RIRA Recommends Public Purpose Grants

Written by Briana Warsing.

Nine Roosevelt Island organizations will share in $100,000 of Public Purpose money, if the Board of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) accepts the recommendations voted on last week by the Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA).

The vote was 19-2, with two abstentions, to pass on the recommendations of RIRA’s Public Purpose Funds committee. The recommended awards are:

• PS/IS 217 Parent Teacher Association (PTA) - $17,000

• The Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association (RIVAA) - $9,300

• Life Frames, Inc. - $5,000

• Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS) - $8,000

• Roosevelt Island Seniors Association (RISA) - $15,000

• Island Kids, Inc. - $7,000

• Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) - $11,000

• iDig2Learn - $9,000

• Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance (MST&DA) - $18,700

RIRA President Jeffrey Escobar reminded Common Councilors that the Council is “not empowered to release public funds. What we are discussing may very well be changed by higher-ups” – meaning the RIOC Board. In fact, Island Kids has entered a protest (letter, page 2).

The chair of the committee that worked out the numbers, Dave Evans, provided some details to the Council. “We had nine applicant organizations vying for a total pot of $100,000. We looked at the purpose cited by the applicants, took their interview into consideration, and discussed amongst ourselves. When you have to spread that amount among nine organizations, all with compelling needs, that amount seems small.”

As a result, Evans said, “In the cover letter we send to RIOC, we allude to that fact, as well as our hope that the pot can be increased going forward.”

For the most part, RIRA council members stood behind the committee’s decision but some had questions and comments. For example, Rivercross delegate Ellen Polivy asked why RIRA recommended only $5,000 for Life Frames. Evans responded, “This is a competitive exercise. The only evidence on the Island of Life Frames’ work is at the garden at 504 [Main Street]. That’s the extent of their work. They put together a very nice application but we had to look at it in full context along with all of the other applicants. It’s a competitive application. We have certain criteria that are used and that’s the way it fell out.”

Joyce Short, a Common Council member from Roosevelt Landings, was curious about the merits of the request from RIVAA, concerned that RIVAA’s stated purpose for seeking the funds was to pay rent for the Gallery RIVAA space.

Evans said, “We only get qualified applicants. There’s vetting before [the applicant organizations] get to us. Rent is difficult to look at alone. But we did because we are obligated to and we felt that given the nature of the application, and the case that they made, to give them this money.”

Another factor the committee looks at is uniqueness of the services offered by the applicant organization. In regard to Island Kids, Public Purpose Committee member Erin Feely-Nahem explained that Island Kids offer the only summer camp on the Island for children aged 4 and 5, and that their request is for camp scholarships.

Otherwise, the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association got the closest, 96.5%, to its request of $11,000. The biggest winners were the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance at $18,700 – just over half what they requested. (It was noted that they now have to pay rent to RIOC.) The PS/IS 217 Parent Teacher Association (PTA) received a recommendation of $17,000, also slightly more than half of what they requested.

Tags: RIRA RIOC Funding Organizations Representation & Governance Briana Warsing public purpose fund

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