they are final. You and your adoring public may judge the work product when completed and we shall be perfectly willing to defend our effort on behalf of the Corporation.
Even if Mr. Shane is correct about who sent the agreement, there is still no good reason why the draft site control agreement should not be made public to residents and Board Directors prior to any execution nor any reason why RIOC should not reconfirm that the $4 million in public taxpayer funds, that was used as a justification for giving FERI site control, will still available given the severe budget crisis facing the City and State of New York.


Anonymous said...

Maybe you would have a little more success if you were less biased. Do you really think that calling the memorial a "boondoggle" all the time will get you anywhere? Think about it. I don't think your attitude is in anyway better than Shane's.

Anonymous said...

KAHN/vanden Heuvel MAUSOLEUM is a MAJOR BOONDOGLE, like it or not. It will be for many years to come: a major problem for RI and NYC/NYS, and there will be a LOT of people marvelling HOW could ANY entity sign such ILLEGAL agreements with an idiot/fake non-profit, led by an 88-years old demented and seriously SENILE/ bumbling man, well known OSS/CIA agent of record under Wild Bill Donovan, with NO record of ANY land development activity of the kind, and NO RECORD of ANYTHING successful, EVER! ALL BS, ALL the TIME !!!

The senile vanden Heuvel CIA man will get buried there (preserved just like Lenin and Franco), a first in the New World Order.

Shane will go into RI history as the worst RI totalitarian bully DICK-tator, EVER. The RI financial disasters and legal stink we'll be dealing with as a result of his deals-on-wheels will hang around much after he is finally gone. The RIOC Board members are Shane's shameless TOOLS. RI will be a prime example of power abuse against citizens for longer than us, keeping many courts, and media, busy in the years to come.