More Than Most of Us Knew

Mea Culpa: What I Got Wrong About Public Purpose Funds

Updated 19 weeks ago David Stone
Life Frames learning garden grows on space provided by Public Purpose Funds.
Life Frames learning garden grows on space provided by Public Purpose Funds.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

I wasn't alone but certainly added my voice in complaining that RIOC wasn't spending nearly enough of its legal allowance in Public Purpose Fund Grants. Turns out I was wrong.

State law gives RIOC permission to allocate up to 3% of its annual operating budget "to benefit Roosevelt Island residents, enhancing their quality of life through education, artistic and cultural enrichment, improved health, or a better environment."

It's pretty broad, broad enough to meet a good number of easy to identify needs.

One thing that makes PPF grants special is RIOC's openness to the Roosevelt Island Residents Association evaluating applicants and making recommendations, assuming RIRA's entanglement in the community helps guide the money in a neighborly direction.

It gives residents a hand in how public money is spent...

...and that's where I got lost. I assumed that what RIRA evaluated and the awards that flowed from it were the public purpose funds and, at far less than 3% of RIOC's budget, damn little.

Even RIRA's PPF Committee, charged with reviewing applications and making recommendations for the Common Council, chided RIOC, suggesting they nudge allocations higher, closer to the 3% ceiling.

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to something else...

Scanning RIOC's fiscal 2019 budget proposal, I noticed something in the narrative for Extraordinary Expenses:

For grant and community support, the Proposed Budget FY 2019‐20 includes an extraordinary expense of $763,715, a decrease of $34,170 over the Approved Budget FY 2018‐19 amount of $797,885. This is mainly due to the elimination of public purpose grants to the Youth Center and the addition of cleaning and landscaping services for the community spaces and parks, respectively.

The Youth Center had never been part of RIRA's review and recommendations.

Off went an email to RIOC President Susan Rosenthal.

"Can you give me a breakdown on what items are included in the budget under the PPF section?"

Rosenthal volunteered her newest Vice President and CFO, John O'Reilly, as designated explainer.

We met late yesterday afternoon, and I learned that, unlike what most of us understood, RIOC's pushed its Public Purpose contributions close to the legal ceiling.

Because the bulk of it was outside the RIRA process, we missed it. 

O'Reilly, who is just learning the ins and outs of PPF allocations, gave me a quick rundown.

I was surprised to learn that accommodations made to give the Girl Scouts camping space in Lighthouse Park were made possible by accounting under the public purpose allowance.

Similarly, RIOC allocates the costs for janitorial and other maintenance at the Cultural Center to PPF, lessening what it needs to charge users.

And RIOC's got a thing for funding gardens, those for iDig2Learn and Learning Library gardens situated near the Youth Center and, significantly, the land on which the Roosevelt Island Garden Club maintains the Community Garden north of Manhattan Park - all accounted for out of the PPF budget.

Good Shepherd Community Center users, Community Board 8 and RIRA itself, get free space for public meetings, all costs charged to Public Purpose Funds.

Not only was the information O'Reilly shared enlightening, it taught me something else.

As with other considerable free benefits, like our boundlessly helpful Red Buses, RIOC doesn't always take enough credit for its contributions... and some of us, me included, take too much of it for granted.


Comments powered by Disqus

Assorted Ideas

“To move the world…”

Socrates’ “Move The World” Quote Poster (Blue) by MementoStudios Want to make a difference? What are you waiting for? One more reason to love Socrates. He knew, 2,500 years ago.

Did Abraham-Hicks Kill Ari?

Did Esther Hicks or her late husband Jerry Hicks help — or their “teachings” — precipitate the death of Ari, an artist who turned to the Abraham-Hicks controlled Abe Forum for support? Here’s the story, pieced together from the accounts of friends outraged over what occurred and efforts to hide the tragedy. If Esther Hicks, … Continue reading Did Abraham-Hicks Kill Ari? →

“More Or Less I Am” Celebrates Whitman’s 200th Birthday in New York City

“Whitman’s own manic enthusiasm might be required to describe the joyous jamboree that occurs when you combine a fiddle, flute, cello, guitar, and steel drum with readers from the audience, an opera singer, the sounds of jets flying overhead and bells ringing at Riverside Church, the guy who played Brother Mouzone on The Wire, and … Continue reading “More Or Less I Am” Celebrates Whitman’s 200th Birthday in New York City →

Netflix “See You Yesterday” YRB Interview with Jonn Nubian

“See You Yesterday is a genre-blending drama that utilizes time-travel to examine the current issue of police brutality in America. YRB Executive Editor Jonn Nubian sat down with the Director/ Co- Writer Stefon Bristol, Co-Writer Fredrica Bailey and the cast, Eden Duncan-Smith, Danté Crichlow, and Brian “Stro” Bradley during during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival to discuss the making of the film.” Continue reading the interview… … Continue reading Netflix “See You Yesterday” YRB Interview with Jonn Nubian →

Laugh Out Loud, Do Your Best Motto for Life

Family Values Wall Art by KaleenaRae Look at this, every day, and change your life…

You purchase helps The Daily Keep publishing...