Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Setback For Roosevelt Island Cornell Technion NYC Applied Sciences & Engineering School - Proposed SEQRA Environmental Review Resolution Sent Back By RIOC Directors To Be Redone, Ground Lease Rent Payment At Issue

Image of Proposed Roosevelt Island Cornell Campus From You Tube

As reported in this previous post on proposed Roosevelt Island Cornell Technion NYC Applied Sciences & Engineering School, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) March 1 Board of Directors meeting Agenda Item includes this:
... Authorization to Take Planning and Related Actions in Connection with the Proposed Applied Sciences Project on Roosevelt Island(Board Action Required � Materials to Follow)...
Before the RIOC Board Of Directors Operations Committee met yesterday, they added an Agenda item for their meeting to discuss the proposed Roosevelt Island Applied Sciences Project resolution scheduled for the full RIOC Board Meeting on Wednesday March 1.

RIOC President Leslie Torres began the meeting saying she hoped it was clear that in no way does the proposed resolution drafted by RIOC Staff purport to convey any Roosevelt Island land controlled by RIOC to Cornell. According to Ms. Torres, the sole purpose of the proposed resolution was to authorize Cornell to begin the NYC and NY State Environmental review process (known as SEQRA).

Ms. Torres briefly recounted RIOC's role in the proposed project explaining that Cornell's plan for its campus requires additional Roosevelt Island land that is not controlled by New York City but which RIOC controls. RIOC Board approval is necessary in order for Cornell to secure the additional RIOC controlled land. Cornell also requires access to Roosevelt Island infrastructure which requires RIOC approval as well.

However, as Ms. Torres reviewed the terms of the proposed resolution, it became clear that there was more than the just the SEQRA process approval that the RIOC staff prepared resolution sought from the RIOC Board of Directors. Also included in the resolution was language authorizing RIOC staff to enter into non binding Letters of Intent or Memorandums of Understanding concerning proposed terms of transfers of Roosevelt Island land.

The RIOC Directors, while emphasizing they had no objection to approving a resolution authorizing Cornell to commence the SEQRA environmental review, strongly objected to having any language in this resolution inferring that RIOC staff is authorized to enter into any agreements with Cornell regarding conveyances of land. As RIOC Director Margie Smith said during the meeting, when the SEQRA review is completed she wants it clear that RIOC;
... will be negotiating a reasonable ground rent...
with Cornell. That concept was not in the proposed RIOC staff drafted resolution.

RIOC Director David Kraut added:
... The Resolution as worded does not protect the future interests of the corporation...
The result of the meeting was that the RIOC directors told RIOC staff that they would not approve the resolution submitted by staff and to redo it.

Here's the video of the discussion.

You Tube Video of RIOC Ops Committee Meeting on Cornell Resolution

This was a great job by the RIOC Directors acting in their independent fiduciary duty to protect the interests of Roosevelt Island Operating Corp and the residents of Roosevelt Island.

After attending the Operations Committee meeting and watching the video of it, it is hard to conclude anything but that the resolution to approve Cornell beginning the SEQRA Environmental Review process was either drafted extremely poorly or deliberately to obscure other intentions.

From Cornell's perspective this cannot be a good sign. Cornell is under a great deal of time pressure to begin their environmental review because of financial penalties in their agreement with New York City if certain benchmarks are not met by dates certain. The RIOC directors are aware of these time pressures and indicated they are ready to meet and approve the SEQRA Environmental Review Resolution as soon as the unnecessary language regarding land conveyances is changed.

Here's an audio webcast of the February 27 RIOC Operations Committee meeting. In addition to the Cornell discussion, the RIOC Directors and staff discussed Tram Operations, inadequate RIOC communications between Staff and Directors as well as RIOC communications with the public and media. All very interesting if you like this kind of stuff.

Update 3/2 - The language of the resolution was redone to the RIOC Directors satisfaction and indicates that there will be reasonable compensation for any RIOC conveyance of land to Cornell. The redone resolution was approved at the March 1 RIOC Board of Directors meeting. The web cast of meeting is now available.

Here is the approved resolution and link to it.

Will have more on this later. It will be interesting to discover why any language at all was added to SEQRA environmental review approval resolution regarding future conveyance of RIOC land to Cornell.


Westviewer said...

On the other hand --

Six tip-top firms are competing to be selected to design the new campus.

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