Something's Gotta Give

Westview Affordability: RIOC Demands Secrecy, Helstien Flames the Task Force

Updated 13 weeks ago David Stone
Westview Affordability: RIOC Demands Secrecy, Helstien Flames the Task Force

RIOC's Real Estate Development Advisory Committee (REDAC) meets tomorrow, July 18th. On the agenda: Westview Ground Lease Negotiations. Not on the agenda: consideration of Westview's anxious tenants as it's already been announced that they will go into "executive session," an inflated term that means everyone else will be locked out.

After more than a year and a half of drawn out negotiations, highlighted by RIOC's moving the goal line every time it's near getting crossed, RIOC still shows little regard for the legitimate concerns of tenants left dangling, reliant on rumors and gossip and torn by in-fighting and backstabbing.

Flawed though it may be, the Westview Task Force is the only legitimate source for information that's willing to speak openly, but that's not stopped Sherie Helstien, who runs a parallel Google discussion group, from undermining the tenants' elected representatives.

Last weekend, after Task Force member Paul Lenner took time to meet with tenants and update with as much as he knew, Helstien blasted him.

"Paul doesn't have a clue and repeats what he's told to repeat," she wrote, suggesting some hidden conspiracy.

Helstien didn't identify who she believes told Lenner to repeat anything, but went on, "Paul is either totally unknowledgeable (and how can that be when he's lived in the building as long as or longer than many of us and used to be active on the Board many years ago), or he's or is being a 'good soldier' and passing along untruths as he's been instructed to do."

Sherie Helstien at the Tram's 40th Anniversary Ceremony
Sherie Helstien at the Tram's 40th Anniversary Ceremony

This is the sort of conspiracy theorizing to which tenants are continually subjected as the result of RIOC's lack of transparency and leadership.

And Helstien's demonizing doesn't stop there.

Attacking Lenner's suggestion about why tenants are not being allowed to switch apartments as needs change, she hammers David Hirschhorn, who represents Westview's ownership or Mitchell-Lama sponsor. She's so angry she misspells Hirschhorn and misplaces whatever she knows about good grammar.

"RIOC has nothing to do with the Hirschorn's decision to allow or not allow tenants to switch apts! And Hirschorn doesn't give a flying F about 'favoritism'! Really...come on, now! Another crock! This is purely up to the LL, it is HIS building. And the only government agency that has oversight over this process would be HCR, NOT RIOC!"

Helstien seems unaware that the sponsor has a ground lease with RIOC, not HCR (Homes and Community Renewal), which oversees RIOC in any case. It's that ground lease that's the point of contention, that is, how it will be restructured if an affordability plan is approved.

Somebody tell her.

Since Helstien detests the affordability plan overwhelmingly approved by her neighbors and has from the day it passed, publicly pledging to have the vote overturned at the first REDAC meeting where it was considered. There's a question of who she's serving with her rants.

Why let RIOC off the hook while attacking everyone else?

What's more, in the same post, she dished out what anyone paying attention knows is singularly bad advice.

"I'd still strongly suggest," she wails in a trail of run-on sentences and misspellings, "tenants keep after Seawright and Kallos if they said they'd help they should feel the pressure from everyone who's got the apartment changing issue or any other one as a matter of fact.  When they both get sick of hearing from WV tenants, maybe they'll repond and help just to get rid of you!  So tenants who want this change of apartments need to call EVERY DAY to both pols' offices until neither Kallos or Seawright can stand it and will finally act on the complaints/problems they've themselves have said they could/would help with."

Neither Seawright nor Kallos have direct relations with Westview's sponsor nor are they participants in negotiations.

But there's a possibility of good news, not of course from Helstien.

With RIOC's Board on recess until September, it's unlikely a REDAC meeting would be scheduled "just because." 

So-called negotiations, since RIOC reneged on a deal that had been struck in March, have looked more like a game of who blinks first. So, the meeting carries with it a burden of expectation that there's something to discuss, some progress, somebody blinked.

Sadly, RIOC again choses to go into executive session, conducting the meeting behind closed doors with residents and media pushed aside as inconveniences. But executive sessions end. If a vote is to be taken on an agreement, it should be done in a public session prior to adjournment.

RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal has alerted the Board that she will call them into session to vote if an agreement is reached in time to save Westview's sponsor's financing arrangement. This could be a prelude carrying with it some certainty since REDAC includes all three public members of RIOC's shrunken Board.

A "Yes" vote from any one of them is all an agreement needs to pass.

We'll be there and will report as soon as it makes sense to do so.

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