Everyone goes home happy

Rich with viable solutions, RIOC Board closes 2018 on an upbeat note

Updated 23 weeks ago David Stone
CBN Executive Director Bill Dionne (left) joins Roosevelt Island seniors at RIOC's December Board Meeting.
CBN Executive Director Bill Dionne (left) joins Roosevelt Island seniors at RIOC's December Board Meeting.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

RIOC's Board of Directors closed out 2018 with a ringing endorsement of President/CEO Susan Rosenthal's leadership. Key new staff were unanimously approved by the Board and initiatives were in play to resolve important conflicts.

By far the most significant issue for a larger than usual audience in the Howe Theatre was a recommendation for distribution of Public Purpose Funds submitted by a RIRA Common Council committee and later amended to make it more fair by Rosenthal.

A contingent of seniors supporting the Carter Burden Network, which got hit with a draconian cut in its request for program funding, occupied front rows, joined by CBN Executive Director Bill Dionne and local director Lisa Fernandez.

In the public comment session ahead of the official meeting, Dionne spoke, not in protest, but to thank Rosenthal for stepping in to creatively resolve an abrasive community conflict.

Rich with viable solutions, RIOC Board closes 2018 on an upbeat note

Even before receiving a letter arguing against the Common Council's recommendations from Dionne, Rosenthal said she determined that the distribution, as submitted, was "unfair." A copy of Dionne's letter was included in materials the Board received for consideration.

No one argued against that conclusion, although Board Member David Kraut had philosophical reservations about overhauling a Common Council recommendation for Public Purpose Funds.

As Kraut pointed out and fellow Member Michael Shinozaki concurred, the Board asked the Common Council for guidance because they recognize the group as the community's representatives.

A former Common Council President, Kraut has a long track record of supporting the Council's voice in matters before the Board, even when, he said, the Council was not in support of him. Having served RIOC as a volunteer for more than 25 years, Kraut's found himself in the middle of many conflicts surfacing between the groups over that time. 

Kraut, in the end, voted in favor of Rosenthal's proposal that 5% of money recommended for all other Public Purpose Fund recipients be redirected to the Carter Burden Network in support of programs at the Senior Center.

Rich with viable solutions, RIOC Board closes 2018 on an upbeat note

But in a telling moment, he openly wondered if, as a member of the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association, he had to recuse himself. RISA has widely been suspected of behind the scenes politicking to undercut CBN's funding and operations. Kraut's comment obliquely addressed the elephant in the room no one wanted to acknowledge.

Before taking a vote, the Board asked Dave Evans, who lead the Common Council committee that recommended funding, and current President Lynne Shinozaki to weigh in, hoping to be sure they were comfortable with Rosenthal's proposed redistribution.

Evans, who drove all night from out of town to be available for the meeting, expressed openness to accepting the Board's oversight, although he asserted that his committee reached its decisions strictly by following protocols given them by RIOC.

He was unable to otherwise explain why CBN received a cut in their request far more savage than any of the others.

Rosenthal sought to justify the change by saying that what RIOC gets from the Common Council is "a recommendation," not a mandate. Final choices remain the Board's responsibility.

“We don’t have to agree if, on its face, it doesn’t appear to make a lot of sense,” she said.

In an unanimous vote, the Board agreed to increase CBN funding to $10,588 (from $3,250) by taking an even 5% from all the other grant recommendations and redistributing it. None of the nonprofits affected spoke against the move.

In other business... 

The Board unanimously approved the appointment of John O’Reilly as Chief Financial Officer and Vice President for Financial Affairs, replacing Kim Quinones, who resigned over the summer. O'Reilly came out on top after an "exhaustive search," powered by 21 years as a CFO, including - significantly - experience with construction environments, which Rosenthal noted is especially relevant for RIOC as the agency aggressively goes about upgrading Island infrastructure.

Also approved was Keith Thompson as Records Management Officer. Thompson previously held that position with RIOC during the 1990s. 

Over the objections of Roosevelt Island historian Judith Berdy, the Board authorized the transfer of RIOC's archival records of historical value to the New York State Archives. Berdy argued that original documents concerning the Island's history ought to remain local and easily accessible for historians. The motion passed, but Rosenthal agreed to work with Berdy to see if some materials can be retained locally.

In her President's Report, Rosenthal said that the Tram elevator project has been delayed by questions over the reliability of the soil base on which it's to be built. Efforts are underway to see if it will need a new foundation.

We will cover the story about the City Department of Environmental Protection's prolonged water tunnel access road project in a separate article. Suffice to say, Rosenthal pinned them down to an explanation the means the area will not reopen until spring. DEP's been asked to, at least, remove the ugly green wrap around the fence in the meantime. It's not just esthetics. It also blocks safe street lighting for anyone using the West Promenade in the area.


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