To the Editor:
Thank you for considering fundamental Island issues in your recent editorial. However, I feel some further explanation is necessary: yes; democracy is the essential issue on Roosevelt Island, i.e. “Who decides?” The Maple Tree Group (MTG) started and RIRA fleshed out an initiative to create “elections” that would place Island residents on the RIOC Board of Directors chosen by the people and appointed by the governor. In fact, five of the six current resident directors were chosen in this fashion. However, it was never our intention that these terms of office be life terms. The legislation that created RIOC in 1984 stipulated four year terms and yet, every one of the current resident terms expired four years ago. Without a requirement to bring their records to the residents for our approval or disapproval, the goal to have some representative government through this Board has been denied and we would be hard pressed to make the case that these neighbors who, it must be noted, work hard and without compensation, represent anyone but the Governor.
Regarding the Public Purpose Funds, Islanders have been involved in the allocation process for less than a decade, not “for decades.” After Manhattan Park was built, some PILOT funds were dedicated to Island organizations, including RIRA which applied for and won a grant to pay for election machines, and were distributed by RIOC. In an agreement between then-RIOC CFO Steve Chironis and myself, a plan was devised to make $100,000 of RIOC operating budget funds available to Island organizations annually, to be allocated by a RIRA committee created for that purpose. Given that RIRA would no longer be able to apply for Public Purpose funding, it was agreed that RIRA would be compensated for the considerable labor involved with a grant for $2,500 per year or $5,000 per RIRA election cycle. This plan worked well and to everyone’s advantage for some years. However, over a year ago, our Albany masters decided that RIOC, a Public Benefit Corporation, could no longer allocate operational funds or compensate RIRA for services rendered. As a result, RIOC stiffed RIRA for two years of committee labor and the support of Island organizations was curtailed. Nevertheless, RIRA decided to continue allocating the Public Purpose Fund without compensation.
By virtue of the legislation written by the RIRA Government Relations Committee and passed in Albany with the support of our Assembly Member Seawright and State Senator Serrano, that service has been restored – a year late.
These grants allowed many of our organizations to focus on their missions and not on finding the funds that allow them to function. It was a direct boon to a community of social organizations and augured a new relationship between RIOC and residents. The current controversies regarding our public spaces and RIOC’s stewardship of them are indications of how this relationship continues to deteriorate and, especially, how our expectations of advocacy from the resident Board members have fallen short. I’ve asked them to hold annual or semi-annual town meetings to hear from their “constituents,” as neighbors talking to neighbors, and been rebuffed.
Shame on them.
I feel that the past efforts of a small group of Islanders, dedicated to a more democratic form of local government here, have been for naught.
To the Editor:
I read the story about the miscommunication between RIOC and Island organizations regarding the closure of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd for floor refinishing. The biting and vindictive comments make me wonder why anyone would work serving some members of our community because they seem always prepared to bash every action our administration takes.
They did not mention that the work is done, the floor is sound, and one third of it is completely new. The floor had been deteriorating for years and finally it is rebuilt and restored.
In the last years, RIOC has had the rose window restored, the building brickwork re-pointed and the air conditioning system moved from the bell tower – central heat and air conditioning now functions there. A wonderful slate roof now enhances the beauty of the building, and the exterior entrance, steps, rails, and narthex have all been restored and rebuilt.
The above were done in coordination with historic preservation experts who made sure the exterior of the building was professionally restored and done by contractors familiar with working on landmark structures. The interior of the building is not a landmark. (Only a few buildings have designated landmark interiors such as Grand Central Terminal.)
I agree that the communications could have been much better, and we should go back to old- fashioned phone calls, person-to-person, to advise on emergency arrangements.
Come into the Chapel and admire the new floors. Hopefully new chairs and carpeting will soon be on the list.
Thanks to the staff who “busted their butts” to get the Chapel back for last Sunday’s services.