Lack of Elections, Lack of Choice

What can be done about RIOC and the RIOC Board of Directors?

In the March 4 meeting of the RIOC Board, stroller moms brought complaints about elevators at the Manhattan Tram station, and RIOC President Charlene Indelicato apologized – for poor communication about them – not for RIOC ignoring the years of trouble with those elevators that made it clear, long ago, that the wintertime crisis would certainly occur again.

Residents Association V.P. Sherie Helstien brought a complaint about the stupidly-managed RIOC website that has long ignored the majority of browsers now in service, then was upbraided by Board member Margie Smith for not being aware that she could use another (inferior) brand of browser to access RIOC’s lame site.

But Smith isn’t the only RIOC apologist now serving on the RIOC Board of Directors. Howard Polivy, too, was delegated by Indelicato to non-answer the tough questions that The WIRE asked about the precipitous decision to charge the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance rent for the quarters that it prepared and then occupied without rent for three decades. Of course, Smith had excuses for that, as well: The State made us do it. We’re trying, but the State made us do it.

No. The RIOC Board made its own hammock in this case, by turning over valuable community space for commercial exploitation, thereby creating a phony shortage of community space and giving real-estate interests license to charge non-profit organizations – the ones this Island used to nurture – for space that has been an important instrument in Roosevelt Island becoming the community it is – or was, before these crises were visited upon it by a RIOC Board persuaded that it must do Albany’s bidding.

A reckless ruling by New York State’s Authorities Budget Office, made without reference to the particular differences on Roosevelt Island, should be met with a simple response: That doesn’t work for a community of people. We are not the Triboro Bridge. We will ignore your ruling until you take into account the nature of this particular public benefit corporation.

But the RIOC Board hasn’t taken that stance. Apparently, from what Polivy’s wife said defensively at a Resident Association Common Council meeting, the RIOC Board feels that all it can do is ask for advice on how to comply with a ruling totally inappropriate for RIOC.

That’s why RIOC Board nominating elections – and the opportunity to elect Board members not yet co-opted by the system – and a governor responsive to those elections – are needed.

RIOC Board members do get co-opted after a while. They may go in determined to make RIOC better, believing they can do so. After serving expired terms for too long, they’ve bought into the “no-can-do” roadblock that bloated bureaucracies invoke whenever asked to do something out of the ordinary – like say no to State policies that just don’t fit the needs of a community. We are not the Triboro Bridge.

We’ve cited Polivy and Smith here, but those who sit silent and express no outrage must share the guilt. If bold defiance is needed, let’s have some in place of contented lassitude. If the times demand acts of courage, let’s see them.

When the President of RIOC is the only contact with the State administration, “the second floor says so” can become the excuse for avoiding anything inconvenient. A RIOC President who does not want to advocate for this community, and is focused on maintaining a career as a bureaucrat, can just invoke “Albany” as the excuse for doing nothing that might call unpleasant attention to his or her career path.

As for the Board members, “we’re not allowed to tell the public” ignores the fact that they are doing the people’s business.

Reform is needed. Needed desperately. What’s needed is an elected RIOC Board willing to exercise its power to seek and hire an experienced and creative community manager beholden to this community, not to a gubernatorial appointments process.

Let’s catch this falling star before its light is extinguished by the clumsy acts of an uncaring State administration.


Tags: RIOC Editorial Representation & Governance Dick Lutz

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