Does the Governor Have a Sincere Interest in Our Community?

The Right Thing for Roosevelt Island, What Governor Cuomo Can Do, Right Now

David Stone
The Right Thing for Roosevelt Island, What Governor Cuomo Can Do, Right Now
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At RIOC, with Board Membership reduced to just 5, following the resignations of Margie Smith and Fay Christian, Governor Andrew Cuomo faces a golden opportunity for showing goodwill by acting on a duty for which he's been derelict. Cuomo can reestablish local control of the Board by appointing or reappointing all 9 members in time for the State Senate to confirm them before adjourning in June. The path's clear, if he choses to take it.

Who should serve on RIOC's Board for the next four years...?

Let's start with the obvious. We have 3 sitting Board Members whose terms expired years ago. Each has contributed countless hours to the task. 

Although David Kraut has publicly expressed a willingness to serve as long as the Governor wants him to, we're not certain that any of these men wish to continue for a new term, but organizational experience and continuity matter. Kraut, Howard Polivy and Michael Shinozaki ought to stay, assuming that they wish to.

That leaves four public seats to be filled.

One potentially valid way of considering new appointees is to look at those who've won elections in the past but were not appointed or were appointed and subsequently left the Board.

Frank Farance and Erin Feely‐Nahem received strong support in RIOC nominating elections but, for undisclosed reasons, were not appointed. Both should be considered.

Two others, Jonathan Kalkin and Dr. Katherine Grimm, were appointed and served. Kalkin was replaced by Sal Ferrara, a nonresident who soon disappeared in a cloud of scandal. Cuomo did not reappoint Kalkin, instead leaving the seat vacant.

Dr. Grimm left of her own accord for personal reasons in 2016. She has expressed some interest in returning.

If Grimm or Kalkin are interested, they've served well and should be reappointed.

In a perfect world, that fills all the available seats, but the world's far from perfect. For a variety of reasons, one or more of them won't be appointed or prefers not to be.

There are other available pools of Roosevelt Island talent to look at.

A year ago, the RIRA Common Council ran deeply flawed nominating elections. In spite of all that was wrong about them, the Common Council certified the votes and a RIOC committee forwarded them, without endoresement, to Albany.

What matters most is that four individuals stood for election, offering their qualifications and pledging to serve. Each received hundreds of votes from their neighbors, enough to make them serious contenders. 

They are, in order of total votes cast, most to last: Lydia Tang, Brian Bower, Mark Block and Eduardo Janey.

In addition, Roosevelt Island has no shortage of qualified, experienced individuals, hard-working residents who might serve well, starting with Matthew Katz, who won the popular vote for RIRA President 3 times. Tad Sudol, hard-driving leader of the Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association and a business owner; Jim Luce, an internationally recognized and frequently honored humanitarian specializing in developing tomorrow's leaders; and current RIRA President Jeffrey Escobar, all are capable and should be part of the pool. 

I'm sure I've left plenty of other good people out, but these seem the most obvious.

The bottom line is, Andrew Cuomo needs to demonstrate a previously invisible awareness and respect for this community. Whether by design or neglect, his failure to appoint Board Members for years has overturned the intentions of the law that gave local residents control of the Board. 

We don't always agree with positions taken by any of the above candidates, far from it, but they are all Roosevelt Islanders who've pledged to volunteer for this difficult job and have the smarts and experience to do it well.

Now, we need equivalent qualities form our Governor to restore faith in local democracy that's been eroded.

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