Sponsored by AM Seawright and Sen. Serrano

UPDATED: Governor Signs AM Seawright's Roosevelt Island Bill

Updated 16 weeks ago
Seawright flanked by RIOC President Susan Rosenthal and Senator José Serrano at the Historical Society Visitor Kiosk in 2017.
Seawright flanked by RIOC President Susan Rosenthal and Senator José Serrano at the Historical Society Visitor Kiosk in 2017.
File photo

Yesterday morning, State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright announced that Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill she sponsored. "Assembly Bill 316 provides updates to the RIOC laws that are outdated and need clarification of the intent of specific provisions in the original laws of 1984." It's a technical update, far from a victory and somewhat deflating.

“We worked closely with Senator José Serrano, the community, and the Roosevelt Island Residents Association Government Relations Committee to draft a bill that will support Roosevelt Islanders," Seawright's office said.

"The clarification and update of RIOC laws is long overdue and it is important that the laws governing the corporation are added to the Public Authorities Law so anyone with interest can easily find its enabling statute."

The bill also adds sexual orientation in the equal employment opportunity section of the laws.

In other words, it's a technical update that doesn't change anything.

But what's missing...?

You get a hint from a line added at the end:

"I envision a Roosevelt Island that is self-governed so that services and programs are fully responsive to the needs of residents. The community must have a say in the decision-making process of how the island is governed," Seawright repeated for roughly the thousandth time, then adding the hoary Maple Tree Group mantra, "there should be no taxation without representation."

But there is, and Seawright quit doing anything about it.

That wasn't always so.

Three years ago, I covered a story during Seawright's early months in office.

She introduced a bill that would require RIOC presidents to live on Roosevelt Island, whether as existing residents or newcomers, and Senator Serrano introduced it in the State Senate. It mattered because RIOC's essential disconnection from the core of resident values lead to endless conflicts and resentment.

No RIOC executive at any level has ever lived here, before, during or after leaving office, reinforcing the claim that the State agency has never been a part of the community. More like an occupying force over which residents have no control, not even voting rights.

Seawright knew that was wrong and sought to legislate change, but there was an interesting clinker in the mix. The Senate was controlled by Republicans, and it was well-known that the bill, which passed the Assembly twice, would never pass there.

But, lo and behold, with RIOC's Albany handler Andrew Cuomo bending progressive to fend off an intra-party challenge, Democrats won control over the Senate in 2018.

This should have green-lighted Seawright's residency bill, but it didn't.

In fact, now with a good chance of its being passed and sent to Cuomo to make it law, Seawright and Serrano failed to introduce it again.

Click here to see an update on this story.

More to the story...

By the time Seawright won reelection, she sat firmly in RIOC's corner, that is, Governor Cuomo's. Her independence was over. She's an effective advocate for important issues, like LBGTQ and women's rights, but her local docking station is at 591 Main Street.

Not only has the Assembly Member failed to introduce legislation empowering democracy here, she stayed silent when RIOC covered up its failure to protect the public water supply, last year, even appearing at an event, the new library groundbreaking, in which she played no active role, to bolster embattled RIOC president Susan Rosenthal.

When Rosenthal and fellow Cuomo favorite, Homes and Community Renewal director RuthAnne Visnauskas, came within hours of bungling Westview's long-sought and passionately resident supported affordability plan, Seawright was both silent and ineffective in support of residents.

Final note, both Rosenthal and predecessor Charlene Indelicato told me that would not have taken the job as head of RIOC if it was conditioned on living here.   

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