Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Former Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Director Jonathan Kalkin Sums Up Experience As RIOC Board Member - Cites Accomplishments and Future Challenges

Image of Former RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin

Former Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board Director Jonathan Kalkin reviews his tenure on the Board and reports:
Democracy is fragile. As the son of an immigrant who was born in the Dominican Republic and lived under a dictator part of her life, I am reminded of this all the time. The things we take for granted, like voting for our leaders and being able to openly disagree with them and sometimes influence their decisions, is a gift that we miss only when we start to lose it.

Over the past couple of years, I have tried to take the lead on many of the issues that have plagued Roosevelt Island for most of the time we have been here. I took them on because they were difficult. My strong fellow board members followed me into uncharted territory and with little promise of success. Together, we moved forward to reform the way our government and Island worked, with the hope of making this a better place to live.

Affordable housing and privatization is probably the most complex issue that we face on the Island. Due to a constant shift in leadership and administrations, and the loaded nature of the issue, it starts and stops and is never completed. During my tenure as the chair of the Real Estate Advisory Committee, I tried to get the dialogue going between the agencies involved, any questions resolved, and, most importantly, moving forward to completion. I started by setting up a meeting at City Hall with every agency involved, to share documents and resolve any issues going forward. Since the board had never passed a resolution in favor of DHCR’s affordable housing plans, I put that on the agenda and we passed it as a commitment to moving forward in favor of long-term affordability for all Mitchell-Lama buildings. The end result is that the board has passed a lease extension that ensures long-term affordability for Rivercross and, most recently, moved forward in committee with the DHCR affordability plan for Island House. It pleases me that these milestones have been achieved, and I have confidence that our board will make sure that the last portion of this work is completed. I’m proud of our commitment to affordability, and that our resolution and work led to real results.

Main Street retail has been a problem for years, and it was one of the first things I tried to work on as a resident and then as a board member. The Retail Master Lease is proof that an idea can come from a resident and be approved by the Residents Association, move to the board, and become a solution that is mutually beneficial for the government and private business. It secures the present revenue stream for RIOC and shares profits above that, benefits the community with a competitive and vibrant retail environment, and takes government (and the long and onerous RFP process that goes with it) out of the business of retail management for the Island.

There will also be significant investment in the spaces to make them look great for tenants and for the community. However, to be especially successful, I recommend that you go to your favorite off-Island stores and restaurants, and tell them that Roosevelt Island is finally ready to rent stores. The more of you who reach out to entrepreneurs and businesses that you love and bring them to the Island, the better the choices we will have in the future. This plan will not only bring jobs and money into our economy, but Hudson-Related has significant retail experience, and the success of Main Street Retail helps promote the completion of the final buildings of Southtown. That will bring significant revenue for RIOC, which can help secure our promise of long-term affordability for the buildings in Northtown and help pay for our infrastructure and operational needs going forward.

Transportation on this Island has always had a dependability problem, and now it appears to be turning a corner. During my term as chair of the Operations Committee, we installed the Nextbus bus-tracking system, and a consistent schedule. Islanders have developed mobile apps to track the Red Bus Nextbus system, and many of these mobile apps will soon be posted with download instructions and websites at each bus stop. I had RIOC staff and myself meet at Google Headquarters to work on maps and screens at each bus stop so you can see when the next Red Bus is arriving even if you don’t own a mobile device.

 I’ve secured funding for electric-car charging stations for Motorgate, so we can get around greener on the Island. Verdant Power is working with the Island to power this with Tidal Energy. This, coupled with our new transportation manager, should make our transportation system more reliable around the Island. It will take time to get it right, but the foundation is in place to make it work.

Parking enforcement and availability will begin to improve with our smart-parking sensor system, which will hopefully be deployed throughout the Island. This, coupled with lower short-term parking prices at Motorgate, will make sure that people use short-term parking for its intended purpose – to drop off and pick up without double-parking. Public Safety officers are being trained with iPhones so that they can handle violations indicated by the sensors while focusing on keeping the Island safe. Improved parking systems will also make sure our new and improved retail corridor has the ample parking spaces that merchants need to thrive. Less double-parking and additional enforcement of parking rules will make sure that the Red Bus can keep on schedule. Also, a mobile app and street signage will indicate if there is parking available ahead, and allow payment so you don’t have to circle the Island.

