David Stone
Thanksgiving shared with the Disabled Association at the CBN/RI Senior Center.
Thanksgiving shared with the Disabled Association at the CBN/RI Senior Center.
File photo

RIOC's board of directors, on Thursday evening, approved public purpose fund grants for 11 nonprofits, following recommendations by a Common Council committee. Immediate reactions suggest a higher degree of satisfaction than witnessed over the last few years.

Responses sought by The Daily were swift. And for the first time, positive.

"These funds are a tremendous help to us," said Kristi Towey, Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance executive director. "We are very grateful to RIRA and RIOC." 

MST&DA will receive $25,667.

"We will definitely have enough scholarship funds for this coming year after receiving this amount," Towey added.

"We are looking to expand our teen internship program. This will definitely help. We also hire staff for community events like the tree lighting, Roosevelt Island Day, Fall for Arts, etc., and this helps us pay for those events.

"It is important to us that we are involved and that we pay our artists a reasonable amount for their time. These are all areas that are unique to Public Purpose Funds."

Get more: Roosevelt Island News

Common Council Committee

The Common Council committee responsible for reviewing grant applications and making recommendations for RIOC consists of volunteers.

Donating time, experience and knowledge were, again this year, chair Dave Evans along with Erin Nahem-Feely and Frank Farance. As well as hours spent in deliberations, the committee sat through two long evenings of presentations and question and answer periods.

Their recommendations are as follows:


"I think they are more fair and equitable than in years past," said Roosevelt Island Historical Society president Judith Berdy.

MST&DA organized caroling at the Roosevelt Island Subway Station.
MST&DA organized caroling at the Roosevelt Island Subway Station.
File Photo

Berdy had been critical in other years, especially in terms of allocations directed at Roosevelt Island's senior population, also sharing The Daily's concerns about the fairness of the process and its appropriateness in general.

The Carter Burden Network, managers of the Roosevelt Island Senior Center, protested previous allocations as insufficient for the mission at hand. Consideration was given to boycotting the PPF granting process altogether, but tempers cooled over time. 

Improvements inaugurated by RIOC CFO John O'Reilly in speeding up the process and getting funds to recipients more quickly smoothed relations along with CEO Susan Rosenthal's commitment in following through. Spurred by now retired board member Margie Smith, RIOC also increased total grants by 50%.

"Better than last time," added CBN onsite manager Lisa Fernandez.


RIOC still has a ways to go in setting up a more workable and responsive process. Inserting the Common Council into the works establishes a routine malfunction. The Common Council does not effectively represent the community in general and, in particular, has been shown to be unfamiliar with nonprofits seeking grants and their operations.

As one executive noted, "None of them (committee members) have been here for anything in five years."

Enough said. 

Many hope that Rosenthal will continue assessing how grants are reviewed and make changes that are more responsive to community needs.

But most appreciate the progress made so far, and RIOC's now got another year to generate fresh ideas. In the meantime, eleven nonprofits and thousands of participants will benefit from their generosity.