REDAC Meeting Raises More Questions Without Answering Any

For Westview, Increased Uncertainty, Continuing Indifference from RIOC

Updated 34 weeks ago David Stone
David Kraut (blue shirt) convenes the REDAC consideration of Westview's negotiations with, left to right, Michael Shinozaki, Alex Valella, Susan Rosenthal and Jacqueline Flug present.
David Kraut (blue shirt) convenes the REDAC consideration of Westview's negotiations with, left to right, Michael Shinozaki, Alex Valella, Susan Rosenthal and Jacqueline Flug present.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

As a State agency under fire for destroying a 40 year old Island Institution, bungling an attempt to shut down a cat sanctuary and, apparently, filling public fountains with contaminated water for decades, you might expect RIOC to be on its best behavior while meeting to consider Westview's precarious affordability plan. But instead we got your ordinary, clueless RIOC, cold-shouldering the community in familiar fashion.

Expectations were high that something significant was happening. Negotiations, using the term loosely, were at a make or break point when RIOC announced a meeting of its Real Estate Development Advisory Committee for July 17th to "Discuss the Westview Ground Lease Negotiations," either immediately after the complex's sponsor's critical financing expired or as it was about to, depending on your source.

That heightened as participants filed into the conference room at 591 Main, including all principal players on the State's side or their proxies, and resident Board Members were given bound booklets that, at first glance, appeared to contain contract language.

But it was surreal too.

In a clubby kind of alliance, the State employees and Board Members chatted amiably among themselves as if an attentive audience that included media, Rebecca Graham from Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright's office and a Westview Task Force representative were not a foot or so away from them.

The Daily broke the barrier - or tried to - asking David Kraut, who was set to chair the meeting in Howard Polivy's absence, if after going into executive session, as already announced, the Committee would go back into public session to take a vote if necessary. (Polivy participated by phone in a conference call.)

Our question was intended to find out if the Committee intended to weigh in on an agreement between RIOC and Westview's sponsor, if such an agreement had been reached. This information is critical to Westview's tenants, who've been left dangling for over a year and a half without support or guidance from RIOC, as well as to the community at large.

Kraut mumbled gruffly - we're tempted to say angrily, but motive is hard to ascertain - without answering, showering disdain or disregard, your choice, on residents' concerns.

No one else spoke up, apparently finding rudeness satisfactory.

Once everyone was settled - Alex Valella, representing Homes and Community Renewal; RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, Board Member Michael Shinozaki along with Kraut; a representative for the Department of Budget; and RIOC Vice President Jacqueline Flug - a motion was made to go into executive session, which meant everyone not directly participating would be ordered to leave. It was seconded and approved.

Trying to get a handle on what to expect for the rest of the evening, we again asked the question about whether we should plan for their going back into public session, that is, should we hang around to see if there would be more to the story available later?

Kraut, again, in the bullying style we hadn't seen from him at RIOC meetings in a while, barked, "We're in executive session!"

"You didn't answer when you weren't in executive session."

Flug, exhibiting an understanding of proper public manners, interjected before Kraut could bark again.

"We'll go back into public session to adjourn," she said.

There would not be a vote or other discussion.

We thanked Flug and followed the rest of the audience out the door.

Although the binders handed out to REDAC Members could easily be taken as copies of a negotiated agreement, caution is advised. 

RIOC's relationship with Westview's sponsor, who did not attend as he had the last time an agreement, later reneged on by RIOC, was supposed to be discussed, has been rocky. Trust is not high.

The binders could as easily have been the latest proposal from either side to be discussed as a possible agreement or as a demonstration of how close - or far apart - the parties were.

If the binders represented an agreed on a set of terms for Westview's exit into affordability or an enabling lease extension, it's exceedingly odd that REDAC did not plan a vote before forwarding it to the full Board for approval.

If such a vote is to take place, no required public announcement has been made by RIOC.

However, yesterday morning, HCR notified Westview tenants that they'd be holding a public information session, without any other details, at Good Shepherd Community Center on Monday evening. That too could be about anything.

There were two takeaways from what little there was to this meeting.

First, a critical juncture has been reached where negotiations have either failed or succeeded. They are not continuing, by all appearances.

Second, RIOC's indifference to community concerns, especially beleaguered Westview tenants, remains firm. Not a single sign of consideration for anything but chummy internal relationships was in evidence on Wednesday evening at 591 Main Street.


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