Last week, two Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation employees, public information officer Alonza Robertson, and Tamara Andreatta, director of asset management, both left the corporation.
They follow general counsel Jacqueline Flug, whose last day is February 8, Steve Noone, former assistant vice president of Capital Planning and Projects, whose last day was November 28, and CFO Kimberly Quinones, who left this past summer. So far, only Quinones has been replaced. Rosenthal says they are currently interviewing for Noone’s position.
Jacqueline Flug, RIOC general counsel is leaving for a role in the private sector.
In a matter of months, RIOC will have lost five public-facing staff members, all while in the midst of enormous capital investment requiring the balancing of a larger than normal amount of community needs, wishes, and wants. Organizations spend a lot of time and resources developing knowledge and capability. While some of it gets translated into procedures and policies, much of it – including the quirks of our Island and neighbors – resides in the heads, hands, and hearts of individual managers and functional experts. Developing that knowledge takes time.
What They Did
Robertson was hired during the height of the Youth Center controversy which ultimately led to RIOC taking over the program. He seemed a quick study on the dynamic of the Island, though he had only recently started attending Roosevelt Island Residents Association meetings. He posted regularly on RIOC’s social media pages, and served as a connection point between RIOC and the community. He responded on RIOC’s Facebook page, and appeared to bring some transparency to the corporation.
Andreatta’s job was not as well known as Robertson’s, but she was a visible presence on the Island for the short time she was here. She was collaborating on an assessment of all of the Island’s elevators, including the one in Motorgate. At the October RIOC board meeting, she requested and received funds to repair all of the cracks, potholes and and collapsed drains throughout the Island prior to winter. She also did work on the AVAC system.
Noone had a lot on his plate at the time he left. He was the lead on the Tram elevator project, the Octagon Soccer Field reconstruction, the Blackwell Plaza renovation, and was a big part of getting the final set of drawings for our irrigation systems when concerns arose over the source and quality of the water. He was the lead on the new dog park to be constructed north of 480 Main Street, and the planned work to be completed at Lighthouse Park that includes footbridge repairs, park landscaping, and adjacent pavement work.
Steve Noone at the October RIOC Board meeting
Public vs. Private Sector
RIOC president Susan Rosenthal says that for some employees, the draw of the private sector is just too strong. There is more money in the private sector for one, and in many cases, there aren’t the same types of restrictions, i.e., the laborious procurement process that often bogs things down in the public sector. RIOC was Noone’s first foray into the public sector and it wasn’t a fit.
Where Robertson is concerned, Rosenthal said that he will be replaced. She said a public information officer is “an important position to have at RIOC,” and the “job can be as big or as little as we make it,” but until someone is hired, the department of community affairs and Rosenthal herself will be covering those duties. Rosenthal says RIOC wants to listen to the community. “We don’t want to make decisions in a vacuum or based upon what we want.”
They are currently interviewing for Noone’s position and Rosenthal confirmed that “there are a lot of good people out there.” Regarding Noone’s heavy workload, she says that not only are there project managers assigned to each project there are also third party architects and engineers; she said everything should continue on schedule.
Goals for a new RIOC
However, Rosenthal had already acknowledged the delay Noone’s departure had on the soccer field reconstruction so it is clear that despite the best of intentions, personnel does have some impact on these project timelines. She wants RIOC organized in such a way that people can come and go and nothing stops; that is a worthy goal for RIOC, a place where the typical president lasts three years, and other key staff might not even make it that long.
Going forward Rosenthal said her goal is to build “the best RIOC ever,” and to that end is looking at “reorganizing the structure.” She said, “moving forward, it is an opportunity to get skills we didn’t have before.”
The RIOC Board Needs Members Too!
Meanwhile, the RIOC board is suffering the same problem. Margie Smith stepped down from her seat on the board after eight years, in April of 2018. Four days later, fellow Board member Fay Christian announced her resignation. Christian had been on the board since 2008. Those resignations left the nine-person Board with just five sitting members. Another seat had sat vacant since Island pediatrician, Dr. Katherine Grimm, stepped down in 2016.
RIOC Board members are appointed for four-year terms by the governor of New York with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Mayor of New York City is allowed to suggest two of the appointments, with only one of those required to be an Island resident. Smith, along with Board member Howard Polivy, was one of the Mayor’s appointees.
All current sitting board members’ terms are expired.