One Westview Tenant Watches in Disbelief

Frustrated and In the Dark, the View from Westview

Eileen Gardiner
Tom Otterness's "Marriage of Money and Real Estate" in the East River at Roosevelt Island
Tom Otterness's "Marriage of Money and Real Estate" in the East River at Roosevelt Island
Photo by Ron Musto

A recent real-estate article in the Main Street Wire (9.16.17), with a 3-column headline hailing “Affordable Housing,” failed to mention Westview even once. Meanwhile Westview is the real-estate story on Roosevelt Island, the elephant that sits atop the RIOC office. 

But the Wire, not for the first time, has completely ignored it. It ran an article on Roosevelt Island Housing of almost 1400 words and failed to print the word “Westview.” 

The 300 families remaining in Westview have now been waiting an entire year since September 2016, when they overwhelmingly approved a co-op conversion plan offered by the sponsor David Hirschhorn. 

Twenty-five years had already gone by since the Westview residents first organized to open the door to co-op conversion. 

What has finally happened is: almost nothing. 

After our vote, we expected things to move into full gear some time around January 1, 2017. Instead, we were told by the Westview TaskForce, RIOC, and our political representatives that the conversion was in the hands of the New York Albany-based agencies.  

Let them work out the details, and we’ll be back to you shortly, they said. 

Nine more months have now passed. RIOC, DHCR, political leaders, the Main Street Wire, and even Westview’s own TaskForce have fallen silent.

Meanwhile, Westview families are being robbed of their ability to act as residents, taxpayers, citizens, and agents of their own futures.  

These families have been trying to make good and informed decisions about schools and jobs and retirement, about their parents and their children, about their financial resources and their commitments, while the future of their housing — the largest single factor and expense for the average NYC household — remains a mystery. 

Westview residents didn’t choose to make housing the biggest financial factor in their lives.  

The voracious real-estate market and the dreadful housing policies of New York State and City did that. 

Meanwhile, as those 300 families try to responsibly navigate their lives and maintain a community, all they hear are pre-fab answers, stalling, and blame-shifting. The truth remains unspoken and unpublished. 

Trying to understand why Westview’s deal remains undone — with the looming alternative of falling into the luxury-rental rabbit hole — one has to ask “who profits?” from the current stalemate, and who profited from the long, long delays in converting Island House as well? 

Just follow the money. 

The big winner, intentionally or not, has always been Rivercross. 

As long as Westview and Island House remained rentals, they served as feeder buildings for Rivercross. 

Westview was full of people eager to buy, but since they were long denied ownership of the river-view apartments they enjoyed, they were forced to settle for second-floor Rivercross apartments overlooking Main Street, scooping up anything that came on the market. 

If they played nice, they might then be rewarded with a more “choice” apartment. 

Rivercross harvested a ready market of eager buyers at the expense of Westview’s community and history of involvement and shared governance. At the same time, the situation effectively robbed Westview and its families of any freedom of “choice.”

With its residents discouraged by twenty-five years of delays and completely losing faith in the process, there has been an enormous exodus from Westview to Rivercross. The long delay also made Rivercross “first to market” with privatization among the WIRE buildings. 

Then continued delays allowed Rivercross’s continued control of this market. 

That’s the real Marriage of Money and Real Estate on Roosevelt Island. That’s the real story here.

The fate of 300 families rests in the hands of the Island residents on the RIOC Board and with DHCR, which seems to have completely lost the thread of the narrative. 

This same DHCR knew of and allowed the excessive vacancy rate in Westview, with the assent and support of the Westview TaskForce, for over ten years.  

But it now seems “shocked, shocked” and is holding up the deal to exonerate itself from accountability. 

Finally, thanks to the Roosevelt Island Daily’s interview with owner and sponsor David Hirschhorn, it seems that the Westview residents and sponsor are all publicly on the same page and want to get this plan done now. 

Isn’t it time for RuthAnne Visnauskas, Susan Rosenthal, Rebecca Seawright, Ben Kallos, Jose Serrano and Andrew Cuomo to focus ever so briefly on the 300 families who have been waiting impatiently for them to finally do the right thing?

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