Many of these suggestions and issues have been brought up on RIOC’s new RI311 issue-tracking system that is being tested. It is powered by the citizen-311 system SeeClickFix.com. It will soon be on the RIOC website, and it will help the community indicate the issues on the Island and vote up, comment, and take photos of these issues. When issues are resolved, everyone who indicated an interest will get an email notification that it has been closed.

I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life on Roosevelt Island by working on a team that will negotiate a community-benefit agreement with the new university planned for the southern end of Roosevelt Island. I believe this is a unique moment to work on a number of infrastructure improvements, like green affordable energy for everyone on Roosevelt Island, and an extension of the free Island-wide wi-fi Internet plan like the one that I worked on with Verizon and is being completed for Southpoint Park. Ferry service may prove feasible with university help, and a dock study is currently being completed. Ideas like a science school, scholarships for local students, and an advanced library will be negotiated to make sure that this university and Roosevelt Island mutually benefit from our relationship.

Community input and an independent elected board led to these improvements and ensure that they will continue. Ideas like Tram straps and a more stable ride, better stores, and other suggestions that led to a better Island came from the grassroots level. It is that commitment to the community that is threatened each time an unelected board member takes a seat. It unravels the fabric of our community, and despite the best intentions, it is a blow to our democracy and independence. Roosevelt Island is the embodiment of the American Dream, and no part of that dream should be compromised. Don’t let it happen.
The reason for Mr. Kalkin no longer being on the RIOC Board is discussed fully at previous post.


Guest said...

"I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life on Roosevelt Island by working on a team that will negotiate a community-benefit agreement with the new university planned for the southern end of Roosevelt Island."

He is very stingy with details here. Who is hiring him to do so? In whose name is he going to negotiate? Is this a RIRA thing?

sparky said...

Mr. Kalkin is being somewhat optimistic and premature if he's saying a new university is planned for Roosevelt Island. The city just issued an RFP today and the island is one of three sites being considered, along with Governors Island and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Proposals aren't due until October 28.

Guest said...

So, what is he talking about then? I mean, I always hated him for his over the top rhetoric but I'd like to know what he's talking about.

Good Kitty said...

I resent Mr. Kalkin casting aspersions on or even obliquely implying that we are living under a dictatorship.  Starting from the Revolutionary War on up, thousands of Americans have given their lives to achieve and maintain freedom - which we have in the form of voting for elected officials, such as Mayor, Governor, Senators etc.  Today there are still thousands of brave Americans fighting in the Mid East to vanquish the terrorists that would remove our freedom in favor of dictatorship.   

Mr. Kalkin was never an elected official because the RIOC Board is not elected, it is appointed.  It is not and never will be the equivalent of either the City Council, the State Senate and our other elected bodies.  No one can compel RIOC Board appointments - whether or not candidates are Island residents, or are elected or not.  All a RIOC Board member election does is recommend a resident for appointment.  It does not guarantee appointment.  It is up to the Governor to accept or reject elected candidates for appointment, and if none of the elected candidates are suitable, the Governor selects any person -- Islander or not -- for Board appointment.

The RIOC Board, a group of appointees that oversee the work of RIOC, will disappear in 2068 when the Island reverts back to full control by the City of New York.  As a temporary mechanism, the RIOC Board is not, and indeed cannot be a representative body in the sense that the State Senate is a representative body.  

RI is of course part of the the City of New York, and as such we already have the same representation as every other New Yorker in the form of our elected Executive, Legislative, Judicial Branch officials at the Federal, State and Municipal levels.  To say that this wonderful system is not freedom insults the memory of those who fought to achieve and maintain it, as well as the thousands serving today so that Mr. Kalkin and every one of us can continue to live in a fully representative democracy. 

SML said...

What!  A rational person living on Roosevelt Island?  Someone who understands that Roosevelt Island is in New York City!  Hallelulah!  I thought I was the only one.

User111yankees96@aol.com said...

he is so fuLL of it . he talks about affordable housing, wel,l then why did he let  eastwood go .many people have lost thier apartments in eastwood . good hard working people .yes there were alot of good hard working people living in eastwood . until ron vass and the eastwood building committee sold them out , so RON   can get a good deal for himself and others who were in the saME BOAT  AS HIM . BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WORKING CLASS PEOPLE WHO WERE FORCED INTO SEC8 .AND THEN HAD TO MOVE   OUT BECAUSE OF RON VASS . SO MR, KALKIN YOU TALK B,S,  YOU MUST BE FRIENDS WITH RON VASS.

Guest said...

Bravo! I agree totally.

Anonymous said...

