Lawless RIOC must get out, and it needs to drag the HOLE with it out the door. Crucial failures accelerated since Boss Cuomo kicked Susan Rosenthal out. The only hope is a complete do-over and start again.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Opinion by David Stone
Overview: Why RIOC must get out…
Realistically, RIOC isn’t going anywhere. The state passed laws and signed deals creating it. It was a handoff between State agencies, and that won’t be reversed.
But spiritually and emotionally, RIOC must get out and start afresh. Albany overseers have hidden for too long, mismanaging from afar, and local emphasis, attention to people, must return.
Why RIOC Must Get Out
Calling for RIOC’s dismissal or, realistically, reinvention rises from causes both near and far, but the overall issues are simple.
Let’s put it this way. RIOC never absorbed much of the community, and it grew like a second head disconnected from its other head and its shared heart. RIOC, in short, is a parasite.
It’s so damned un-American, it belongs in another world where leaders never listen because they don’t have to. They never stand for election, reelection or even approval. Their main goal is protecting their jobs, and it should never have gotten this way.
Yes, political leaders are accused everywhere of not listening to constituents, and it’s always somewhat true. But the Roosevelt Island crew takes the cake because power-sharing does not sever their interests.
Developing reasonable local empowerment could’ve set the stage for success, long ago. But politicians turned RIOC into an insulated piggybank instead.
Failing firewall #1: The HOLE
From Albany bosses preceding Governor Andrew Cuomo, residents fought for and won the right to a locally dominated board of directors. That’s a firewall, or should be, buffering against Albany’s excesses.
But Cuomo figured out how to undermine the progress of local democracy. And instead of a responsive board of directors, we end up with a HOLE: A Herd of Local Enablers, at the beck and call of Team Cuomo.
Crafty Andrew wielded his power to appoint new board members by allowing seats to sit empty and by extending terms of reliable “Yes” votes. As retirements of three women members tipped the balance of power, he calmly left their seats empty.
This enabled such furiously anti-local actions as blowing away forever a 40 year old institution, the Roosevelt Island Youth Program. And at the same time, it brilliantly empowered staff malcontents and tripled the budget while reducing services.
Most important, it got the locals out and outsiders in.
While local board members voted 3-2 to keep RIYP, Cuomo’s two appointed overseers overruled community sentiment.
The HOLE becomes whole…
After Boss Cuomo watched three female board members retire, he finally moved to fill out the board, although a single seat awaits a recommendation from Mayor de Blasio or, the way he’s going, more likely his successor. He replaced the women, each with deep community roots, with three men, only one of whom had ever been locally active in anything.
“He appointed who?” was a common refrain.
Recognized as a weak-willed boys club that will never rock the boat, the new guys made whole the HOLE.
Note: We’ve done the research. Our diligent team here at the Daily/News dug deep and found that the only time any of these men voted “No” on anything put before them, he misunderstood the question.
Our research also discovered that the only thing easier than an unanimous vote from this board of
enablers directors is falling off a log.
Simply put, Cuomo’s brilliant management of the board sealed its detachment from the community and its humble obedience to him.
That firewall is over, demolished, torn down, obliterated, but what came next is worse. RIOC now operates according to its own rules, not laws, and it all accelerated with canning Susan Rosenthal.
Why Lawless RIOC Must Get Out
Everything about ambushing Rosenthal stunk, looking like a set up carried out by insiders grasping for power. (You can read about that fiasco here.) But it happened so fast and behind closed doors that the way it violated established law slipped by.
Although a plot had been in the works for weeks, Team Cuomo — on Juneteenth, yet — announced firing Rosenthal by way of a press release shared only with the Post.
Bizarrely, Team Cuomo accused, a known BLM supporter, with a mixed race family, of being racist.
But wait a minute. Hiring and firing executives is the legal responsibility of RIOC’s board of directors, assuming they have one. And according to the official record, the full board never met on that day.
There was no public notice required by Open Meetings Law, and no minutes of any meeting exist, at least not publicly available as legally required. Consequently, there’s no reason to believe that any quorum existed or that any votes were taken.
Note: After the Roosevelt Island Daily called out this abuse of authority, RIOC posted a June meeting on its website, but not until September 2nd. In the video, board member David Kraut eagerly moves for naming Shelton Haynes as “interim” president without ever mentioning how or why the spot was vacant. Cuomo’s always acquiescent board of enablers happily votes “Yes.” Unanimously, of course.
No record on legally required public notices or availability for observing has ever been produced.
Topping off that hubris, someone or something immediately elevated Shelton Haynes as acting in replacement of Rosenthal. Again, there was no public record and no accountability and the HOLE grinned charmingly along.
After we raised some hell, the board of
enablers directors officially anointed Haynes a couple of weeks later, never apologizing, never admitting any error.
And so, it continued…
Both incidents raised questions about corruption and self-dealing.
But no problem, said the HOLE.
And the second assumed firewall, our elected officials, proved easily handled from Albany. In the end, the Democrats tooled up Haynes appointment and concerns about Southpoint and turned them into a thudding election campaign bore.
They should be ashamed of their negligence, but what we’re missing here is a simple capacity for shame itself. They ain’t got any.
In the meantime, a series of RIOC committee and board meetings took place, but none met the requirements of Open Meetings Law.
- Intimidate: Imperiled Seawright Hires Big Guns, Courts Media
- Roosevelt Island Chopped City
- Susan Rosenthal Ambushed: Who Really Knocked Her Off?
- Sanctuary Event Space opened on Roosevelt Island
- Strangeness of Inner Spaces
That, since the agendas now generates from the law department — tellingly exactly where the plot for firing Rosenthal incubated — RIOC essentially determined, through its own legal staff, that the laws don’t apply to them anymore.
Conclusion: RIOC Must Get Out
It will take leadership not currently in place. Reimagining RIOC as a responsive agency serving the community, not its own special interests, requires creativity.
And creativity requires independence, freedom for Albany’s political, paralyzing injections of self-interest.
How do we get there from here? We don’t know, but we did it before. And if we did it once, we can do it again.
It starts with electing better representatives. All those in place now — Seawright, Serrano, Kallos — take their orders from Albany or, at least, require Team Cuomo approval. That won’t work
There’s hope in the rising tide of new breed politicians hitting the scene.
What’s lacking is organized local power lost when the Residents Association common council fell apart. And with the old guard counted on to act as community pillars aging out, there’s a question about who might take their places.