Fails To Find A Place on Last Chance Board Agenda

Westview Affordability, One Step From Collapse

Updated 35 weeks ago David Stone
Westview Affordability, One Step From Collapse
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Westview's once heralded affordability exit from Mitchell-Lama, approved by a huge majority of tenants, totters on the brink of death, failing to earn space on RIOC's June Board agenda. Everyone involved knows that July 15th is the drop dead date for a financing arrangement Westview's sponsor negotiated. The Board meets next in September. All that remains is the death knell.

In spite of misinformation spread through Westview's Google Group by moderator Sherie Helstien on May 23rd, "... there is no problem with the current negotiations.  Generally, there was a question about the WV ground lease THIRTY YEARS from now...  There was no pulling or cancelling of the current deal," it had fallen apart.

Helstien who vigorously denounced the deal, days after it was approved by the vast majority of her neighbors, may have aided its demise by spreading nonsense like this, diluting tenant outrage. She claimed that a source inside State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright's office had clued her in.

She took it a step further, promising to "...put something into this week's issue of The WIRE correcting the misinformation and to allay WV tenants' fears, stoked by Stone."

But on the day of her post, the deal was already in free fall. After a May meeting between RIOC President Susan Rosenthal and and Board Chair RuthAnne Visnauskas with resident Board Members, David Kraut, Howard Polivy and Michael Shinozaki, Rosenthal scotched what was considered a done deal, memorialized in a letter to the State Comptroller in March.

RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal
RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal
Photo credit: Erica Spencer-EL/RIOC

Rosenthal demanded renegotiation to get more money.

What she really was after, some believe, was a full scale failure, undoing an agreement reached after a year and a half of sometimes contentious negotiation.

Because RIOC, including resident Board Members, has all the transparency of a lead shield, we don't have enough details to reach any conclusions, except that someone powerful who disdains affordability is pulling strings behind the scenes. It's well-known that policies advanced by Governor Cuomo, who controls RIOC and Rosenthal, are heavily influenced by real estate interests and that affordability is anathema to them, the diametric opposite of profitability. 

"Guess Susan got her wish," commented an insider after learning that the Westview affordability plan was absent from the last viable Board agenda.

It's the most plausible explanation for the Westview affordability plan's pending collapse.

In the most likely next step, Westview's sponsor will execute a market rate exit by the end of this year. Westview's owners, who say they haven't earned a dime in 47 years of supporting Mitchell-Lama and affordability, have soured on RIOC's trustworthiness. They believe it's past time for returns on their investment.

A stock of affordable housing was always part of the plan for Roosevelt Island as a foundation of the community's promise of diversity. After a projected Mitchell-Lama exit into market rate, Island House will be the only survivor of the Island's founding ideal.


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