RIOC Board to Vote January 25th

Roosevelt Island Youth Program Wins Top Score in Youth Center RFP

Updated 4 weeks ago David Stone
RIYP sponsored soccer team last year
RIYP sponsored soccer team last year
Photo courtesy of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program

After a contentious year that included two Requests for Proposals to manage the Roosevelt Island Youth Center, detailed accusations of bid rigging and battles spilling over from PS/IS 217, responsibilities are likely to stay in the same hands after all, according to RI Youth Program Executive Director Charles DeFino.

"Yes, but they still have to approve it on 25th," DeFino told The Daily, late yesterday, confirming the news.

The date refers to a required vote from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation's Board at its next general meeting.

RIYP has managed the local center at 506 Main Street since 1978 - when Jimmy Carter was president. DeFino as been the group's leader for more than fifteen years. Using activities, from organized sports to computer technology, all free, RIYP strives to provide highly integrated programing that transcends social and economic barriers.

A year ago, the RIOC, which funds the Youth Center, abruptly decided after nearly four decades that management must be awarded by way of an official request for proposals.

New offers from Island Kids and the Roosevelt Island Center for Community Development challenged RIYP in an arduous process of filling out comprehensive bid documents and sitting through multiple interviews.

In results that were hotly disputed, RIOC announced a tie between Island Kids and RIYP. A freedom of information request by Island House resident Frank Farance yielded scoring documents that appeared to be altered and peculiarities in individual tallies.

Although RIOC soon threw out the bids and started over, the State agency never calmed hard feelings by fully explaining the irregularities. Complaints were filed with the Inspector General.

As the months rolled on and interested parties awaited the next RFP, a second community rift opened when embattled PS/IS 217 Principal Mandana Beckman, supported by the PTA, refused to let DeFino's group or Island Kids compete for the City funded Beacon after school program.

Not only had RIYP worked with the City to qualify PS/IS 217 for funding but had also managed Beacon activities since inception. No reason was given by Beckman or the PTA for rejecting RIYP or Island Kids. The award was granted to a Queens organization.

If RIOC's Board approves the Youth Center award to RIYP, as expected, at its January 25th meeting, that will bring Roosevelt Island two separate groups serving kids. RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal envisions funded programs that compliment, not compete, with each other. 

It remains to be seen if leadership from both groups can resolve differences and work together to make that happen.

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