New York City

RI Cherry Blossom Festival Nixed

Any ideas about a Cherry Blossom Festival for Roosevelt Island this year got nixed yesterday. Last year’s organizers conceded defeat, without accepting responsibility for the 2019 fiasco. All around bungling did the trick.

Reporting by David Stone

In disappointing ways, it was more of the same. A prime organizer of last year’s near disastrous Cherry Blossom Festival released a statement — no event, this year.

But just as her group did in wrapping up 2019, she blamed everyone else, accepting no responsibility at all. In fact, she pointed at her group’s successes, first. Then, chucked blame liberally.

Roosevelt Island News: Cherry Blossom Festival 2019
Beautiful weather for the 2019 Cherry Blossom Festival brought huge crowds. Organizers claimed they had no idea, although they spent weeks fending off warnings from the Roosevelt Island Daily and the Common Council.

To be fair, performances in FDR Four Freedoms Park succeeded spectacularly. A packed house watched dancers and musicians grace New York’s most tranquil venue.

Visitors poured into Four Freedoms Park, filling all seating early. They were not disappointed.

Why the 2020 Cherry Blossom Festival Got Nixed

Trouble started as the show ended. Crowds growing through the day congested in various locations. Businesses ran out of food and water, and there were nowhere near enough portable johns.

Car and truck traffic stalled all the way back into Queens, and the MTA barely averted disaster by shutting down escalators and rushing extra trains into the station.

New York media, especially the Post, low on actual reporters for the weekend, played Twitter feeds as news, guaranteeing only the worst bitching got notice.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2019 brought heavy volume to the subway.
The MTA sent personnel and extra trains to avert a potential disaster for the Roosevelt Island Subway Station.

Then, the blame game started. Organizers Lydia Tang and Lynne Strong-Shinozaki rushed to throw RIOC under the bus, blaming the State agency for not managing the congestion.

Gallingly, despite deflecting repeated warnings from fellow Common Council members and the Daily, Tang and Strong-Shinozaki claimed not to have had any idea such crowds might show up.

A counter on Facebook showed 85,000 people interested in coming.

And as a RIOC spokesperson recently noted, “Remember, last year’s Cherry Blossom Festival was not a RIOC event.”

With Strong-Shinozaki now on the sidelines, Tang defied reality.

Cherry Blossom 2020 Nitty Gritty

The Cherry Blossom Festival, Tang said, was “…in collaboration with the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, local merchants, community organizations, residents and volunteer musicians and performers.”

That’s news to a lot of them.

RIOC disclaims “collaboration,” and merchants were livid over not being included in planning, leaving them short of supplies by day’s end. “Volunteer musicians and performers” were, in fact, paid.

“The festival’s deep ties to our Island community and to Japanese residents of the metropolitan area contributed to its popularity, reaching unexpected success,” Tang added.

But no mention of last year’s debacle.

At least partly because the organizers failed to responsibly address its failures, actually blaming others, support waned.

Tang blamed “…unsolicited event listings in the news and social media coverage,” but here’s the poster her group circulated last year.

“We really don’t want it.”

Critical supporters for the Cherry Blossom Festival nixed the event well before the organizers gracelessly conceded.

Sources confirm that FDR Four Freedoms Park rebuffed Tang when she again proposed hosting the 2020 event there. Park managers loved hosting it in 2019. It was perfect for their location, but by the time Tang approached them, it was far too late to do it safely and properly.

Lessons were not learned.

Tang parroted Four Freedoms’s reasoning: “At this point, the Cherry Blossom Festival requires professional management to ensure the safety of the performers and visitors.”

No such thing was in the works.

And RIOC told us on January 28th, “No one has applied for a permit for a Cherry Blossom Festival so far this year. Any such application would have to undergo a rigorous review process by both PSD and NYC Emergency Management.”

Conclusion

Poor planning and unaccountability spelled “no way” for a Cherry Blossom Festival in 2020. A blown opportunity to showcase Roosevelt Island’s natural assets.

But all players are “Go!” for visitors enjoying the blossoms freely when the time comes.

And if the right parties can get over their egos, there’s time to do things right for next year.

The Cherry Blossom Festival for 2020 is officially nixed, but 2021 is a fresh opportunity.

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