A Paean to Governor Cuomo In Election Season

State Finally Gets Around To Announcing Westview Deal Signed in July

Updated 5 weeks ago David Stone
A new day for Westview and Roosevelt Island affordability.
A new day for Westview and Roosevelt Island affordability.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

July 31st, all parties signed a deal formally exiting Westview from Mitchell-Lama protections and escorting the complex into 30 new years of affordable housing. The State finally announced it yesterday in a statement giving most of the credit to Governor Andrew Cuomo and his leadership, a campaign theme. It was something like praising an absentee landlord for collecting rent.

The left-leaning New York Daily News had it first, a day ahead of the rest of us, a copy and paste job that was essentially a Cuomo campaign flyer ignoring all sense of what made it so odd.

The first odd thing was that it took so long, the formal announcement of a deal, a copy of which you can find attached below, coming out of the governor's office nearly two weeks after it was signed. In the hopelessly opaque operations of the Governor's Albany offices, it was held up for reasons that may never be clear, but you can draw your own conclusions.

Which brings us to the second odd thing.

The whole damn thing is a song of praise for Governor Cuomo, now in a stiff primary election battle with education activist Cynthia Nixon. The Governor has until now been, how should we say this...? invisible? Absent? Derelict?

While tenants uncertain of their fate waited for over a year and half after approving the plan, mostly left in the dark, owner, North Town Phase III Houses, struggled in negotiations with a State three-headed monster, and the Roosevelt Island community worried that Westview would end up ejecting affordability for profit as did Rivercross and Eastwood, Cuomo never showed up for negotiations.

His minion, in the presence of RIOC, Homes and Community Renewal and the Empire State Development Corporation, bumbled along as if either no one was at the wheel or whoever it was hadn't taken a driving lesson, largely accounted for extending negotiations far longer than was necessary for a deal, according the their own account, "modeled on the affordability plan for Island House," in place for five years already with all the same State and ownership players.

Those doing the hard work and taking the hard knocks, namely RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, as well as HCR staff were reduced to carrying the Governor's water.

Rosenthal's quoted, "I'd like to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership," but to her everlasting credit, she goes on to thank "Westview owners and tenants for their patience," before doing the political thing and giving nods to elected officials who represent Roosevelt Island.

One who really did contribute mightily was Rebecca Seawright who, none the less, commends the absentee Governor while also appreciating the tenants and, sadly, forgetting that an owner/sponsor also played a key role.

Left out of the Cuomo love fest is owner representative David Hirschhorn who found himself entangled with not one, but three State agencies, each of whom took turns upsetting pending deals, leaving their partners sometimes looking duplicitous. 

Also - in my opinion bizarrely - left without recognition is RIOC's Board of unpaid local resident Members. David Kraut, Michael Shinozaki and Howard Polivy, whose votes were crucial to closing the deal, devoted hours to study and review. Although arcane rules forced them mostly into silence as negotiations dragged on, public meetings made clear that they were engaged, not just intellectually but emotionally, in pulling things together with an eye toward tenant satisfaction.

For this and more, each deserves a "Thank you" no one in Cuomo's political orbit felt any need to offer.

In the end, all that really matters is that the deal is done, and although a number of tenants say they may not be able to stay on under terms of the deal, this one - thanks to all parties actually involved - is as good as it gets.

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