David Stone
UPDATE: You're not going to like why Citi Bike is not on Roosevelt Island

As reported in the Roosevelt Islander yesterday, installation of a Citi Bike dock on Roosevelt Island got hung up because the vendor wanted a hefty payoff from RIOC. That's true, but it's a small, maybe no longer significant piece of the story. 

The Fee Demanded by Citi Bike and Why It May Not Matter

"Over a year ago, our staff met with Citi Bike," a spokesperson for RIOC told me, "but (we) were unable to reach an agreement on fees for the docking station. I can’t track down what the exact number was, but I am told it was very expensive."

That timing matters more than you think.

In a conversation with City Council Member Ben Kallos's office, I found out that the demand was made three years ago.

More to the point, in either version, Citi Bike's demand for a "very expensive" fee occurred well before Lyft acquired Citi Bike from Motivate. That was in July, last year, an apparent response to Uber's take over of Jump Bikes.

So, the demand may be ancient history, or as a Kallos spokesman speculated, "Lyft may have changed their mind, especially now that the City is pushing expansion."

Without reference to fees of any kind, the Department of Transportation, a mayoral agency that oversees Citi Bike, told The Daily yesterday that Roosevelt Island is included in the just announced Phase 3 expansion.

But that does not tie the bow as neatly as it may seem...

Before learning how long its been since the demand for payment was made and that it was not made by current ownership in the first place, we asked the Mayor and Department of Transportation, "How does the mayor justify charging a single small community a fee that, as far as we know, no other community pays?"

Only Seth Stein from the Mayor's Press Office answered: "Will get back to you."

He didn't.

But another public official explained, "Roosevelt Island is not governed by New York City that is why there was a difference," adding, "The key to this whole thing is RIOC."

That statement is as untrue as it is universally accepted within the alternative reality occupied by politicians.

Whether you're a Yeah or a Nay on Citi Bikes passing down Main Street, running stops signs, scattering pedestrians on sidewalks, etc. while carrying tourists around Roosevelt Island, you need to be a little pissed off at how we're being treated. It goes beyond Citi Bike.

First things first...

Let's deal with "The key to this whole thing is RIOC."

What is RIOC, anyway? Yes, it's a State agency assigned to look after limited areas of Roosevelt Island's development.

But when you whisk away the layers, as activist and author Joyce Short has vociferously pointed out, RIOC is you, me and everyone else who lives or runs a business here

RIOC's operating budget, the salaries of bus drivers, groundskeepers and Public Safety officers, etc., depends crucially on ground lease payments from building owners. And those owners get the money from our rents and fees. Additional operating income is collected from fees for parking in Motorgate and providing basic services to Cornell Tech.

But the bottom line is, if RIOC coughs up a money to get Citi Bike to put a dock in, residents and businesses will pay for it.

A troubling behind the scenes perception among politicians is the root cause for the confusion and the very idea that Roosevelt Island ought to pay extra.

It goes back to "Roosevelt Island is not governed by New York City..."

Is anyone listening?
Is anyone listening?

That argument was been dribbled out by locals as well as outsiders whenever it looked like it might bounce in their favor. It should set off your BS detector instantly.

If we're not governed by New York City, why do we vote for Mayor, Borough President, Comptroller, Public Advocate and City Council? Why does Ben Kallos periodically rope them all in for a town hall meeting in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd?

Why do we pay New York City income tax?

It's nonsense, but ground in nonsense, and in recent years, it's been reinforced by growing antagonism between the City under de Blasio and the State under Governor Cuomo.

The victims are you and me.

To be clear, according to Quora, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation was established in 1984...

"At the time, NYS UDC wanted to create affordable housing based on the principles of urban “new communities” under President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs of the 1960's and early 1970's.  This was a state initiative as opposed to a city initiative.  The funding came from the state, so the governance originated largely from the state although the city and state cooperated on it."

RIOC was never intended to govern but to develop community housing in support of affordability. The subtext, too often forgotten, is that the City was a fiscal basket case, and the development could never have happened without the State paying for it.

We are governed by New York City. Try not paying your City income tax and see who comes to get you. RIOC manages only housing and related developments.

Now that that's settled, maybe the persistently feuding governments can clear their blurred vision long enough to work together in harmony to serve those of us who actually pay the bills.