Roosevelt Island News

Common Sense: Defund RIOC PSD Now

Defund RIOC Public Safety (PSD), not because of misconduct or bad behavior, but because it makes common sense. Even without the budget crunch.

By David Stone

How many times have we seen this and similar examples?

It’s Saturday afternoon, and New York City’s perched perilously on the verge of success at fighting COVID-19. The rules are well-known. No active team sports allowed for now. Social distancing is a must as are face masks in public.

But here’s cluster of about a dozen young men on the west side of Pony Field, near the fence. No one’s social distancing, and there’s not a face mask in sight. A soccer ball rests on the grass.

A PSD vehicle approaches. Slowly up the fire lane. They never walk or bike around anymore, just cruise with windows up. And, as expected, the driver passes the athletes without stopping or saying a word.

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RIOC Public Safety Officers hand out bike safety flyers
Last Wednesday, PSD officers made an unusual appearance, handing out bike safety flyers on Main Street. But it was to no apparent effect as daily violations continue without any enforcement. Apparently, we’re on an honor system.

It was like a scene one Sunday in Blackwell Park. Playgrounds finally opened, and residents took advantage.

But none of them, adults or children, wear masks.

Yet another marked PSD vehicle slowly eases by on the path, not twenty feet away, and does nothing. Not even a shouted reminder.

And last year, without a health crisis, we throughly documented Public Safety’s inability to deal with countless bike and eBike violations on Main Street, a situation that’s grown worse.

So, why do we have an expensive force of 55 gobbling up over 10% of RIOC‘s budget… and your money?

Defund RIOC Public Safety: Common Sense Saves Resources

“I was out twice today before noon,” noted one longtime local resident, last Friday. “The lack of visible PSD remains staggering.”

Noteworthy is PSD’s routine invisibility.

You find officers overseeing entry to the farmers market on Saturday, and once in a great while, they tape notices on kiosks or — rarely — hand out flyers.

But what I call a “trifecta” is more normal. That is, during daily walks around Roosevelt Island, looking for things to report, listening, I often go three straight days without seeing a single officer. In a car or outside of one.

For evidence, you don’t have to wander around town for an hour or more as I do. Just read Public Safety’s monthly reports. Compiled for monthly board meetings, they list all PSD activities.

May’s report, this year, shows 167 “incidents,” three per PSD employee.

And that covers 31 Days. One reportable “incident” for each every ten days. But it’s worse than that.

What’s considered an “incident” is instructive.

That is, well over half of May’s incidents, 91 in total, were either standing by while EMT’s responded to calls on the Island or handling lost and found.

PSD payroll: 55 individuals. Budget: Approximately $4 million, roughly 12% of RIOC’s total, the majority collected from residents without consent.

Budget Crunch Perspective

Although it’s long been clear that PSD is wildly overstaffed, an example of RIOC’s wasteful spending, the best reason for defunding RIOC Public Safety is common sense. The realities of 2020 demand it.

As acting president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes reported at June’s RIOC board meeting, the state agency faces big shortfalls in the shadow of COVID-19.

Tram ridership is down, costing hundreds of thousands per month, and investment income vanished as COVID-19 arrived.

Add to that the stress of escalating insurance costs, and the message is clear: RIOC needs to find savings and fast.

What one local observer calls, “spending like a drunken sailor,” should’ve stopped sooner, but now it must. RIOC’s drowsy and drifty board must assume more responsibility for public money they let be tossed around like candy wrappers for years.

It’s Just Common Sense: Defund RIOC PSD

Unless you consider negligence a form of misconduct, there’s no cause to criticize PSD. Officers are routinely polite and well liked, and it’s leadership with Chief Kevin Brown is capable.

But there’s just too much of nothing.

A staff of 55 and a $4 million budget made little sense in the best of times, although an inattentive board always nods approval. In the worst of times, it’s ridiculous.

RIOC must also cut elsewhere, but management can seize the moment and honor legitimate needs by reducing obvious excess.

PSD’s officers appear well-trained, but they don’t have enough to do.

And when there’s a chance to act effectively, for whatever mysterious reason, they don’t.

Defund RIOC Public Safety and move on. The time is right for change.

9 replies »

  1. I agree. Defund the PSD and bring back police authority. Not only do the PSD do much of anything outside (I also walk quite frequently), whenever there are groups of young (and older) people hang around the hallways, smoking weed, they’re never around to patrol the hallways of Roosevelt Landings where I leave. By the time someone calls them, these people (some of them not residents of the building) have either run away or threatened them. Yes, according to the rules, they have the authority to arrest, but seldom have these people been arrested for breaking smoking rules in Roosevelt Landings (a supposedly smoke-free building). Respected residents have been bullied by these groups of people, their apartments defaced, and not a single PSD person is there to stop these vandals and harassers. Funding part of the NYPD for police authority on RI is certainly worth it, in comparison to the inactive PSD that we now have.

    • Thanks, Deanna, for one more chapter in the story of the nearly useless, ridiculously overpriced extravagance of PSD. There’s a deeper story here. Otherwise, why hasn’t RIOC done anything about it for so long?

  2. I’m sure that there’s a deeper story here, i.e. the rampant corruption in RIOC with everything concerning Roosevelt Island. The reason I find PSD useless, is that for any serious criminal incident, they call the police precinct in Queens to take care of it. Since Roosevelt Island already has its own branch of the NYFD, why can’t it have its own NYPD precinct. I, for one, am not for defunding the police (like some other people); I believe in retraining them and strengthening them in other ways, as well as increasing funding to other community services.

    • I’m reminded of the time I saw a half-dozen PSD officers hustling down Main Street. A couple actually ran, which was one for the highlight reel, And I was thinking, Jeez, they’re actually doing something serious.

      Turns out, the perp was a guy feeding pigeons on Blackwell House’s lawn. Took six uniformed officers to corral that miscreant. Charged with disorderly conduct.

      Just a quick note — the FDNY station on Roosevelt Island is exclusively water rescue. For actual fires, which we rarely have, we get service from Queens.

  3. PSD has become an expensive joke. They cruise because they have to, I guess, but are interested in nothing. Pot smoking, bike racing, cars driving on promenades, large gatherings of mask-less people, people yelling at night with or without reason, unleashed dogs pooping on the grass, all this is someone else’s job, it seems.
    Well, then whose job is it, so we can talk to them and get help.
    Bring in the police sounds good. One thing is becoming clearer by the day: we need someone to bring back order on the island.

    • Thanks. Ultimately, this falls on RIOC’s board of directors, who are negligent; Governor Cuomo who appoints them with an apparent eye on folks who won’t rock the boat; along with elected officials Rebecca Seawright and José Serrano. Only failure to perform at multiple levels allows for the mess we now have.

  4. Ever one here is full of themselves and should do something better than to bother with this. You are all ungrateful and should anything happen, then don’t call PSD. Be safe and thank you PSD for being there for all of us.

    • You’re not Johnny Cash, and you can’t be serious. Dealing with a bloated bureaucracy in a sensible way isn’t a test of loyalty.

      And just so you know, I’ve called on PSD repeatedly to deal with such things as reckless bicycling and building without permits, and PSD has failed on almost every occasion.

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