Margie Smith delivered.
In a meeting of the RIOC Board’s Real Estate Advisory Committee held last week (story on page 1), Smith negotiated a 50% discount for Island non-profits booking rooms in the renovated Cultural Center. Smith pointed out that all the money comes out of residents’ pockets, anyway, via rent paid to developers, who pay ground rent to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC).
Discounting space rental for the Island’s non-profits makes life and service easier for those committed to this community. If RIOC must absorb a loss in such rentals, it’s being absorbed with funds that ultimately come out of residents’ pockets.
The negotiation was easy and straightforward. Smith simply put the possibility on the table, and it was accepted for consideration and probable acceptance at a RIOC Board meeting being held as this WIRE goes to press.
In some ways, what Smith did illustrated the absurdity of exacting any permit fee for use of Island facilities by Islanders, or at least their non-profit organizations. We pay, through rents, for anything and everything RIOC does, including maintenance of facilities. When New YorkState established a community here, it anticipated – implied and expressed – provision of the facilities that communities need. It didn’t add, and nickel and dime the residents for every last bit of it.
It can be argued, with merit, that some charge keeps this serious, avoiding frivolous consumption of resources that might block out users with genuine need. And the demands for space have apparently grown to the point where a clear reservation process with some commitment is necessary.
But the State of New York can no longer be counted on to maintain a connection with the original purposes that drove the rebirth of Roosevelt Island as a residential community. Nor can those it sends to run the Island. We might hope that, like Margie Smith, our resident RIOC Board members will represent our interests and the values Roosevelt Island represents. But without elections, they can be co-opted into representing the State rather than residents. Without true hiring/firing power over the president of RIOC, and while serving expired terms, they serve at the mercy of the RIOC president, removable at any whim that the governor fancies.
That’s why it is all the more important that our legislators find some means of democratizing the governance of Roosevelt Island. We need an elected RIOC Board with the power to hire and fire a City Manager.
We need democracy.
The Troublesome ABO
Meantime, the RIOC Board should interpret a ruling by the State’s Authorities Budget Office, and notify that office of its interpretation, which should be:
As we interpret your ruling, it is inapplicable to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, in that it runs counter to the lease under which New York State has developed and is developing a residential community on the Island. Further, grants made by RIOC are not made with New York State money, but money collected from Island residents through developers’ ground rents. We have instructed RIOC personnel to act in accordance with the lease and to disregard the inapplicable ABO ruling. Please be in touch if this raises any questions for you about the operation of this residential community.
It need not be added, but We’ll see you in court if you object would be an approporiate addendum.
A RIOC Board taking this position would be justifiably supported in a resident march on Albany, should it be contradicted.