Nine Roosevelt Island organizations will share in $100,000 of Public Purpose money, if the Board of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) accepts the recommendations voted on Wednesday night (November 11) by the Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA).
The vote was 19-2, with two abstentions to pass on the recommendations of RIRA’s Public Purpose Funds committee. The recommended awards are:
PS/IS217 Parent Teacher Association (PTA) - $17,000
The Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association (RIVAA) - $9,300
Life Frames, Inc. - $5,000
Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS) - $8,000
Roosevelt Island Seniors Association (RISA) - $15,000
Island Kids, Inc. - $7,000
Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) - $11,000
IDig2Learn - $9,000
Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance (MST&DA) - $18,700
RIRA President Jeffrey Escobar reminded Common Councilors that the Council is “not empowered to release public funds. What we are discussing may very well be changed by higher-ups” - meaning the RIOC Board.
Committee Chair Dave Evans explained the revised methodology used by his committee: “When I first started, the standards were different. RIRA eventually developed its own criteria, which has now been subsumed in guidance we’ve received from RIOC. Some of those standards are still embedded.
“This year we had nine applicant organizations for Public Purpose funds vying for a total pot of $100,000. We looked at the purpose cited by the applicants, took their interview into consideration, and discussed amongst ourselves. When you have to spread that amount between between nine organizations all with compelling needs, that amount seems small.”
As a result, Evans said, “In the cover letter we send to RIOC, we allude to that fact, as well as our hope that the pot can be increased going forward.”
For the most part, RIRA council members stood behind the committee’s decision but some had questions and comments. For example, Rivercross delegate Ellen Polivy asked why RIRA only $5,000 was recommended for Life Frames. Evans responded, “This is a competitive exercise. The only evidence on the Island of Life Frames work is at the garden at 504 [Main Street]. That’s the extent of their work. They put together a very nice application but we had to look at it in full context along with all of the other applicants. it’s a competitive application. We have certain criteria that’s used and that’s the way it fell out.”
Joyce Short, Common Council member from Roosevelt Landings, was curious about the merits of RIVAA’s request. She was concerned that Gallery RIVAA’s asserted purpose for seeking the funds was to pay the rent.
Evans said, “We only get qualified applicants. There’s vetting before [the applicant organizations] get to us. Rent is difficult to look at alone. But we did because we are obligated to and we felt that given the nature of the application and the case that they made to give them this money.”
Another factor the committee looks at us uniqueness of the services offered by the applicant organization. In regard to Island Kids, Public Purpose Committee member Erin Feely-Nahem explained that Island Kids offer the only summer camp on the Island for children aged 4 and 5, and that their request is for camp scholarships.
Otherwise, the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association got the closest, 96.5%, to what they requested, at $11,000. The biggest winners were the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance at $18,700 which is slightly more than half of what they requested. (It was noted that they now have to pay rent to RIOC.) The PS/IS217 Parent Teacher Association (PTA) received a recommendation of $17,000, also slightly more than half of what they requested.