Roosevelt Island democratic representation suffered another setback yesterday
when 1 of two Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board Directors who are no longer Roosevelt Island residents,
chose to remain on the Board with the apparent approval, or indifference, of
Governor Hochul and
RIOC announced yesterday:
Jeffrey Escobar is tendering his resignation from the Board of Directors of
the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation due to his change in residency.
Confirmed by the Senate on June 20, 2019, Mr. Escobar held one of five
public member board seats designated for Roosevelt Island residents. RIOC
truly appreciates Mr. Escobar’s service and contributions to the RIOC Board
of Directors and the Roosevelt Island community. His presence and input will
be greatly missed.
David Kapell remains a duly appointed member of the Board of Directors of
the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. Confirmed by the Senate on June
20, 2019, Mr. Kapell holds one of the two public member board seats that do
not carry a residency requirement. RIOC’s board and the community as a whole
benefit from Mr. Kapell’s dedication to Roosevelt Island and we thank him
for his continued service.
Both Mr Kapell and Mr Escobar moved from Roosevelt Island about a year ago yet
remained on the RIOC Board until Mr Escobar’s resignation yesterday….
During the October 28, 2021 Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors meeting Public Session, RIOC General Counsel Gretchen Robinson reported that Governor Hochul’s
… has confirmed and double confirmed and triple confirmed that Mr Kapell is
serving in a legitimate seat and is not violating any regulation or rules or
laws. We appreciate his service to the Board….
On January 10, 2022, Roosevelt Island’s NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and State Senator Jose Serrano introduced legislation
… to amend the public authorities law, in relation to requiring
certain directors of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to be
residents of Roosevelt Island and to require the appointment of certain
vacant board positions within sixty days…
… The provisions of this bill would:
- Clarify the residency requirement
for certain public appointments to the board of directors of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation and stipulate for their immediate
resignation from the board upon termination of such residency;
for the appointment of a successor within 60 days when a board vacancy
occurs within an unexpired term;
- Require the posting of job vacancies
on the corporation’s website; and, *Provide that this act shall take
I asked Ms Seawright if she was calling for Mr. Kapell to resign or be removed from the RIOC Board. Ms Seawright replied:
The purpose and the spirit of the legislation I am proposing with Senator
Serrano is to ensure that a majority of the board members are residents of
Roosevelt Island. Any resident serving on the board who moves off the Island
should step down and allow a qualified resident to serve.
Here’s the press release from Ms Seawright’s office:
A majority of the members of the board of the Roosevelt Island Operating
Corporation will be required to reside on the island under proposed state
legislation introduced by Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and Senator Jose
The measure is part of a series of reforms to bring great accountability and
transparency to the operations of the board, the governing body serving more
than 11,000 residents. Five of the nine appointees to the board must reside on
the island. The governor appoints four resident board members. The mayor
appoints one resident board member.
A separate bill sponsored by both legislators would also require residency for
the chief executive officer of the corporation. A non-resident chief executive
officer would be required to relocate to the island within one year of
“These proposals will ensure greater local participation in the
governing of Roosevelt Island,” said Assembly Member Seawright. “Given the
Roosevelt Island community’s unique governance structure under a State Public
Benefit Corporation, it is imperative that resident perspectives and voices be
represented on RIOC’s board of directors.”
Senator Serrano said, ”For years, Roosevelt Island residents have sought
greater representation on matters of governance and the decisions that affect
their day to day lives. These bills represent common sense measures that will
help achieve those important goals.”
Other provisions would:
Clarify the residency requirement for certain public appointments to the board
of directors of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation and stipulate for
their immediate resignation from the board upon the termination of such
Provide for the appointment of a successor within 60 days when a board vacancy
occurs within an unexpired term;
Require the posting of job vacancies on the corporation’s website.
Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Vice President Erin Feely-Nahem reacts to the Seawright/Serrano legislation:
I totally support that residents sit on the RIOC Board but they should be
elected by the community, not appointed by any politician. Great step forward!
Thank you Assembly Member Seawright and Senator Serrano.
The requirement for the CEO to have residency on Roosevelt Island will finally
allow them to truly understand the problems and issues we face, as well as the
consequences experienced when things do not get done in a timely manner.
Former RIRA President Matt Katz adds:
This legislation is redundant and would only reinforce the legislation we
negotiated with Gov. Pataki in 2004 and passed into law at that
In recent years, we know that RIOC chose to leave Board seats empty and then
fill them with non-residents, part-time residents and people with no track
record of community support or participation. This was made possible by
a governor named Cuomo who chose to ignore decades of work towards democracy
through the ballot-box and who showed us nothing but arrogance and
It also occurs to me that RIOC presidents and CEOs, of whom there have been
sixteen or seventeen in the 33 years I’ve lived here (who can remember these
place-holders) none of whom have lived here or who had any skin in the game
might be required to be residents with the same need for RIOC competence that
I and my neighbors require.
It has been suggested that the 99-year lease between the State and City of New
York, scheduled to expire in 2068, could be terminated now and Roosevelt
Island restored to democratic government through municipal
Given that the development of the Island, the reason for the original
lease, has run its course, this is an idea that should be discussed and
debated, and with the participation of the community. I hope to meet
with Gov. Hochul to bring her up to speed on our convoluted history.
According to the current RIOC governing legislation:
… The board of directors of the corporation shall be composed of nine
members. One member shall be the commissioner, who shall serve as the
chair; one member shall be the director of the budget; and seven public
members shall be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent
of the senate. Of the seven public members, two members, one of whom
shall be a resident of Roosevelt Island, shall be appointed upon the
recommendation of the mayor of the city; and four additional members
shall be residents of Roosevelt Island. Each member shall serve for a
term of four years and until his or her successor shall have been
appointed and shall have qualified,…
… the commissioner and the director of
the budget shall serve so long as they continue to hold their respective
offices. Any action taken by the directors of the corporation shall be
taken by majority vote of the directors then in office. The elected
public officials who represent Roosevelt Island shall be representatives
to the board of directors of the corporation entitled to receive notice
of and attend all meetings of such board but shall not be entitled to
vote. Failure to give such notice shall not affect the validity of any
action taken at a meeting of such board….
Former RIOC Board Director Margie Smith comments:
I like the idea of clarifying the residency requirement for board members, but it’s hard to believe it needed clarification. But, it did.
The law states that the term is four years, and until his or her successor shall have been appointed and shall have qualified. So, what’s an unexpired term? The terms don’t expire. Board members have been sitting on that board for years after their four years are up. If we’re not going to get elected board members, the ones who’ve been there more than four years should either be reappointed or replaced.
As for the point about the CEO living on the Island, it’s been within the power of the Board to make this happen ever since the legislation gave them a majority of the seats. When an opening occurs for a CEO, the Board should either do it’s own job search, and/or let the Governor’s office do a search, but let them know that the only CEO they’ll approve is one who lives on the Island.
I don’t feel strongly at all about having a CEO that lives on the Island as long as the person in the job has been appointed by an elected Board, with a majority of residents, who felt he/she was the right person for the job, not a rubber stamp on an Albany selection. The Board has had this power for years. They’ve just never exercised it. A good relationship between the board and the Governor’s office would make this legislation unnecessary. Maybe with Governor Hochul things will change.
The next RIOC Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday January 27. As of now, there is no Agenda posted on the RIOC website for the meeting.
There are currently 7 RIOC Board Members and 2 unoccupied Board seats.
Will former Roosevelt Island resident Dave Kapell still be a member of the RIOC Board for the January 27 meeting? Stay tuned.