The Sheldrake Organization and its Blackwell Management subsidiary may seek to drop support of the Island’s Public Safety operation in future negotiations with the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC). That was one of several points brought out Monday and Tuesday evenings when the new owners of Westview and Island House met with residents of the buildings in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.
Neither of the meetings touched more than passingly on possible future resident ownership. Charles Lucido, who for many years has headed the investor groups that have owned each of the buildings, explained that such conversations are prohibited by law. “We are absolutely prohibited from talking about it,” he said. He did say that intractability in various RIOC administrations over the years had thwarted his personal goal of resident ownership, and added, “I will say this: I look forward to a positive outcome for all of us.” Lucido praised his new partner, J. Christopher Daly, the owner of the Sheldrake Organization, as someone who shares his “principles and ideals” and has the wherewithal to get the job done. “We’re meeting with your steering committee, and will continue to do that, as long as things are being handled constructively,” he concluded.
“Obviously, we understand there are probably a lot of questions about the future of the buildings,” said Robert Klehammer of Sheldrake. “We are discussing issues with RIOC at this time and it would be difficult for me to really address those issues. That’ll be another meeting at a later time.”
A building security organization would replace the Public Safety Department (PSD) within the buildings, Daly said, adding, “The overall plan should be that the New York City Police Department should have a presence on the Island.” His company is in continuing negotiations with RIOC, he said, on this and other matters.
RIOC controls the ground leases for the buildings. Any increase in ground rent associated with the planned privatization of the buildings’ mortgages, and any increase in PILOT payments (Payments in Lieu of Taxes), would impact directly on the cost of living in the buildings. At one point, Klehammer suggested that anticipated taxes could mean an increase of “about $300 to $400 per apartment,” but said the company is working toward keeping that figure down.
Tim Johns, who for years was active on the Island House Ownership Committee (IHOC), asked about empty apartments, asking for reports “required by law.” Daly assured him, “We have to submit those same reports to DHCR, and if we’re warehousing apartments, they penalize us.”
A member of the Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA), Joyce Mincheff, asked Daly to be mindful of how monies his organization pays to RIOC are used. “I want to ask you to take seriously your responsibility toward the needs of the residents not only for a better quality of life in the buildings, but also, because you, as the owner, are responsible for paying the land lease to RIOC, that you give attention to the services residents should receive on the Island in general – services paid for with the funds tenants pay you, and you in turn pay to RIOC. As you look around the Island, you’ll see that things have deteriorated. You hold the money. You receive money from each one of these residents, and you turn it over to RIOC, so all of us here would sincerely like to see you take a strong position in insuring that
RIOC applies the money that you pay in a worthwhile way.”
Mincheff added, “The garage, in particular, is a pet peeve.” Daly agreed. “The condition of the garage is deplorable,” he said. Mincheff added: “Our sidewalks, and our roadways… It’s like taxation without representation, because the people that run that money are appointed by the State of New York and not elected by the people here. In the past that money has not always been used effectively.” Daly responded, “Point well taken. Thank you,” and there was brief applause.
Frank Farance then connected Mincheff’s comments to the Island’s Public Safety Department (PSD). “That’s something we pay for, and they’re not doing the job,” Farance said. “Don’t be surprised to find that is a significant issue. That’s part of the equation here that you probably don’t have in your other buildings.”
“We ask that you call the local precinct as often as possible,” Daly responded. “The overall plan should be that the New York City Police Department should have a presence on the Island. Without you logging in complaints, they don’t hear you. The long-term strategy should be a New York City police presence on the Island.”
“RIOC does have an ear to listen to you,” Farance said, “because you pay the bill. We’re counting on you to represent our interests in that regard.”
Daly asked residents to make the Blackwell Management office, headed by Jennifer Jones, their first call “when you see something you don’t like.” He said, “If you see something you don’t like – that a porter’s doing, that security people are doing, our people are doing – call Jennifer, or call the maintenance people. Don’t talk to the super, don’t talk to someone else, don’t call Public Safety – call us.” (The Blackwell Management phone number is 212-755-3012, and Jennifer Jones’s e-mail address is JJones@BlackwellMgmt.com. Hours at the office are Monday through Friday 9-5, and 9-7 every first Thursday. Daly also told those attending the meeting that a box provided in lobbies for rent checks can be used to present suggestions and complaints, as well.)
After one complaint, Lucido offered a testimonial promise on behalf of Sheldrake. “What I find very surprising is the resistance the tenants showed to the change in management. Chris Daly’s intention here is to win you over, not with words, but with performance. These are very competent people here. I checked on his other buildings and what was going on there. The quality of life in those buildings that he owns and manages, from what I’m hearing, is superior to this. Let me add something else. You are very responsible, and very active, and I admire it. But there is something that goes on in this community and in our properties that disturbs me, and that’s a certain protection of tenants who offend your rights, who offend your quality of life, and that shouldn’t exist. I think that you should demand that the tenants live up to the standards of the community. Chris has explained – he did last night and I’m sure he will tonight – that if you report someone, that information, your identity will be kept in confidence, but they will see to it, if something that can be done to correct a lot of these continuing problems, they will attempt to correct it.”
Lucido continued, “We do pay too much for Public Safety. I had a big fight with RIOC over the past few years because they were increasing the charges, and again, because there were other issues on the table, we mitigated the problem somewhat, so that’s my little speech to you. I hope things improve.”
Frank Farance described a computerized system of reporting building problems – “something Judy Berdy called the þschmutz patrol'” – and their resolution, employed after the mid-’90s in cooperation with RIHMC.
[While Daly and some other members of his team used an amplified microphone in answering questions, tenants had none, and not all their questions or comments were audible on The WIRE’s recording of the meetings.]