Roots Go Back Years

A Conspiracy to Shut Up Frank Farance...?

Updated 19 weeks ago David Stone
A Conspiracy to Shut Up Frank Farance...?
CCO Public Domain / Pixabay
Any sane person will tell you that Frank Farance is a pain in the ass. Even Farance would probably say so, although not in so few words. But it still was disturbing, while doing research on something else, to find an old message from the Main Street WIRE's editor about a secret campaign to shut him up.

"He's been providing a supply of venom to Rick O'Conor's blog," Dick Lutz wrote me about Farance in an email. Rick O'Conor's blog is the Roosevelt Islander. "I'm starting a quiet (and confidential) campaign to isolate both of them."

It was October, 2011, Some grudges last a long time. Evidence suggests the Roosevelt Island kind might be contagious.

And the differences now are the identity of the WIRE's editor and the fact that the campaign to discredit both O'Conor and Farance is neither quiet nor confidential.

Full disclosure: Although a group of unsophisticated, but dedicated Farance haters like to characterize us as if we're Siamese twins, we are not and never have been close friends. I've never shared as much as cup of coffee with him. Any face to face has come from an unplanned encounter on the street. 

I could say nearly the same about Rick O'Conor, although we did have a coffee together at Starbucks, once, over a year ago. The only thing we share in common and with Farance is our interest in Roosevelt Island and its community.

But I couldn't honestly say that about Dick Lutz. We've shared several meals together, talked shop extensively, and I learned a lot about journalism from him. He's met my wife, and I've met his girlfriends. I used to consider him both a friend and mentor.

Maybe it just proves the truism that familiarity breeds contempt, but for our purposes here, it's meant to clear the air of any hint of favoritism, of one buddy looking out for the other. 

The Pain In the Ass Thing

Frank Farance gets under people's skin. He's persistent, relentless in his search for facts, but often verging on outrageous in the conclusions he sometimes reaches and the accusations he tosses out like handfuls of gravel.

He can be a dog with a bone once he gets ahold of something. He'll piss you off with phone calls at all hours and with lengthy omnibus emails dispatched to dozens all at once.

But he's also honest, right more often than not, generous and an asset of inestimable value to Roosevelt Island. No one else is willing to do the digging, to tell anyone who will listen what he's learned and to let the chips fall where they may.

You need to do a lot of separating of wheat from the chaff, but you ignore Farance at the expense of ignoring truth.

Each of these qualities probably did their part in inspiring Dick Lutz and an ongoing trail of friends and associates to try to "isolate" Farance. Or worse.

Rick O'Conor's crime?

In one sense, as Bob Dylan wrote in Blonde On Blonde, he "just happened to be there, that's all," providing space for what Lutz calls "a supply of venom."

O'Conor was also perceived, through a wash of paranoia, to be a threat to the WIRE's coveted and previously monopolistic revenue stream.

 When Friends Pick Sides

Even while plotting to isolate Farance, Lutz wrote in the same email that he was a friend. Farance helped him build the WIRE's web presence and was counted on for troubleshooting.

But if I can borrow insight from Dylan again, in a lyric from Positively 4th Street, "I know the reason, that you talked behind my back. I used to be among the crowd you're in with."

That crowd happened to be the Maple Tree Group, and although they've taken a low profile these days and even claim to have assumed a new name, when you look underneath Roosevelt Island's social tensions and political failures, you often find something or someone from MTG in the background.

  • The recent, failed and "immoral" RIOC Nominating Election was spearheaded by MTG member Joyce Short and championed by RIOC Board Member Margie Smith, who still refers to herself as "a card-carrying Maple Tree Group Member."
  • The extended disfunction of the RIRA Common Council can be traced to a takeover by MTG, which upon wedging itself into an otherwise elected Council changed its name to the Government Relations Committee and continued pursuing its agenda.
  • Pulling its members together as a political party in an otherwise unorganized community, MTG promoted candidates in a successful campaign to infiltrate RIOC's Board, resulting in a privatization plan for Rivercross that shortchanged the rest of the community while enriching apartment owners at Rivercross where MTG was formed.

Where does Farance fit in this? He was a charter member of the Maple Tree Group, along with Lutz, Smith, Short and founder David Bauer.

As with the late Patrick Stewart, a RIRA President and RIOC Board Member who the MTG also went after, Farance left the group when he believed it abandoned its founding principle, self-government for Roosevelt Island, in favor of personal profiteering.

Farance openly accused the WIRE of colluding with the Maple Tree Group to misinform the community in its drive to privatize Rivercross with resulting windfall profits for its members.

Eventually, MTG maneuvering led to the firing of RIOC President and CEO Steve Shane and the hiring of Leslie Torres.

Shane ran a tight ship while Torres did not, resulting in charges of malfeasance and the jailing of an executive caught taking money from contractors and more. Torres also approved the Rivercross privatization plan that Shane tried to block.

Because WIRE Editor and Publisher Lutz and RIOC Board Members who profited never disclosed their self-interest in the maneuvering, Farance's protests resonated when posted on the Roosevelt Islander.

Over at the Main Street WIRE, Lutz changed his policy about Letters to the Editor because he didn't want to allow Farance to register his complaints there.

Aftermath

Probably the most damaging longterm effect on the Roosevelt Island community was the neutering of the Common Council that resulted from the MTG takeover and the way it diluted everything else. Inclusiveness and diversity went flying when MTG members Matthew Katz and Sherie Helstien took the helm.

To this day, efforts to muzzle Frank Farance by kicking him off the Common Council continue. Unethical conduct by an election committee focused on misleading Island House residents about Farance's presence on the latest ballot went uncorrected, and when Farance led the charge to rid PS/IS 217 of its rat colony, the Common Council tried to siphon off the credit for themselves.

But more immediately, probably nothing is more disgraceful than the anonymous trolls, outwardly supporting and openly aligned with WIRE management, carrying out a disgraceful campaign to discredit Farance, using personal attacks.

Trolls, after employing racist tactics at The Daily that got them banned, migrated to the Roosevelt Islander. There, they sunk lower, condemning Farance for being divorced and writing that he was living in his mother's basement. (Farance is an Island House resident who lives directly above the abandoned Trellis.)

Throwing their ropes around O'Conor too, the trolls condemned him as they had Farance and me as "impotent old white men." Their ranting continued to choke the website discussion thread until O'Conor refused to let "Amber," "Human Person" and "Joanne" post anything more unless they stopped hiding behind fake names.

Not surprisingly, the cowards chose silence over standing behind their behavior like ordinary adults.

Conclusion

A week and a half later, the trolls' threats to strip The Daily and the Roosevelt Islander of advertisers by trying to convince them that O'Conor, Farance and I are women hating old men has produced next to zero results.

But in the tradition of following the Main Street WIRE's apparently still active efforts to "isolate" Farance and O'Conor, its editors have divided the community even farther. 

When the Managing and Production Editor took sides with the trolls, publicly posting false and damaging "information" in an effort to discredit Farance, Lutz's "quiet and confidential" went out the window, replaced by loud and visible.

The campaign to shut up Frank Farance needs to come to an end. Because the current editors at the WIRE, which championed the effort, are not up to the task, the community needs to insist on shutting down the newspaper by cutting off its air supply of advertisers.

To be sure, Roosevelt Island can use the valuable services of a printed newspaper, although current economic conditions make it difficult, but not this one, not with these people.

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