RIRA Wants Public Funds Freed

Written by richard lutz. Posted in Web Extras

The Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) passed a resolution Wednesday night in an effort to give the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) a workaround to bust loose frozen public-purpose monies.

by Dick Lutz

The Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) passed a resolution Wednesday night in an effort to give the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) a workaround to bust loose frozen public-purpose monies.

The idea is to eliminate the semantic reference to the funds, $100,000 of which has been traditionally passed out each year to Island non-profits to do good works in the community, as a “grant” or group of “grants,” and instead treat the funds as a debt owed by RIOC to the community.

The approach is rooted in the background of the public-purpose monies.  During the construction of Manhattan Park, developers paid what would normally be sales tax on construction materials into a fund intended to benefit the community.  Referred to as a Public Purpose Fund, the ultimate disposition of the money has been in the form of support given to Island non-profits – a total of $100,000 per year.  Typically, the groups request more than double that amount, and a committee of the Residents Association Common Council has, in recent years, made recommendations accepted by the RIOC Board of Directors.

Now, in the Cuomo administration, a directive from the Authorities Budget Office has frozen such activity, with an edict saying that State agencies may not give “grants.”

In Wednesday night’s RIRA Common Council meeting, Joyce Short proposed to remind the State that the funds are a “debt” to the community, not “grants” – that the Public-Purpose Fund was badly managed by RIOC in its first years, and that RIOC agreed to make amends with the $100,000-a-year plan.

The idea was accepted by the Common Council by a vote of 15 to 5, with 4 or 5 abstentions.  Opponents of the move contended that the timing may be wrong, or that RIOC is already trying to work out an except to a ruling by the New York State Authorities Budget Office, or that the funds were not specifically designated for use by the Island’s non-profit organizations.

The chair of RIRA’s Public Purpose Funds Committee, Dave Evans, reported that, at least for now, the normal process conducted at this time of year in which the non-profits present their requests to his committee, is on hold.

Tags: RIRA RIOC Funding Representation & Governance Dick Lutz

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