At a packed board meeting Thursday, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) voted to give the Roosevelt Island Youth Program (RIYP) $100,000 in funds for the next six-month period.
The decision was framed as a way to, “keep the Youth Center open,” by RIOC grant writer Sean Singh. Singh said that the money would come with increasing controls.
Singh characterized those controls as, “the way we would expect to monitor our future operator.” He said RIOC “would require regular information from the operator about attendance, programming, and staffing,” and added, “we will be doing drop-ins.”
Acknowledging the community commentary the recently withdrawn Youth Operator Request for Proposals (RFP) has provoked, board member Michael Shinozaki requested that audience members be allowed to address the board before the vote, but was voted down by the board.
RICCD President Dan Sadlier, one of many members of the public who came to speak out about this proposal, was disappointed at being denied the opportunity. “I was hoping to suggest that if they are extending funds to RIYP while waiting for the RFP [Request for Proposals] to be written, that those funds should be specifically designated to actual programming and environment enhancements to ensure increased programming effectiveness and safety immediately.”
Regarding the cancellation of the RFP, RIOC President Susan Rosenthal said, “We made a decision, which we had an absolute right to do. RIOC has the discretion to withdraw an RFP at any point.”
“Our sole interest is to have the best operator for our community,” she said.
General Counsel Jacqueline Flug has involved the Office of Child and Family Services to assist RIOC with both writing and rating the new Youth Operator RFP, “to get the grading away from us,” Rosenthal explained. “Because of hearsay and rumor, I want that [role] away from us.”
According to RIOC CFO, Kimberly Quinones, the Department for Youth and Community Development (DYCD) will come out with an RFP for the Beacon program next week, and it will be due April 1, for a September start date. According to Rosenthal, “DYCD doesn’t care about RIOC,” but “RIOC doesn’t want duplication [of programming].”
Rosenthal said, “We never cared if Beacon used RIOC money for their program while there was one operator, but that may change.”
To that point, Sadlier said, “In my opinion the RIYP board should be appointing a director who is raising funds from more streams than just two so the Youth Center doesn’t have to take a hit like it has over the past ten years. The reason the Youth Center has struggled is because its funding has been spent elsewhere. Why are we surprised by the state of the Youth Center if its funding is allowed to go to the Beacon programming?”
After the vote, Board member David Kraut said, “In the meantime, we have to keep the Youth Center open even if we’re not completely satisfied.”