Wednesday, January 21, 2009

RIRA President On Gang Summit, Holding Cells, RIOC Budget, Red Bus, Civilian Complaint Review Board & Other Items of Interest To Roosevelt Island

Image of RIRA Common Council Meeting with PSD Guerra attending

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Frank Farance sends the following message to the Roosevelt Island community. This message was also published as the RIRA column in the 1/17/09 Main Street WIRE (PDF File).
Date: 2009-01-14

Happy New Year! I don't make too many New Years Resolutions. Nine years later, I'm still working on my resolution of 2000 (to better remember names and faces) and I think I have about five more years to go.

1. January 7, RIRA Common Council. We gave the floor to Public Safety Director Keith Guerra to discuss his January 12 Gang Summit. Director Guerra said there is no gang problem on Roosevelt Island, but there might be a gang "issue", such as members of off-Island gangs residing on Roosevelt Island. After the presentation, we took some general questions on Public Safety. PSD and 114 precinct officers reported: (1) crime was down in the114 Precinct, (2) crime was down on Roosevelt Island, (3) PSD incidents were down. Overall, it was a worthwhile discussion - the questions, comments, and answers were intelligent and well-informed. Director Guerra said he might come back 3-4 times over the year. He is always welcome at RIRA. Note: At the Gang Summit meeting, some residents complained that the major Island youth organizations (PS 217, Childs School, Roosevelt Island Youth Program, Beacon Program) were not represented, but these organizations were not contacted nor were they asked to participate in the event - maybe this could be coordinated better next time.

2. January 14, RIRA Town Hall meeting. I am writing about this before the meeting, so I don't have anything to report. I'll have follow-up comments on my blog at ""
. Feel free to comment.

3. RIOC Budget. The information packet I received has some information, but largely the information is presented poorly for planning purposes. In short, the budget reports are a bunch of numbers that make everything look balanced, they don't give meaningful information on long-term planning, and long-term planning is the most critical aspect of the RIOC budget. For example, we've heard that of the one-time payments RIOC received for Southtown and Octagon, RIOC has spent 43 year's worth (of 68 years worth of payments). With RIOC's poor presentation of its budget, it's impossible to know the validity of the 43-of-68-year statement. Likewise, the budget information itself is poor in that is lacks the kind of detail a RIOC Director would need to know to make an informed decision about the budget.

4. I've looked more into the Red Bus situation. This is truly dysfunctional. Remember the Island resident who as a RIOC employee who lost his hours? (Hours have been restored, I've heard.) I forgot to mention that this bus driver got on the bad side of RIOC management because: he made suggestions on how to improve the reliability of the bus service. He was glum and a long-time employee consoled him: we don't make suggestions around hear, the boss doesn't like it. Another time, he was behind a couple bunched-up buses and made a suggestion on the radio to the two drivers in front of him. He was reprimanded: "You're not a supervisor, you don't talk on the radio". So for you Octagon and Manhattan Park residents, you can see why the Red Bus doesn't work and why it can't be fixed. For the past two years, RIOC management (Shane, Martinez) continually ignore practical suggestions on improving this: their assumption is whatever the residents propose is wrong. Look how long it took to get the bus route fixed at the turnaround at the tram - it took several months and an Intervention in Steve Shane's office. Still, it didn't get fixed properly.

5. "New York State Puts Prison Holding Cells in Synagogue and Children's Dance School; Island Jews Don't Want to Walk Prison Halls; 50 Little Ballerinas Protest and Occupy RIOC Offices". Well that could be the headlines and it would certainly be visually compelling in the local newspapers and on TV. This one really gets a knucklehead award for bad planning. While it is reasonable for Public Safety to upgrade and refurbish their offices and it might be reasonable to build two holding cells (male and female), taking away space from the Main Street Theatre and Dance Alliance and from the Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation is a bad idea. A really really bad idea is: building the holding cells on the premises so that little children can see/hear prisoners (frightening for children and parents). Of course, RIOC did not discuss this with the public - it is looking to take the space without understanding why and how the organizations need their space. Maybe RIOC and PSD staff should take a musical theatre workshop class and get a better understand of how theatres/schools use space.

