Nothing stays the same. Especially in politics!
Our Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) Board seats are as changeable as any other politically appointed posts. And, despite some residents’ desires or interests to keep things the same, that’s not our option!
Eight years ago, our community held its first election to determine who we wanted on the RIOC Board of Directors. We’re not allowed to elect those officers directly. But we can put a list of suggestions together to tell the governor who we want. And the governor did listen. The governor honored the Island’s vote and appointed Faye Christian, Dr. Kathy Grimm, Jonathan Kalkin, Howard Polivy, Michael Shinozaki, and Margie Smith.
David Kraut did not enter the race and provide Islanders with the ability to exercise their vote to either support keeping him on the board or not. Despite his term having expired, he was on the board already, and continued that way.
Along the way, Jonathan Kalkin was replaced by Sal Ferrara, who the community staunchly opposed, and who withdrew when he became embroiled in a scandal at the Child School that caused several dismissals, including his own.
The RIOC Board contains seven appointed seats. Each one has expired. Each seat is for a four-year term, but directors continue serving until they’re replaced or resign. Five of the seven seats, according to a law introduced by Assembly Member Pete Grannis, have to be filled by a Roosevelt Islander. Dr. Grimm and Sal Ferrara resigned. Some others would like to.
The community may or may not wish for the currently seated directors to continue. Decisions have been made by the board that impact the community, and which the community-at-large may not favor. For one thing, the entire board, except Margie Smith, voted to accept RIOC’s 2018 budget, which failed to include $23 million from New York State as payment for land Cornell annexed. And our Public Safety officers, paid for by our land leases, devote time to Cornell truck traffic while a mother walking her child home from school was attacked in broad daylight. No expansion of Public Safety staff is anticipated. RIOC President Susan Rosenthal says we don’t need more.
Instead of considering herself an employee of the Board, which – according to the law that created RIOC – she is; Rosenthal says she works for the governor. Moreover, she has told RIOC Board members that their job is to “rubber stamp” Albany’s directives. Without collectively voicing our concerns, and without exposing and opposing her mindset, it’s likely that the people the governor appoints will dutifully fall in line.
There are empty seats on the RIOC board, and there will soon be more. The governor can put anyone he wants in those seats. We need to make our voices heard or we risk waiving our right to express our opinions.
Not caring about this election is like not caring if our roads get repaired, or if our sports fields can be enjoyed by our children rather than being rented to the highest off-Island bidder.
We are lucky that five Island residents have thrown their hats in the ring. They are Brian Bower, Marc Block, Eduardo Jany, Mike Shinozaki, and Lydia Tang. All current directors have expressed their interest to remain or resign, except for David Kraut who is as silent on his intent as he has been in the past.
The governor can appoint as few as five Island residents to the Board, and they may or may not be our choices. But certainly, if we elect our choices, it follows that it is more likely that Governor Cuomo will honor our choices; the only way he will know who we want on that Board is if we vote. Voting remains the democratic way to govern our community.
Candidates’ Night will be held in the Senior Center at 546 Main Street at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12. Please attend in order to meet the people who could be making the decisions that all of us will live with in the coming years.
Volunteer to help with this election! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We need two hours of your time, or more if you have it, on April 17 and/or April 18. A volunteers’ meeting will take place at the Senior Center to cover logistics on Thursday, April 13, at 6:30 p.m. This election will be held in multiple locations, therefore, we need lots of hands. We cannot run this election without volunteers.
And please express your voice, loud and clear, by voting on April 17 or 18.
Chair, RIRA Government Relations