How New York Screws Roosevelt Island With Taxes Without Benefits

How New York Screws Roosevelt Island With Taxes Without Benefits

New York screws Roosevelt Island. Because so few know how taxes without benefits burden the community, nobody tries defending it. But if you live on Roosevelt Island, you’re pockets are being picked. It all goes to Albany, and next to noting comes back.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Roosevelt Island Community Framed by the Queensboro Bridge
Roosevelt Island. View from Sutton Place in Manhattan ©David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily News

Take a Close Look at How New York Screws

With friends like these…

In early 2020, USA Today reported that New York State is #1… in collecting taxes. As a percent of income, Albany hauls in 13.8%, eclipsing next worst North Dakota by over a full percent.

Broken down, that’s $2,877 per person in income taxes. Roosevelt Island’s share: $31,647,000, based on a conservative estimate of 11,000 residents.

But it doesn’t stop there. We pay an additional $1,551 per person in sales taxes. That’s $17,601,000 from Roosevelt Islanders alone.

That’s nearly $50 million chucked into the state’s budget from just two revenue streams. Other taxes — on property, for example — and fees for licensing, tolls etc. add in even more.

Of course, some of it comes back. There are food help programs and housing support. And schools rely on state money for staying open.

But Roosevelt Island is exceptional in that RIOC, the least democratic form of local government in America, is a state agency that Albany does not help out with a nickel… and RIOC’s proud of it, even listing it as a Performance Goal.

To manage the Corporation’s resources with fiscal responsibility and efficiency through a single comprehensive process that is aligned with the Corporation’s strategic plan and to continue to operate without reliance on State subsidies.

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation: Performance Goals

How New York Screws Roosevelt Island: Questionable Goals

Municipalities like Roosevelt Island always benefit from State money. Whether it’s for the obvious, like police protection, or less obvious, development funds, Albany gives back much of what it takes in.

It’s standard political practice, but only on Roosevelt Island are they dubbed “subsidies.” That is, supported operating expenses, quality of life issues.

You might think that RIOC, a state agency, gets state money. But it doesn’t, not a dime. Worse yet, Governor Hochul, like Cuomo, runs the place, hiring, firing and controlling spending… without contributing a dime.

When New York took over the new community of Roosevelt Island, in 1968, the goals were ambitious. Developing a small town is something like nation building in miniature. Lots of money invested for an abstract plan.

Roosevelt Island was built on an ideal of economic diversity, comfortable living standards, shops and stores, for everyone.

How that worked out is for another time, but the state knew it must invest. And did. But about a quarter of the way through a hundred year gig, under the first Governor Cuomo, they began pulling out.

Although the state budget swelled, Albany decided it couldn’t afford Roosevelt Island anymore. The community must become self-sufficient, and since then, New York screws the community, making certain it is.

But New York keeps raking it in…

What Albany-controlled RIOC touts as a virtue, running without subsidies, is, in perspective, simply sickening.

Look at it from a different angle.

people girl capital luck
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

The most obvious way New York screws Roosevelt Island? It takes in over $50 million, but when it comes to paying for a bloated bureaucracy, it’s says you’re on your own.

And the governor, unapologetically, calls the shots, running RIOC by remote control, and never leaves a tip.

New York screws Roosevelt Island, departing from the plan…

You might think self-sufficiency was always part of the plan. It wasn’t. In fact, the enabling legislation from 1968 envisioned something else.

Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law, the director of the budget is authorized to transfer to the corporation from funds appropriated to the division for the fiscal year beginning April first, nineteen hundred eighty-four, the amount he determines necessary to carry out the provisions of this act,1 including providing for Roosevelt Island operations, capital improvement program and any other appropriate management expenses.

Roosevelt Island Enabling Legislation: § 6399. Transfer of appropriations

In clear English, RIOC gets whatever New York “determines necessary,” and under Cuomo, that’s nothing. At least in part because RIOC asks for nothing. And why should they, with thousands of local pockets to pick.

And the state agency running the community without consent or local advice boasts about it.

Empty storefronts, broken roads and insufficient maintenance result. These things need subsidies because our population isn’t sufficient for supporting all its needs independently. We do pretty well on necessities, like groceries, but Main Street’s increasingly the host of government services, not retail.

That includes the public disgrace of RIOC occupying Blackwell House, an historic farmhouse restored through millions in public money.

Yet, RIOC spends “like a drunken sailor…”

A real estate executive, reviewing RIOC’s budget at our request, responded, “Have you ever heard the term ‘spending like a drunken sailor?'”

That refers the once-upon-a-time phenomenon of sailors, after weeks at sea, emptying fat wallets in inebriated sprees of liberation.

Comparing that to RIOC may exaggerate, but not much.

In commanding a $30 million plus operating budget, RIOC pumps out over 20 six figure salaries with no indication the splurge has ever been evaluated. And suspicions about dozens of low and no show jobs are only buttressed by $4 million spent on a 50 member Public Safety crew that’s rarely seen.

Or justified by actual service.

And rubbing salt in the wound, RIOC hands out $150 thousand in Public Service Grants. Enabling legislation allows around six times that, nearly a million, but state largesse stops at the executives’ door.

Conclusion: New York screws Roosevelt Island, and it’s all legal…

That’s right. Elected representatives Rebecca Seawright, State Assembly, and José Serrano, State Senate, vote in favor of this abomination every year.

And although RIOC’s board no longer meets the legal mandate for local representation, community members approve the budget – and the philosophy – without a blink.

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    As you might’ve guessed, “Who earns more?” is a trick question because, if the obvious were the answer, nobody would ask. Haynes, presiding over 11,700 New Yorkers on one island, beats out Hochul in the race for take home pay. And there’s more. By David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News One Man Earns More
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