Here's the simple solution: (1) Don't take one inch of the MSTDA and RIJC space, (2) build the holding cells in the 550 space on the ground floor, (3) refurbish the 548 entrance, stairs, and elevator so it is attractive and useful for the MSTDA and RIJC organizations. Not One Inch. Politicians are supportive and residents are supportive, so could RIOC and PSD avoid the mess of a noisy protest and choose a different space and configuration of their holding cells? We await your response.
In regard to item #1 - the gang summit- there is some discrepancy whether or not Roosevelt Island youth organizations were informed about the gang summit. Public Safety Director Keith Guerra and others say that the Youth Organizations were informed. Mr. Farance provides an update to his report at the RIRA blog:
Keith was upset that I reported that youth organizations were not invited to participate by PSD. Keith told me today that a Public Safety Youth Officer had spoken to the organizations directly. I stand by my reporting. I followed up with one organization (RIYP, Charlie DeFino) who said:

We (RIYP) were not contacted by Public Safety. I know the Youth Officer and the last time I saw her was in December. No discussion of a gang summit.

I asked Charlie about Keith’s claim that PS officers came to the Youth Program this Monday evening:

PS: officers wanted to invite Charlie to the Gang summit
RIYP: there are only 3 of us and we don’t have staffing to send some one

Charlie says he was there on Monday night, no officers came. He spoke with Charles Royce who is at the front door of RIYP, Charles said no PS officer ever arrived.

Of course, information about the gang summit was posted all over Roosevelt Island, in the community blogs and the WIRE so I don't think there is really much of an excuse for the Youth organizations claiming that they did not know of the Gang Summit.

Mr. Farance also updates item # 5 regarding the proposed Public Safety Holding Cells at the RIRA blog.

Also, below is the RIRA President's message from 12/17/08. It is a little dated but better late than not at all. Among the items Mr. Farance reports on is that the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department is subject to the jurisdiction of the NY City Civilian Review Board.
Date: 2008-12-17

Happy Holidays! I hope everyone has wonderful time with family and friends.

1. January 7, RIRA Common Council meeting at 8PM in lower room in the church. Public Safety Director, Keith Guerra will make a presentation on a Public Safety, and suggest that the residents attend a Gang Summit on January 12, which will inform parents and residents on how to recognize gang-related activities.

2. January 14, RIRA Town Hall meeting at 8PM in the main floor of the church. We will discuss the RIOC Board agenda for the RIOC Board meeting on January 15. I spoke with RIOC President Steve Shane about collaboration on the town hall meetings. Steve is concerned about formalizing such an approach, but Steve will attend the January 14 meeting and participate in the discussion (thanks Steve!).

3. I spoke with Director Guerra about how a Citizens Complaint Review Board might work. In short, we can use the CCRB for New York City and presently, we already have the right to submit complaints to the CCRB for concerns about Public Safety. As Director Guerra describes it, when a CCRB complaint comes in, there would be two parallel investigations: one in the CCRB and one in Public Safety. The following are the possible results of a CCRB complaint (replace NYPD with PSD):

Substantiated, exonerated, or unfounded dispositions are considered "findings on the merits" because they reflect the CCRB's decision on the validity of the complaint. The rate at which the board makes findings on the merits is the clearest quantitative measure of the effectiveness of investigations carried out by the CCRB staff.

- Substantiated: There is sufficient credible evidence to believe that the subject officer committed the act charged in the allegation and committed misconduct. The board can recommend to the police commissioner appropriate disciplinary action.

- Exonerated: The subject officer was found to have committed the act alleged, but the subject officer's actions were determined to be lawful and proper.

- Unfounded: There is sufficient credible evidence to believe that the subject officer did not commit the alleged act of misconduct.

Unsubstantiated outcomes, cases where the police officer was never identified, and miscellaneous closures do not constitute findings on the merits, since the allegations remain unresolved.

- Unsubstantiated: The weight of the available evidence is insufficient to substantiate, exonerate or unfound the allegation.

- Officer(s) unidentified: The agency was unable to identify the subject(s) of the alleged misconduct.

- Miscellaneous: The subject of the allegation is no longer a member of the New York City Police Department

See the following links for more information.

My sense is that we might be able to get something workable with good progress and little cost -- and we're not reinventing a process!

4. An Island resident, who is also a red bus driver for RIOC, just became a RIRA Common Council member. Unfortunately, he lost his work hours -- apparently lost because he joined the RIRA Common Council. I've inquired and the problem was resolved successfully. Thanks to Steve Shane for adding sanity to the situation.

5. The red bus service is a long discussion and I will follow up with comments, photos, and videos on my blog at ""
Feel free to comment.

6. Over the next two months, I will be spending much time reviewing the proposed RIOC budget, and explaining how taxes and services work on Roosevelt Island.
See you next year!


Anonymous said...

Hey Frank,

even if you live in a Texas town with a population of 290, the Sheriff isn't referred to as "George." He's Sheriff or Sheriff Blank. What makes Frank think he should be name dropping Chief Guerra/Director Guerra/Mr. Guerra??

It's a complete lack of respect. It's not hard. Whether you think Public Safety is terrible or not, respect works both ways.