Spurned in PPF Shakeup, Common Council Goes On Attack


The Common Council, led by Frank Farance, launched an unbridled attack on the Carter Burden Network as well as this newspaper yesterday. The Roosevelt Islander blog firmly stood by the attacks, allowing a misleading, falsehood laden screed to be distributed online. Publisher Rick O’Conor rejected requests that the attack be removed because of numerous falsehoods.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Common Council member Frank Farance with elected officials in 2018.
Farance, center right in vest, with Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and Senator José Serrano on Roosevelt Island Day in 2018.

A Rejection the Common Council Can’t Get Over

Scarcely more than a shadow of its once respected role as community advocate, the Common Council suffered a stinging rebuke last fall when, following a RIOC ethicists revue, it was kicked out of its role in distributing Public Purpose Funds.

This hurt because it was about the only thing left on their plate besides sitting around once a month and chatting. None of it was impactful nor do residents expect much from the group, these days.

But observers saw it coming as, paired up with RIOC, a Common Council committee recommended a bizarre set of grants for the third straight year. And once again, RIOC executives had to revise them, but this time, they went farther.

Among the strange recommendations, the committee approved a five figure grant for a traveling tango company. In what appeared as potential fraud, the group was bizarrely identified as part of the New York Foundation for the Arts. NYFA is itself a granting organization supported by corporate partnerships.

At the same time, multiple local nonprofits saw slashing cuts in their funding. The Common Council/RIOC logic was impenetrable, if it existed at all.

In the end, the tango funding was removed and so was the Common Council.

A Fresh Start

An ethicist recruited by RIOC recommended bringing sanity along with fairness into what had become a clown show. A new contract moved the entire PPF process to the New York Community Trust, a group with over a century of experience and a respected reputation.

Since then, the Common Council and especially Farance has been unable to forgive The Daily for exposing the issues nor the Carter Burden Network for successfully appealing results.

The Common Council Attack

Even though the NYCT contract has been in place for six months, the Common Council launched multiple reality-challenged assaults on it. Understanding that is easy. What else have they got? But yesterday, led by Farance, they escalated in a take no prisoners assault on the Carter Burden Network and me personally.

Farance penned an attack letter to RIOC, its board, every elected official he could think of and a few others. Then, he posted the entire screed on the Roosevelt Islander blog. Citing multiple falsehoods, we asked publisher Rick O’Conor to remove the posting. He refused, claiming it was all just Farance’s “opinions.”

One so-called opinion: “David Stone fails journalism with false statements, he’s caught in multiple lies.” Of course, Farance failed to identify even one, and challenged, O’Conor could not either. But he still refused to remove the statement.

I will let my reporting speak for itself.

Attacking the Carter Burden Network

By far, the potentially most damaging of Farance’s Common Council assaults hit the Carter Burden Network. He objects fiercely to the highly respected nonprofit’s appealing unfair grant recommendations he took part in. He describes them as “political” and forcing RIOC to knuckle under. None of the other nonprofits objecting to the Common Council’s bizarre recommendations gets a mention.

Underlying all this is the fact that CBN was brought in to rescue the Roosevelt Island Senior Center after a local group, then managing, was kicked out when the city’s Department of Investigations uncovered hundreds of thousands in stolen funds. The Roosevelt Island Senior Association’s top manager pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including a felony.

This mess was widely mischaracterized, including in the Roosevelt Islander blog, as an outside organization stealing a contract from an innocent local group. Only The Daily followed the case to the end and corrected the record.

Do good deeds go unpunished? Not on Roosevelt Island it seems. Farance and the Common Council smeared me by name to numerous public officials as well as the Carter Burden Network, getting a distribution assist from Rick O’Conor and his Roosevelt Islander blog. Neither will ever make a retraction or apologize to anyone.

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