Albany, O, Albany
It's become a cruel cliché that New York State is ruled by "three men in a room." One of them, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is now stepping aside while under the pressure of a federal investigation.
It would be nice if this became the occasion for something of a democratic revolution in Albany.
Islanders have no ballot-box power over the level of governance that is closest to our daily lives. Ours is a kind of appointive colonial government, worthy of so little attention that Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn’t bothered to make (or renew) an appointment to the RIOC Board of Directors since 2011, when he gave us Salvatore Ferrera, a non-resident whose name was put forward by a Republican State Senator from Brooklyn.
In doing so, Cuomo ignored nominating elections held on the Island, in which Islanders expressed their preferences, at the ballot box, for appointment of residents to the RIOC Board of Directors. To seat Ferrera, he removed an effective Board member we had nominated by ballot.
By law, resident directors currently serving continue until replaced (or until they resign). But this status means that, if they do anything to displease the governor or his appointees, they can be removed on a moment’s notice.
In short, true resident power over the way Roosevelt Island is run is essentially nil.
A State audit now suggests that Ferrera, in running The Child School / Legacy High School here, was – at the least – just a little fast and loose with demands on the State for tax money, and/or a little lax in producing or retaining the records necessary to back up those demands. And when, while serving on the RIOC Board, he started asking for Island resources – land and quarters – to expand his operation, few gave full trust to his motives.
That period is now well behind us.
But the question remains: How will Roosevelt Islanders gain a true voice in the way this community is served by government?
Residents and previous governors came up with an answer: the vote. So far, Governor Cuomo has ignored that desire, despite multiple full-throated endorsements by the governed – those of us who live here.