Letters - Democracy

To the Editor:

I just finished reading Dana Agmon’s excellent news analysis (September 10) chronicling the two-decades-long quest for democracy here on Roosevelt Island. As an early participant in Maple Tree Group efforts to create the RIOC Board of Directors elections, and eight years as Resident Association (RIRA) president, this narrative has been a consuming interest of mine and a profound disappointment since Governor Cuomo destroyed 16 years of effort to enfranchise Island residents. I fear that our fight to elect residents to this managing board will be stymied while he remains in office. Until those changes in Albany politics occur, I had suggested the following to the current RIOC elected resident board members:

As reported by Agmon, every resident director’s term of office, as delineated in the legislation that created RIOC (Ch. 899 of the 1984 Unconsolidated Laws of New York State) and defined as a four-year term, expired four years ago. Rather than four-year terms, it seems they now have unlimited life terms (assuming gubernatorial support); not what we bargained for. Until the Second Floor (a euphemism for the Governors’ offices) recognizes and embraces our desire for representative government, it seems only appropriate that the current elected directors, excluding the one resident director who repeatedly opted to accept appointment without community endorsement, should make themselves available to their neighbors in a Town Meeting that could be held once or twice a year.

Unlike the public session at RIOC board meetings, by and large short and unproductive, this would exclude RIOC officers and staff, and would afford Island directors the opportunity to inform their neighbors of who they are, what they do, why resident participation in Island decision-making is crucial, their assessment of future needs, and allow thoughtful questions from the audience.

I suggested this course of action at a RIOC board meeting some months ago and was unequivocally shot down. Not one resident director spoke in favor of my suggestion. Why? Having participated in elections six years ago; having written statements, spoken at Candidates’ Nights and debates, and subjected themselves to the spotlight that running for office entails, why would they balk at preserving their connection to the residential community that the elections created? And if they are now defining their responsibilities in terms of obligations to New York State rather than to you and me, what better impetus for new elections! I am one voice, you are many. If you would like to meet your “elected” representatives on the RIOC Board of Directors, tell them so. Until then, to the hard-working but unresponsive resident directors: Shame on you!

Matthew Katz

Tags: Letters

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