Special August 9th Board Meeting

RIOC Board Votes To Help Tram Riders but Thwarts Call To Defund RISA

Updated 1 week ago David Stone
RIOC President Susan Rosenthal confers with Housing & Community Renewal representative Alex Valella
RIOC President Susan Rosenthal confers with Housing & Community Renewal representative Alex Valella
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

With a heavy load of pending work needing budget approval, RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal called the Board in for a special summer session. Certain to please commuters was funding authorized to expedite Tram repairs. But before the night was over, goodwill collapsed during a rancorous debate when the Board rejected a call to delay funding the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association after extensive corruption was exposed.

Transportation was at Center Stage as representatives from NYC Ferry offered a brief presentation confirming plans for starting service on August 29th. A previously published schedule has been withdrawn, and a new list of arrivals and departure times is expected soon.

Ferries will depart from Roosevelt Island on a half-hour basis during peak periods and at 45 minute non-peak intervals.

NYC Ferry representatives will be at the Visitor Center Kiosk at the Roosevelt Island Tram Plaza on August 15th from 3:00 to 7:00 to answer your questions.

Presentation about the soon to open East River Ferry. Board Member Michael Shinozaki looks on.
Presentation about the soon to open East River Ferry. Board Member Michael Shinozaki looks on.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Responding to Tram rider concerns, the Board voted to spend $160,000 to fund overtime work in a plan anticipated to shorten the period for Tram Platform repairs by at least 30 days. RIOC engineer Mike Russo added an optimistic review of work so far on the project.

In the meantime, Rosenthal encouraged residents to use the free shuttle buses to and from Manhattan. They currently operate at well under capacity.

Other contracts approved will bring resurfacing projects to Al Lewis and Blackwell House Playgrounds as well at the Tony Capobianco basketball court.

During the Public Session, Frank Farance asks the Board to pay more attention to affordable housing and warns of looming budget crises.
During the Public Session, Frank Farance asks the Board to pay more attention to affordable housing and warns of looming budget crises.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

President's Report

Rosenthal announced that bids are in for replacing the Tram elevator, tackling one of the thorniest issues facing RIOC for years. Evaluating the results is underway, and hopes are high for the Board to approve an award in September.

  • Construction intended to return Blackwell House to use is temporarily delayed by a New York City insurance issue that's expected to be cleared up shortly.
  • Youth Center rehabilitation work is scheduled to begin next week.
  • The competitive bid for Youth Center management will be posted on Monday, but because an award is not expected to made soon enough, Rosenthal said she may need to extend the current, longtime provider, the Roosevelt Island Youth Program, for a brief period.
  • RIOC is seeking a $670,000 grant to pay for construction drawings needed as a prelude to stabilizing the Renwick Smallpox Hospital ruins. A source for the estimated $24 million needed to actually do the work is still to be identified.
  • Finally, Rosenthal reported working with Hudson Related to partner in realizing her vision of Main Street as a Winter Wonderland during the December holiday period.

Board Rejects Shinozaki Request to Delay RISA Public Purpose Funds

Board Member Michael Shinozaki, troubled by the starving death of a disabled resident along with deterioration of services and neglect of seniors during RISA's management of the Senior Center, has opposed giving the group public money.

RISA's brutal track record has further been exposed by contrasting improvements since they were replaced by the Carter Burden Network - meals served, for example, increased by 40% within months - and the multiple felony conviction of RISA Program Director Rema Townsend.

Shinozaki asked that no more public money be doled out to the group while investigations continue, but the Board and Rosenthal were having none of it, eventually deciding to give RISA $12,000, not allowing recently exposed years of thefts and forgeries to change their minds.

The decision to ignore years of senior neglect and a current pattern of harassment toward the new vendor as well as selected targets who've opposed RISA's funding was troubling because it seemed to rely on on a pair of what may be falsehoods, however unintentional.

RIOC attorney Jaci Flug countered Shinozaki, saying the District Attorney told her that the investigations were closed. But The Daily was informed within the last week by a highly placed, unimpeachable source that there are "multiple ongoing investigations."

That insight was buttressed by our having seen evidence of numerous other crimes during RISA's tenure that have not yet come to light, and Townsend's favorable plea deal prompted speculation about her testifying against others.

Worse was Board Member Margie Smith's claim that no current RISA Board Members were involved in the scandal, yet RISA President Barbara Parker was Secretary during the worst of the scandal and supported Rema Townsend until the Department for the Aging demanded her dismissal.

It was Parker's admission of numerous check forgeries at RISA that was the proximate cause of DFTA's act of contract termination after years of lackluster performance.

But seniors badly neglected by RISA for years, now discomfited by continuing campaigns intended to disrupt CBN's programs, cut no ice with RIOC's board.

"It is really sad that they did not care," one disgruntled observer told The Daily. "It shows they were weak and could have (agreed) to wait a month until all items are cleared up, but they decided not to. No one (on the RIOC Board) has any spine."

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