Public Purpose Money Freed in Cliff-Hanger

Public Purpose Fund grants can now flow to the Island non-profits that depend on them.

The funds, which were held up by a State ruling made in January, left the Island organizations starved for cash. The Authorities Budget Office (ABO) had issued the ruling, interpreted as applying to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), which said that New York State could not give money to authorities or to the special form of authority called a public-benefit corporation.

By June, Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright stepped in with proposed legislation to recognize the exceptions that Roosevelt Island and RIOC are. All of RIOC’s money – with the exception of a special allowance due as a result of the construction of Cornell Tech, which may have disappeared from RIOC’s income ledger – comes from residents, not from State tax money. In theory, at least, RIOC should be able to spend it, having collected it from developers paying ground-lease fees with money collected as rent (or purchase prices) from Island residents.

The Seawright legislation, supported in the State Senate by Jose Serrano, sat for months.

Finally, after about eleven months since the ABO ruling, and with minutes to spare before last week’s Thursday evening meeting of the RIOC Board of Directors, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation into law. The word went out from Albany – in effect, “Give the residents’ organizations their money.”

Accordingly, the RIOC Board of Directors approved recommendations made by the Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA), which had been presented by the Public Purpose Funds Committee headed by Common Council member Dave Evans.

Amounts to be received – after nearly a year’s delay – were listed in the November 21 WIRE, available online at

A separate piece of legislation is expected to provide a permanent rewriting of the rules so that funding will not be delayed in future years.

Tags: Funding Representation & Governance public purpose fund

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