Bravo to Mr.Kalkin, a true dedicated public servant. He wasn't a board member when Eastwood converted which is a shame because his dedication to affordable housing would have helped. He did so much for us and I'm glad he will keep on trying to help.

JPH said...

Man the haters are out in force. You can quibble at tedious length with his characterization of RI governance, but it would be nice if someone could point out that Kalkin was diligent, conscientious, and worked hard to improve life on RI. That's not so tough to realize is it? You may not like his style or whatever, but he's been a forceful advocate for positive change. 

I know it's tough when everyone is so committed to maintaining the negative energy pervading this place, but I think the Board is going to sorely miss someone with Kalkin's energy and ideas.

RooseveltIslander said...

I absolutely agree with JPH

Also, Mr. Kalkin was not on the Board when the Eastwood privatization was approved so it is unfair and just untrue to blame him for that happening in the way it did.

The Community Benefit Agreement to be negotiated when and if any University is awarded the NYC Applied Sciences RFP and takes over the Goldwater Hospital site was an idea initiated by RIRA's Southern Development Committee but if implemented will be an independent organization comprised of many different Roosevelt Island organizations and stakeholders including RIRA and any others that wish to join.

The purpose of it is to present a united front to represent the Roosevelt Island community to make sure as much as possible that the interest of Roosevelt Island stakeholders are represented in any future development of the Goldwater site.

Similar Community Benefit Agreements have been implemented for similar neighborhood developments.

joann said...

ron vass should be put in jail. for what he did to eastwood

Guest said...

There is no hate going on here about Mr. Kalkin. I personally don't like him because he always talks like a know-it-all politician. All his tentative ideas and plans are presented in a way as if they are done deals (and already implemented at times). Take his latest statement, for example. In what way is the new university site which may be on Roosevelt Island a new chapter in his political career? Without him giving any details on what exactly he's talking about his words just don't make much sense.

I also agree with Good Kitty's opinion because the way he talks about democracy etc. etc. is just nuts.

Guest said...

Thanks for this clarification. Now, if Mr. Kalkin only had said that as well he would've made a lot more sense. But he didn't, of course.

Guest said...

Independent organization? I can see how this will go down and f everything up Stanford or whoever wants to come here wants to do here. If the Child School and its director are already stirring up trouble who knows what bigger institutions are going to do to us (according to our folks at the RIRA).

Mark5950 said...

Mr. Kalkin did an amazing anount of great things that will impact Roosevelt Island for years to come. It is pretty darn obvious that the same commenter on here who Is "old guy" which is his handle but he signs in as guest (so people don't has written several comments one after another but the disqus system lists all his comments coming from the same sign in") this person writes a comment then two minutes later writes back as a guest again trying to convince people he is two people and then writes again minutes later. Now why would someone do that. It is pathetic but it is mainly because mr kalkin proved many people wrong by not only getting the master lease in place which will transform retail on the island but getting a great deal for the state which as he highlights will actually help pay for affordable housing in northtown. Its difficult for many to deal with the fact that they were dead wrong about a rfp being viable.

Now lets move onto our friend good kitty. He write several comments for the same post as well, but that is not his greatest problem. Stupid is his Issue. His great approach is to give the childs school the master lease or better yet pressure the master leaseholder to give affordable housing as a part of the master lease deal. Forget that this will destroy any chance of rioc getting the revenue it needs not to go broke and will ruin any chance for rioc to have enough money to preserve affordable housing on the island. I'm guessing your near inability to hold a job good kitty is more about your inability to do basic math and think of ideas where some phantom government subsidy (taxpayer) pays for everything and anybody trying to have a business and (profit oh my) on this island is somehow evil and that the nonprofit that runs northtown(rioc)should be replaced with another (childs school) because the first nonprofit entity work so well). Because schools are greaaat at running businesses. Mr. Kalkin you are the best and I can't wait to walk down main street in a year and see it clean with new shops. I bet both these commenters will be eating in them too like the hypocrites they are.

Guest said...

This is funny. I posted most of the "Guest" comments here and I have no idea who this "old guy" is you are talking about. Do you really have a hard time understanding that not everybody appreciates the way Mr. Kalkin comes across? Sure, he did a lot of good things but that was not what I complained about.

No Guest said...

I know now how where you got "old guy" from. It's quite a potpourri of comments that you get when you look through "old guy"'s comments. From RI to Microsoft to Netflix... I guess that's what happens if you pick something generic like "Guest" with an e-mail address like "guest@mailinator.com".