Joyce Short
Joyce Short

Roosevelt Island needs to roar!

A new example of New York State trampling the U.S. Constitution, and their commitment to our community, took place quietly at the March 10 RIOC meeting. RIOC Director Margie Smith indicated that Andrew Kennedy, in the Governor’s office, had previously assured her that the State would provide three candidates for senior positions. Instead, only one candidate was forwarded to the Board. The RIOC bylaws, (Article IV, Section 2), state clearly that the Board has the right to choose and hire its employees. Our community’s representatives, none of them directly elected by the residents of the Island, but instead appointed by the Governor, failed to hold New York State to its commitment.

Ms. Smith was the only dissenting voice as she eloquently staked her ground. She made it clear that she was voting “no” not because she had any qualms with the people the state was ramming down our collective throat, but because she opposed its lack of adherence to the process it had promised. None of the other resident representatives followed Ms. Smith’s lead.

The resident viewers in the crowd were greatly disappointed. Sherie Helstien, Vice President of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, was frustrated to the degree that she shouted out her objection.

The roll was called:

“Shinozaki?” “Abstain.”

“Polivy?” “Aye.”

“Christian?” “Aye.”

“Kraut?” “Aye.”

“Dr. Grimm?” “Abstain/.”

“Smith?” “Nay.”

With the inclusion of the Chair, Commissioner Rubin, and the State Budget Division representative, each motion carried. Without conducting a broad search, the RIOC Board accepted three separate officers to oversee the community’s affairs. And behind this debacle is the State of New York thumbing its nose at the Constitution of the United States by “appointing” the community representatives in a form of “government by fiat” instead of “government by election.”

The fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants every citizen the representative government of a Republic. Roosevelt Island is the only one of two communities in the continental U.S. that our constitution seems to have forgotten (Battery Park City being the other). And our RIOC representatives, with the exception of Margie Smith, quietly allow that to happen.

Our new RIOC President & CEO, Susan Rosenthal, has been appointed on an “interim” basis. The other two offices were filled permanently: Kimberly Quinones as CFO and Sheldon Haynes as VP of Operations. At least the permanent position of CEO will come back to the Board for approval. We need significant public outcry that the conduct of the Board and the State must adhere to the provisions that are mandated by RIOC’s bylaws and by what is right and decent for our community. In fact, the RIOC officers should hold a “meet the candidates” night and allow the community to cast their votes to fill the position. They should use this public referendum to determine who to support in the RIOC meeting that will be convened for approval. Our community should have an active voice in selecting the CEO of RIOC.

Each of our resident RIOC Directors serves in a long-expired position. The Governor has long ignored his responsibility to fill those positions and snubbed the last two community elections that nominated our choices. It’s time for our Legislators to protect our rights and insist on directly elected government for our community!

As Roosevelt Island residents, if the State of New York tries to ram another staff appointee through, it is incumbent upon you to be a visible and vocal presence in the public meeting to object to the process. In this way, we show the Governor we know how to unite. But it takes a lot of voices. Will yours be one? Will you join RIRA (Roosevelt Island Residents Association) in raising your voices to the roar? We cannot do it alone.

The Government Relations Committee of RIRA will do everything possible to get the press involved and shine a huge light on this issue. We will insist that RIOC Directors fully exercise appropriate due diligence in filling any further RIOC offices. But, we cannot do this without your help and that of our legislators, on whom we count to support our community’s rights.

Will you roar with us?

Tags: Island Observer

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