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What happened to 2021 PPF grants? Why did RIOC turn out the lights?

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2021 PPF grants — Public Purpose Funds allocated by RIOC — disappeared after we exposed a deliriously bad distribution plan. Making matters worse, RIOC’s alleged Communications Department zipped its lip.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island Daily News

Because many depend crucially on PPF grants, local nonprofits anxiously await the granting process each year. But recent years have been different.

Newly hired CFO John O’Reilly put muscle behind reforming how RIOC determined grants and how swiftly community groups got their money.

Needy groups welcomed the change, but one strange element remained, stuck like a bad habit. Disregarding the Residents Association Common Council’s irrelevance in community affairs, the state agency still relied on them for guidance.

This is something like relying on a seeing eye dog who doesn’t know much about the neighborhood… but knows what it likes.

Disastrous results from the 2021 PPF grants process…

As we reported in early March, the recommendations floated out of the Common Council’s PPF committee approached comical, had they not threatened being so painful.

The committee, for example, cut funding for the Carter Burden Network by over 30%. CBN is a favorite target of the committee. Having saved the Senior Center after an emergency rescue call in 2016, the Common Council would not forgive them.

The apparent reason?

Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance was hit with a savage fund cut in part for covering tango lessons from an international touring group.

CBN replaced a hometown group that ran the center into the ground through mismanagement. In the aftermath, locals campaigned against the newcomer, even as their program manager confessed to multiple felonies.

Among the crimes, double-billing RIOC for a grant also funded by another provider. That theft, around $15,000 for equipment, was not repaid.

Moreover, the local group mislead the public, telling the media that their contract had not been renewed. Instead, they said, the outsiders — CBN — pushed them out when, in fact, their contract terminated early due to massive thefts and malfeasance.

But here’s the disturbing upshot: the committee, working closely with RIOC, awarded the local group, the Roosevelt Island Senior Association $16,000, this year, a chunk of it yanked away from the Carter Burden Network.

Worth noting, RISA never repaid the stolen grant, but worse yet, they have still never admitted wrongdoing or apologized to the community. They have, in fact, left the wounds inflicted on CBN unhealed.

But, believe it or not, there’s worse…

Read our previous report for other atrocious details, but one stands out as especially ridiculous.

The PPF committee awarded an apparent hybrid, New York Foundation for the Arts- Piazzolla-100, $11,000.

While there is no such organization in the first place, the strangely merged siblings do not, in total, tally up to a single worthy recipient.

The New York Foundation for the Arts, established in 1971, is itself a granting organization. They receive funding from many major corporations, and notably, they get money from both the state and city.

But RIOC, which gets money from neither, along with their Common Council partners, approved giving them some of what they collect from residents. It’s beyond strange.

NYFA is not a community group, as called for in their guidelines, and neither is Piazzola-100, a touring tango company. The committee’s only explanation is that they’ve “entertained folks on the island.”

And yet, that’s not what makes this screw up most egregious.

The committee claims, without supporting evidence, “Many residents are awaiting ‘Argentine Tango’ lessons.”

Roosevelt Island’s own Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance has offered tango lessons for years, but RIOC and the Common Council committee never noticed.

At least in part to support the giveaway to NYFA and Piazzola-100, MSTDA suffered a brutal $9,000 cut in 2021 PPF grants. They are now scrambling at reorganizing and hunting for other resources.

RIOC silence on 2021 PPF grants…

After our report, along with outrage among the nonprofits, RIOC yanked approval of the grants from the March board meeting. At that meeting, board members would normally approve the recommendations and distributions follow.

But, as far as can be determined, the awards were too awful for the presenting to the feckless board.

No one knows why. RIOC, a public benefit corporation that traded the “public” part for “employee,” simply went dark.

And it’s not just the media. Several nonprofits counting on funding tell The Daily that they haven’t heard a word either.

While no one outside the super secret state agency knows the fate of the 2021 PPF grants, many guess the final results will be less ridiculous.

But this is the ever unpredictable RIOC, of course, and all bets are off.

Logic is not a reasonable guide concerning their directions.

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