Make the bastards listen, Roosevelt Island. Kick a little ass now because it’s the only path you have for running your own community.

Opinion by David Stone

Roosevelt Island News


Kick Some Ass Now, Roosevelt Island. Make the Bastards Listen

Government on Roosevelt Island is nearly as un-American as a bottle of borsch imported from Russia. Politicians turn a tone deaf ear, approving taxation without representation in silence.

A fiercely un-democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo aggravated the situation over ten years in office. But ding-dong, the witch is finally dead, and a new governor is responsible for RIOC.

Because you can’t vote the 100% appointed execs running Roosevelt Island out of office, you’ve gotta speak up and make the bastards listen.

RIOC’s tradition of lying undermines trust. They need to go or do better, but since neither is likely to happen voluntarily, Roosevelt Islanders must make the bastards listen.

Here’s a primer. Polish those boots and shoes, and let’s get kicking. Figuratively, of course, but forcefully.

#1 RIOC: Make the Bastards Listen

When New York City signed off on a 1960s dream plan turning Welfare Island over to the state, the idea was not about letting real estate developers run the show. It was the opposite. An idealised community spirit, not money, would be the guiding light.

And it was not about cutting the community out of the mix in determining how things are run.

But after a few corrosive decades and ten miserable more with Andrew Cuomo at the helm, it’s what we’ve got.

RIOC, a state appointed public benefit corporation, is impervious to community concerns and has evolved into a hermetic pool of self-serving bureaucrats.

Make the bastards listen now, and beat down the walls. The ineffective firewalls, that is.

A how-to list of who to contact and how follows.

Firewall 1: RIOC’s Board of Enablers Directors

Of Governor Cuomo’s many sour notes in playing Roosevelt Island like some discardable fiddle, the sourest is his manipulation of RIOC’s board, twisting governing past legal limits.

When the Urban Development Corporation handed Island development over to the newly formed Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the enabling legislation was clear.

An appointed, but independently run board was the goal. The mayor retained some, small influence, and all appointments were subject to state senate approval.

The resulting board of nine would do all the hiring and firing, and empowered by later additions, secure independence with a local majority.

But none of that happens because Cuomo deftly worked around the laws, asserting iron-fisted, deaf-eared control. That’s another story, but here’s what you can do to make the bastards listen.

Kick some ass and make the bastards listen when they have no choice…

One of the most powerful, yet least used platforms for voicing community concerns is the public session at every board meeting.

In normal times, you reserve a spot at the mic before formal business begins, and you briefly lay out your points. Comments can certainly be positive or just advisory, but usually, they are not.

Flipped sideways now by COVID-19, this option has changed and for the better and with a chance for some malicious humor.

Rather than stand at the microphone while an indifferent gaggle of board members and RIOC execs look on, you post up to 500 words with your most heartfelt thoughts.

An easy to use form awaits you, but… “Public comment should be for the purpose of receiving comment, not to engage in debate or colloquy with board members,” are the instructions.

What that means is, they probably don’t want to hear it, and they ain’t gonna respond. But you can make the bastards listen, anyway, because they have no choice.

Here is the direct link for posting your comment, and it will be read at the next board meeting.

The humor? Your well-crafted and well-aimed words will be read by RIOC’s chief counsel, an individual normally as engaged with the community as the Queen of Sheba. If there is one.

So, do it. Whether your comment is about destroying Southpoint Park, RIOC’s indifference toward community interests or an employee deserving praise, it should be said in public, even if not by you.

Board members: If you can’t make the bastards listen, you can try getting them to read…

Like everyone else in this big old wonderful world, members of RIOC’s board of enablers directors all have email addresses.

Look, they can always junk your email, but some of it might leak into their skulls via their eyeballs. So, it’s worth a try.

Here’s the roster:

  • Smartest but, also, most angry and corrosive: David Kraut,
  • Kindest and least willing to speak up: Howard Polivy,
  • Most engaged and willing to resist the Cuomo force field: Michael Shinozaki,
  • Wise and experienced but most Cuomo-enabled: David Kapell,
  • Most soaked in real community involvement, Jeffrey Escobar,
  • Least known locally, the mysterious Conway Ekpo,

These men — yes, sadly, an all boys club — are obliged to serve faithfully and honestly. When they don’t hear from you, the firewall protecting Roosevelt Island from state overreach and unprotected corruption grows as porous as your oldest pair of socks.

Kick some ass in RIOC’s executive offices…

To be clear, you have no say whatsoever over who occupies the chairs or which decisions concerning quality of life are made, but you just might have something to say to them.

  • President/CEO, Shelton J. Haynes, in over is head and bossed around by Albany as well as subordinates:
  • Chief Financial Officer, John O’Reilly, a skilled, experienced fiscal manager dealing with extreme circumstances, but a listener:
  • Chief Legal Counsel and least accessible, Gretchen Robinson:

Thought out emails give RIOC execs and board members a fair chance at considering your concerns when there’s free time to absorb, but you can also call.

Main number: (212) 832-4540. You might even get someone to pick up the phone.

Elected officials: Make these bastards listen for a change…

A huge benefit of making elected officials listen is that it forces them to stop talking, and it might even get them to think about what they promised in election season. And that is, being our champions in the operations of government.

Don’t laugh. Most start out with that ambition, but then…

Here’s who we’ve got…

  • Soon term-limiting out but nurturing the finest constituent services, city council member Ben Kallos:
  • Keen on listening, but weak on spine, state assembly member Rebecca Seawright:
  • Remote, but aware, with a huge constituency inhibiting action, state senator José Serrano:

Make the Bastards Listen Conclusion

True, RIOC has a long-established, inbred resistance to the community paying the bills and eager for better conditions, but there have been cracks of light.

Some board members have deep community roots and others have volunteered in community service. They care, even though you may have to work to make these particular bastards listen.

And the last two RIOC presidents, Charlene Indelicato and Susan Rosenthal, whether you agreed with them or not, were engaged. They walked around town and even paused to chat sometimes, although Haynes does not anywhere nearly as frequently.

Take advantage of these openings. Nudge the door open farther, and don’t give up.

After all, what are you going to say to your grandchildren when they ask what you did during the RIOC wars?

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