New York City

About: The RIOC Sucks Petition

The RIOC Sucks Petition hit my inbox early yesterday morning. I appreciate that the subject line made me laugh, but inside, the details lacked humor, facts and insight.

By David Stone

By the time anyone or any group is pissed off enough to launch a petition drive, a bundle of common sense has fled. In its absence, anger twists logic and facts are kicked aside.

But that doesn’t mean there are no core truths remaining. Or that the cause isn’t just.

The fatal flaw here, though, is that’s it’s too little and too late. And it’s wrongheaded, too.

Get local: Roosevelt Island News

About the RIOC Sucks Petition

The petition, subtitled Dreaming of a Post-RIOC Roosevelt Island! fails on several levels. But the worst, attacking with provable falsehoods, pales next to the naiveté and disguised motives.

Roosevelt Island has been home to many, many wonderful people, families and organizations over the years,” is how it begins.

“Unfortunately, it has also been home to chronic government neglect, inefficiency, corruption and worse.”

But that’s not the real concern. The RIOC Sucks petitioner’s real concern appears next:

“The people of Roosevelt Island have no say in how their public spaces are used, what developments are undertaken in their community and how public services are delivered and governed.”

Rioc Sucks Petition

But here, some dishonesty intrudes. By “public spaces,” he really means “soccer fields.” The rest is simply opinion and debatable.

RIOC’s governing board has a resident majority. Two members served as Residents Association presidents. You can argue about effectiveness, but “no say” is nonsense.

But the worst is yet to come…

And it exposes the petition’s own central corruption: RIOC Sucks narrowly focuses on a single issue…

Soccer: At the Heart of the RIOC Sucks Petition

This situation has only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 crisis, as the non-resident RIOC administration and staff have departed the island, but not before closing 80% of our public and green spaces to public use, leaving behind only PSD officers to risk their lives to implement an ill-advised and impossible charge. 

RIOC Sucks Petition

Using identical language previously put in play while protesting the shutting down of Roosevelt Island’s soccer fields, “closing 80% of our public and green spaces” isn’t just inaccurate.

It’s so spectacularly inaccurate, it’s fiction.

Let me count the ways.

Open:

  • East and West Promenades, completing an unbroken 4+ mile loop.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park, lively with visitors on most days.
  • Southpoint Park
  • Lighthouse Park
  • Rivercross Lawn
  • Meditation Steps
  • Good Shepherd Plaza
  • Blackwell Park
  • Riverwalk Commons

What’s closed? Athletic fields, basketball courts and playgrounds. And pushing that argument against RIOC makes even less sense because athletic fields, basketball courts and playgrounds are closed across New York State by executive order. RIOC exercises no control over it.

But does that clear RIOC?

Not by a long shot.

Here and at the Roosevelt Island Daily, we’ve reported government neglect, inefficiency and corruption, many times. Our friend and activist Frank Farance raises issues he believes expose corruption regularly and has for years.

But while they exist, these concerns do not dominate RIOC nor do they fatally dilute the State’s overall positive influence.

And my experience tells me that, in our community, the majority is content with RIOC’s management. We’re safe, clean and green, and the buses run on time. We’re not perfect, but we’re far from the RIOC Sucks petition’s dystopian picture.

RIOC and the historic plan inspired by Ed Logue, which they oversee, are the only things standing between us and New York City’s governing bureaucracy.

Without RIOC, a State appointed agency, we lapse straight into any other neighborhood. The Tram and vast green spaces would be memories by now, and you can imagine how much clout our puny 11,500 resident population gets us.

It is about time that the people of Roosevelt Island took charge of this island for themselves…

So insists the petition before ambling off into the standard misconception: “…we have made do without local political representation and governance…”

But the truth is that we vote for governor, mayor, borough president, state assembly member, state senator and city council member. And we have a Residents Association Common Council.

Significantly, Governor Cuomo, Assembly Member Seawright and Senator Serrano share responsibility for RIOC at the State level.

If we fail at exercising influence with them, we may “do without political representation,” but whose fault is that?

Spoiler alert: It’s ours.

16 replies »

  1. Hi David – I think you should read the details of the NYS Executive order more closely, as should Ms. Rosenthal and her team. https://wrrv.com/new-york-state-updates-what-is-an-essential-business/

    “Outdoor, low-risk recreational activities including tennis, non-motorized boat use and rentals, and golf and driving ranges” are considered essential businesses.

    Why are all of our tennis courts closed, then?

    “Parks and other open public spaces, except playgrounds and other areas of congregation where social distancing cannot be abided” are also considered essential.

    The only criteria is *whether social distancing can be abided*. No mention of team sports or any other criteria.

    You and I may differ on what is best for the future of the island but not on whether RIOC is in compliance with the executive order. That is a matter of public record that no amount of word twisting can alter.

    The real residents on the board left in disgust or frustration long ago. The ones that are left are not taking any action nor are they accessible to the community in any way. As a point of fact, although I live in the same building as two of them (and you!) I have not heard from any of them to gather the details about this issue. They are a poor excuse for resident representation.

    All of the parks on either side of us on the river are open. I ride my bicycle on the E. River loop often. I can not tell you how ridiculous our playing fields looked compared to those (that I may add are being used with no social distancing problems whatsoever), with the billowing yellow tape and frustrated and scared families sheltering along the edges.

    The basic fact is that this island is not a lawless enclave where RIOC can get away with doing whatever they want. I choose to fight unlawful actions by unelected administrators with zero accountability for their actions. You can choose to be apathetic.

