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Will RIOC News Successfully Reshuffle A Bad Hand?


Can RIOC News change the state’s narrative on Roosevelt Island, shining up a scuffed image? Will it inform, mislead or some of both?

By David Stone

Next week, we learned, RIOC launches a newsletter, reaching out to Roosevelt Island in print and online.

Full Title: RIOC News / Your Go To Newsletter on Island Improvements and Initiatives

It’s a good idea, something the state agency should’ve done, years ago. But a good idea is good only as long as it does… well, good.

RIOC News retells stories like the destruction of Southpoint Park.
Will RIOC News attempt to change the story, painting bad behavior over as good? Here, we see the demolished shoreline in Southpoint Park, but will the state tell the full story?

RIOC News: What’s The Full Story?

It’s not a secret that RIOC, to varying degrees over time, loathes local media. In fact, they launched their own newspaper at least once in the past. Frustrated with coverage, they took it on themselves to change the narrative.

But here’s the problem…

If you do the wrong things, you can never spin them fast enough that they spring to life as good things.

Being fair though, RIOC has a great opportunity to serve the community and do it well.

Filling A Gap

Much of the state agency’s work is simply not news, unless they make it so.

The daily burden of cleaning up, cutting grass, shuffling papers, filing and accounting will not earn much coverage. Even though it’s important, vital work. And RIOC needs to tell that story.

Getting out the word on how routines make a small, but busy island function makes a bigger difference here than elsewhere. And the reason is our uniqueness.

Our local government, RIOC, is unbridled.

Nobody ever stands for election, and the appointed board would reliably approve a fart if it showed up on its monthly agenda. Unanimously.

“Relieving Gastric Distress and Associated Environmental Treatment: $30,000.”

Who’s going to vote against that? No one on RIOC’s board of enablers directors.

The good people we elected to serve in Albany because they promised to look after our interests? You’ve gotta be kidding.

The result: RIOC’s gotta pitch its good news because it’s gonna do what it wants anyway.

A gap RIOC News should fill…

Missing without print media is outreach to seniors and others without good internet access or skills at using it. Acting president/CEO Shelton Haynes knows that and mentioned his concerns early on.

But until we see the first issue, we won’t know if RIOC News helps.

The print version will be left for pick up at Public Safety’s headquarters and, next door, at the CBN/RI Senior Center. That’s far from wide distribution, and maybe the publisher can be persuaded to drop some off in building lobbies.

Here’s where RIOC can do the most good. As much as the Roosevelt Islander and the Daily/News are read by thousands of local readers, thousands more go untouched.

And even for those reached, the nuts and bolts of Island operations are mostly not in the mix. The economics don’t support it.

But RIOC has resources and can do it well.

But Here’s the Big Question

Will RIOC News factually and honestly report “improvements and initiatives,” or will it spin, spin, spin until it’s all a blur? If it’s the latter, they will lose because Roosevelt Islanders are not stupid, and as New Yorkers, they have BS detectors at full power.

Do it right, and everyone wins. But if RIOC does things as history suggests, they will lose both money and respect in the community.

For RIOC News, the indicators are not good…

Coming on the beat up heels of reporting on the gross destruction of Southpoint Park, they launch virtually, not from Cape Canaveral but somewhere south of East Podunk.

Fired not by jet fuel but pedal power augmented like an eBike.

And since RIOC’s currently ghosting the Roosevelt Island Daily/News, they may try spinning winning your hearts with a different slant.

All that’s fine as long as they’re truthful. Our friend at the Roosevelt Islander has his own take on the local scene and regularly differs from us without a shred of dishonestly.

Can RIOC do the same? Can an unbridled state agency do the right thing, just because? And if they can, will they?

RIOC’s under new management. Smart, well-trained and dedicated people occupy many of the chairs, but history yokes the story to a past that includes…

  • Lying about water contaminated by feces in playground drinking fountains, never corrected.
  • Lurching through inexplicable leadership changes still hidden from public view.
  • Collecting roughly $20 million annually from locals, some of which will pay for RIOC News, without giving the community the slightest input on spending.
  • Cozying up to real estate interests and embarrassing giveaways that come with it.
  • Playing careless with toxic waste, shielding a coverup with silence.

… and more.


As RIOC operates with little oversight outside its own doors, it does pretty much as it wishes. It’s only by dint of repetition over decades that the anomaly of governing without paying much attention to the governed feels normal.

It’s not nor is it healthy or the American way.

But RIOC can break a pattern and reach out with good, informative news and updates. In other words, it really can seize the day, and we hope it does.

We’ll be rooting for them, but as always, we’ll also be watching.


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