Denounces "Scare Tactics"

RIRA VP Sherie Helstien Rips the Westview Affordability Plan

Updated 3 years ago Peter McCarthy
Positive/Negative Graphic Courtesy of Pixabay
Positive/Negative Graphic Courtesy of Pixabay

In the days leading up the RIOC's Real Estate Advisory Committee meeting, Roosevelt Island Residents Association Vice President Sherie Helstien rallied tenants in an effort to kill Westview's Affordability Plan. Mostly, the result was noise but no substance.

The recently passed Westview affordability plan opening a path for exiting the Mitchell-Lama Program is a big deal for Roosevelt Island, preparing the stage for conversion of the last WIRE building.

As September turned into October, Westview tenants approved a plan presented by its popularly elected Task Force with 92% voting in favor. Having never gone through such a plan, residents were uncertain of how the agreement would go forward as it required RIOC Board approval in amending its ground lease.

RIOC's Committee met in a room crowded with observers, a handful of whom (Sherie Helstien, Matthew Katz and two others who did not identify themselves) appeared to have arrived at Helstien's request. 

A resident of Westview, Helstien currently serves as RIRA's Vice President and is also the Roosevelt Island Senior Association's elected Secretary.

As Committee Chair Howard Polivy and RIOC Acting President Susan Rosenthal clarified the processes that must be completed and how they'd be approached, Helstien attempted to disrupt the discussion by attacking the plan that had won such overwhelming support among her fellow Westview tenants.

"The vote was a sham," she declared, "and a lot of people who voted for it were sacred to death."

Condemning the Task Force while insinuating some sort of collusion with building owner David Hirschhorn and the Task Force's attorney, she continued. “I call it 'the New Red Herring,' They scarred people into voting. Ballots had signature lines on them. They were not secret. There were some real serious problems in how this was presented to the tenants and their tactics."

Because Helstien, while condemning the voting and its results, never explained what, if any, provisions she objected to or any damages that might result, The Daily contacted her via email, asking if she would like to expand on her remarks. Helstien did not respond.

Paul Lenner, a Task Force member in attendance, objected: "The items Sherie presented are not accurate."

We are hoping to get a detailed response from the Task Force.

In the meantime, we asked Eileen Gardiner, who has covered the Westview story for us, for her observations. Here is what she told us:

I have no idea where “scared to death” comes from.  It’s often hard to read accurately the mood of an entire crowd, but the meeting before the Westview vote seemed rather upbeat, and the group delivered a clear voice vote in favor of opening the actual voting. 

We spoke with several people as we waited in a rather long line to cast our ballot, and everyone was pleased that we were finally nearing the end of a very difficult and drawn-out process. The chat in the elevator on the way back upstairs was all very positive about the “yes” votes that everyone present in the elevator had just cast. 

Some people would like to stop Westview’s exit from Mitchell-Lama, but most people understand that is no longer a realistic option.  When we had specific objections to the plan, like to the 14.9% rent increase, we worked on them and got a better deal. 

What are Sherie Helstien’s specific objections and whom does she represent? There was no discussion on the Google Group about making any statement or endorsing any position at the RIOC meeting.

All the anger and fear mongering, which are such a part of the political landscape this season, smack of demagoguery. It is difficult to identify any constructive objectives beneath the rhetoric.

Helstien's objections notwithstanding, the RIOC Committee will get moving on due diligence to determine if the affordability plan meets the required standards to justify amending the ground lease. The full Board needs to consent. The actions are on a fast track because a current Mitchell-Lama extension expires in January.

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