    • It’s simple. Social distancing cannot be abided during high contact sports. Some other sports may be okay once the City hits the goals for reopening. Even now, if you take an honest look at Roosevelt Island outdoors, the only groups that fail the social distancing/masks test in large numbers are those involved in athletic activities: bicycling, running and working out on equipment adjacent to Jack McManus Field. The reasons are obvious. Most of us simply can’t breathe well enough behind face masks, but these folks aren’t giving the rest of us six feet either. And they are not setting an example encouraging anyone that opening the soccer fields can be safe.

      Soccer players would not only be heavily exposed to any and all viruses and bacterial infections, they’d carry them home where most of the worst transmissions occur. RIOC’s right to protect the community. Your right to play sports does not override the community’s need to be safe and fight the spread of COVID-19.

      The rest is your opinion, and readers should consider it thoughtfully.

  2. What about tennis? Do you expect policies there to change? How about the baseball fields? They are all closed also. Most of them dont even have bases. I dont want to harp on the soccer field because I understand that is my personal gripe, but at least open the rest of the spaces. Look at a map, David. Map the green. Its just math. No need to be stubborn here, like RIOC. Im sure we can all be reasonable if given a chance.

  3. Even professional sports with millions at stake are shut down because safety cannot be assured. The State may be erring on the side of caution. The facts are not in on COVID-19, and if you are watching the statistics as I am, you’d know that the city’s on new hospital admissions are going up in the last few days. Opening sports fields would make it worse. If you want to see this city opened again any time soon, you don’t want athletic fields open. Infections will flare, and we’ll be stuck where we are for months. And I can’t emphasize enough: there will be more unnecessary deaths.

    This is not a RIOC issue. It’s a public health issue, and we need to stay firm on distancing and masks, not yield to frustrations.

    • So let me get this straight – you believe RIOC is authorized in taking this action even though it is not in compliance with the Executive Order (which specifically mentions TENNIS)? What is the legal basis for this action? What legislative order or statute is it based on? I definitely do not want to live in a place where an unelected, non-resident administrative body can take unilateral actions without due process or without regard for the rule of law. I believe that most people on the island share this sentiment.

      • Yes, I “believe RIOC is authorized in taking this action.” But you’re making your case to the wrong audience. I suggest that you take your interpretation of the laws up with RIOC General Council Gretchen Reynolds. Or with Attorney General Letitia James. Keep in mind that the Yankees, Mets, Islanders, Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, etc. are making no such claim. Every professional sports team in New York has shut down, even though it’s costing them millions. This isn’t a Roosevelt Island only situation.

        More importantly, absent an executive order, RIOC would still be doing the right thing. Saving lives and preventing the spread of the coronavirus is vastly more important than our right to play soccer.

  4. Although, if I may add in defense of a soccer, it does happen to be the only “contact” sport which is played almost entirely with feet or gloved hands, and has also been historically the most popular sport (and field) on the island. Anyway, I wont belabor this issue further because I agree the more important questions here go beyond one sport or even one issue.

    • Yes, I also eagerly a clear legal articulation, esp. with such amazing legal eagles in charge (not to mention the inimitable Ms. Rosenthal herself). That we have waited so long to receive one is a perfect example of the neglect and apathy that I highlight in my petition. Anyway, I wont waste any more of your time here, David. Take care and have a good day.

  5. I’m not a lawyer, but let me help you out. Here is a link listing all essential businesses that are allowed to open under the executive order: https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026. And here’s a tip — contact sports are not on the list. No social distancing, no games. It couldn’t be more clear. This is hardly the renegade operation you describe. RIOC’s actions are consistent with every other sports operation in the state.

  6. Can you do a search for TENNIS in that document, David? That doesnt require any legal skill.

    On Macs, the command is COMMAND-F. On PCs, it is CTRL-F.

    Anyway, this is all getting a bit too KAFKA for me. I wont continue this discussion, as you have once again proven either your moral character or intelligence, David, and I dont care to probe which.

  7. Ah, I see I’ve now been thrown in the basket of deplorables, i.e., joining everyone who dares disagree with Tapan Parikh’s unique view of the world.

    Tennis is allowed under specific conditions that include continuous cleaning, as I’m sure you are aware. RIOC either cannot or choses not to detail a team of cleaners for the tennis courts, and of course, that has nothing to do with soccer.

  8. You have found the right keys! Its not my view, its a public document. And here were get to crux – RIOC’s fundamental lack of capacity even given the millions they receive. We need a new solution. Thanks David, for your help in arriving at this very valuable conclusion. A good debate partner is hard to find.

  9. Id encourage anyone who has the time (not right now probably, though) to visit Battery Park city to see what a really well run and organized public benefit corp managed area looks like. I also bet they havent closed everything. Easy to verify.

  10. I also really dont see how this is a public health issue anymore. The hospitals are back to under capacity. If you dont want to be near anyone, stay off the fields and courts like you are doing right now!

  11. I mean, werent you the one who was arguing we didnt need a lockdown at all just a few short weeks ago? Im sure you will be the first to advocate opening up Main Street also. I think its pretty clear where your loyalties (and revenues) lie. No point in opening the fields unless we get Zog back too, and all those latte-buying yuppies, right David? At the trough with the rest, and selling out RI families in the process.
    https://twitter.com/RI_Daily/status/1239493151439695878?s=20

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