Takeaways From the June Board Meeting

June 26, 2019

From a long-awaited Blackwell House ribbon cutting to a new comfort station at the Octagon Field, a lot happened at yesterday’s board meeting. The highlight, however, was that three new Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation board members – Southtown’s Conway Ekpo, former Roosevelt Island Residents Association president Jeffrey Escobar, and part-time Islander David Kapell – were confirmed by the State Finance Board late last week and were seated in time for yesterday’s board meeting. 


 Conway Ekpo, far right is seated next to David Kapell. Jeffrey Escobar is second from left.


The board approved a plan to amend the sublease agreement between RIOC and the MTA so the MTA can build an above ground vertical structure next to Strecker Laboratory, in Southpoint Park. The structure will be 720 square feet and its purpose is to house a generator that would restore transportation to the 53rd Street tunnel in case of a storm. 


Patrick Ijiogbe, of the MTA explained that there was a tremendous fall-out from Superstorm Sandy. Some areas, like the Rockaways, did not have subway access for six months after the storm. As a result, “we are moving all of our control systems up,” he said explaining why these vertical structures are necessary. In case of power loss, the generators will be deployed. 

 The structure will be located south of the Strecker Laboratory. No money is being received by RIOC for the easement. The MTA is considered a "sister authority" and the work is being done for the public good.


At the Operations Advisory meeting last week, RIOC board member Michael Shinozaki, who did not attend the board meeting, questioned why RIOC is ceding more space to the MTA when this generator would not benefit our subway line. He said, “we are losing land and space for the benefit of Queens and the City of New York.” 


Plans for what the actual structure will look like will be presented and decided on at another meeting.


A seventh amendment to the Manhattan Park lease was also approved by the board. According to RIOC’s outside counsel, Wall Street based general practice firm Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, the negotiation between Manhattan Park and RIOC regarding this amendment has been ongoing since 2014. 

The board unanimously approved RIRA’s public purpose fund recommendations marking the meeting’s first unanimous vote. RIOC is not obligated to follow the RIRA’s recommendation, and last cycle marked one of the rare times they overruled RIRA. The non-profit that received the highest amount, $33,000 of the $150,000 pot was the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association. In their report, the public purpose committee recommended that all allocated funds be used for the purchase of a new bus. 


RIOC’s financials were also approved, including its annual report, procurement report, and investment report. 


The Octagon Field comfort station project, described by RIOC Assistant Vice President of Capital Planning and Projects Jonna Carmona-Graf as a “complete upgrade,” adding that “it hasn’t been touched in 20 years,” will include a green roof shade structure, new seating and landscaping and new ADA pathways. The structure itself will also be ADA accessible. 


The work will be completed by Sea Crest Construction who is responsible for the new bridges in Lighthouse Park. Including a 15% contingency, the board approved the $5.947 million project. Carmona-Graf explained last week in the Operations Advisory committee meeting that a factor in RIOC’s decision making process was how the applicant would complete the comfort station with the field hypothetically in use. 


Where Blackwell House is concerned, there is one last piece of work left. There is algae growing on the roof and it needs cornice repairs. The board approved the project and expects it to be complete in three months.


In her President's Report, RIOC President Susan Rosenthal, said the granite has been ordered for the Hope Memorial and they are awaiting approval from the comptroller. The carpet for Octagon Field has also been ordered and that project is on schedule. There are 125 seawall railings panels left and by Labor Day, that project will be complete. 


Expect a Blackwell House ribbon cutting in September and what Rosenthal called a "great celebration" in honor of Chief Jack McManus whose last official day is June 30. The celebration will take place on July 25 at the Manhattan Park Theatre Club between 6:00-9:00pm.


The next meeting of the RIOC Board is scheduled for September 5, 2019. 


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