New York State’s sleazy patronage system has never done any favors for Roosevelt Island.
The one non-patronage appointment, made in the early days of a briefly righteous Eliot Spitzer administration, was the best in two decades: Steve Shane as RIOC President. He arrived with the mission of democratizing governance of the Island, delivered on that, saw himself as a servant of the residents of this very special community – and then, unfortunately, was done in by a flawed decision of the democratic structure he had fostered.
Leaving aside any evaluation of the present management team at the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, we can observe that the Andrew Cuomo administration has jettisoned democracy as though it carries Ebola. In his political horse-trading, he put a non-resident on the RIOC Board of Directors, only to have that individual – the Child School boss – fail miserably at both jobs, and leave the Island and the school essentially overnight. Since then, Cuomo has allowed that seat to remain vacant and all the other RIOC Board appointments to expire, and has failed to act despite having resident candidates, nominated by election, for the seats.
Apart from Shane (and, again, leaving aside Charlene Indelicato), every RIOC President that the patronage system has given us has been – from the viewpoint of residents – a failure. It’s not that each has produced an unmitigated disaster. It’s just that none has been a creative, top-flight community manager. None has accomplished any major step forward.
Indeed, the best step forward – Cornell Tech – is being imposed by the City. And that has myriad devil-in-the-details twists that, all along, RIOC could have managed far more competently in its new relationship with the university.
Now, Larry Schwartz, the governor’s aide who made promises to the Island that he never kept, has left the Cuomo administration. That raises the likelihood of somebody else’s protégé being appointed to the RIOC presidency. (Who needs continuity, after all?) At $150,000 a year, it’s a plum payoff for somebody’s loyalty or fund-raising prowess. It’s also adequate money for a professional community manager who understands the needs of the community s/he serves. But the governor is likely to send us someone who qualifies better as a Klingon than as a community-oriented administrator.
Last time, the RIOC Board (with one exception) accepted the first name put before them.
That must not happen again.
This time, the RIOC Board must require an executive search and conduct multiple interviews to find a genuinely competent and creative administrator – someone as good as or better than Shane – but, at a minimum, someone with his stature, dedication, community orientation, and capabilities.
Typically deficient “alert” from RIOC (Tuesday and Wednesday, for example): Please be advised that the MTA has issued a temporary service disruption advisory for the F train, which may affect travel plans. Please plan your travel accordingly and visit http://mta.info or call 511 for more information.
This “alert” would make more sense if RIOC would simply pass along an exact copy of the MTA’s notice, rather than telling us to “plan accordingly” with reference to absolutely no informational content. Is anybody there (excuse the suggestion) actually thinking?