Ekpo, Kapell and Escobar On Board

Energized with New Membership, RIOC Board Meets Before Summer Recess

Updated 20 weeks ago David Stone
Newly fleshed out RIOC Board with David Kapell, Conway Ekpo (both far right) and Jeffrey Escobar (second from left) seated for the first time.
Newly fleshed out RIOC Board with David Kapell, Conway Ekpo (both far right) and Jeffrey Escobar (second from left) seated for the first time.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Sparsely populated for RIOC Board Meetings over the past year, tables set out in a U-shape on the stage at the Howe Theatre in the Cultural Center were nearly filled as newly appointed Members David Kapell, Conway Ekpo and Jeffrey Escobar sat in for the first time. The change in energy and knowledge was welcome.

RIOC Board Composition

Straying from a pattern set by previous Governors in which resident voting strongly influenced appointments, Andrew Cuomo's emphasis on relevant experience and knowledge became immediately apparent.

Governor Cuomo, in a nod to community preferences, recruited only Roosevelt Islanders. 

Escobar and Kapell are Octagon residents while Ekpo lives in Southtown.

David E. Kapell arrives for this first meeting of the RIOC Board.
David E. Kapell arrives for this first meeting of the RIOC Board.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

A seventh Board seat remains vacant because, as President Susan Rosenthal explained, it's one of two that depend on a mayoral nomination and at least a half-dozen requests have not budged the di Blasio administration to act. The seat will likely remain unfilled for at least another year.

And as the Board's longest standing Member David Kraut pointed out, it remains an all male club as it has since the departures of Margie Smith and Fay Christian in 2017.

A face familiar to many locals after three terms as RIRA President, Jeffrey Escobar joined the Board.
A face familiar to many locals after three terms as RIRA President, Jeffrey Escobar joined the Board.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

June 2019 RIOC Board Meeting Highlights

Detailed articles will flesh some of this out, but here's a summary look at activities from the June meeting.

New members Ekpo, Escobar and Kapell, although abstaining on multiple votes, brought their expertise to the conversations, each seeming eager to wade in just a week after earning State Senate approval. 

  • The Board approved, with Escobar abstaining, a Seventh Amendment to Manhattan Park's lease. It extends until 2068. Escobar and Kapell lead the questioning, wondering if favorable terms agreed to at Manhattan Park's request could set a precedent other complexes might wish to follow. That's unlikely, as Kraut explained, because each lease agreement is unique, negotiated independently with little in common.
  • The crispness with which CFO John O'Reilly has reorganized his department was evident as the Board swiftly approved reports required by the state on its annual audit, investments, procurement and property, Ekpo and Escobar abstaining.
  • Acting to avoid comment and controversy on Public Purpose Fund decisions by withholding details on distributions until the last minute, RIOC sidestepped complaints but failed to stifle them. The Board approved the recommendations offered by a Common Council Committee, but anger simmered in the audience as it became clear that seniors were slighted again. According to the last census, seniors represent 17.6% of our population. The combined forces of Common Council and RIOC saw fit to award the Carter Burden Network, the single organization devoted to seniors, only 6.7% of available funds, representing just one-third of their request.
  • A proposal by the MTA to expand its leased space in Southpoint Park to add features allowing them to respond better to future flooding met skepticism from Board Members who characterized the designs as like dropping a box into a people's park. Kraut described the planned structure as "hideous," especially in light of the care and consideration invested over years in making Southpoint a place of local pride. Escobar criticized the presentation relative to how the MTA has dealt with similar projects at Community Board 8. In the end, the Board approved the land but not the building, which will have to come back for an okay before being constructed.
  • After the Board approved a waterproofing and restoration contract for finishing touches in the long delayed Blackwell House project, Rosenthal projected a ribbon-cutting for September, taking time to thank historian Judith Berdy for countless contributions in expertise.
  • On a bittersweet note, Rosenthal asked everyone to "save the date" on the evening of July 25th when RIOC will celebrate PSD Chief Jack McManus's time here. McManus, originally recruited by past President Charlene Indelicato to rescue a scandal ridden department, became probably the most popular employee RIOC brought to the community. This is the Chief's last week before retiring, and he will be missed. The celebration will be held in the Manhattan Park Theatre Club, details to follow.
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