Fixing RIOC’s Budget, Avoiding Disaster, Facing Facts Now


Fixing RIOC’s budget, even as so many things distract us and them, is a must because the risks of delay are so high.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

Quick Summary: Why fixing RIOC’s budget matters…

As reported earlier, RIOC‘s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year is propped up with fantasy, revenues that will never be seen. But it also includes expenses that aren’t justified in the real world.

And unless the community makes some noise, the state assumes residents don’t matter.

Fixing RIOC’s budget means fixing the values on which they are based. Those values are about what happens under the state’s roof, not along Main Street.

Income fantasies…

First on the agenda is a realistic projection of money RIOC says it will work with next year. And what’s in the budget is a joke, but not the funny kind.

Crucially, when sending the 2021/22 budget up to Albany for approval, RIOC projected income it will never see and already knows it.

In the make-believe world of New York State government, selling nonsense may work, but at what risk?

Worst of all?

In a budget built on nearly $33 million in income, RIOC says a whopping $6,356,000, over 20%, comes from Tram fares.

So, what did we get from this source, this year? $1,408,000 is projected.

That falls nearly $5 million short of the current budget, and the reasons are obvious. The coronavirus pandemic crashed the economy, especially tourism.

But here’s where the magic comes in. Because RIOC’s budget assumes COVID disappears by April and all the tourists come back.

Fixing RIOC’s budget means cutting that crap and facing facts.

FACT #1: A coronavirus vaccine will not be in general distribution until at least the middle of next year. RIOC’s budget, honest to God, counts on it by the end of this month. Yes, November 2020…

FACT #2: With Broadway shuttered until next summer, the New York Times reports that tourism will not be back in full until 2025.

So, what the hell is RIOC talking about?

Well, maybe they’re talking about their own needs, not ours…

Tram income isn’t the only ridiculous revenue plugged into the fantasy budget, but since it’s the worst, it’ll do for now. But the more important question is Why?

Although budgets are presented with revenue first, and RIOC’s no exception, expenses are what drives them.

In other words, this is what we want to spend. Now, let’s figure out how to balance it with income.

And that tells a story that’s played out at 591 Main for a long time: bloated salaries for virtually all nonresident staff. And too many are on the payroll in the first place.

Raise your hand if you knew that RIOC has 139 full-time positions on its payroll.

And that doesn’t count millions more dished out to contractors.

And 20 of those staffers pull down over $100,000 per year, not a dime of it, of course, to any executives who live here or know the community.

Drilling down for clues to fixing RIOC’s budget…

One eye-popper is 51.5 full-timers in Public Safety, accounting for over a third of RIOC’s employee count. And they gobble up around 30% of the total payroll.

Rough math tells us that that means over 10 PSD officers should be on hand for every shift, seven days a week. Seen anything like that?

As we reported earlier, while suggesting defunding a good chunk of PSD expense, nothing in PSD’s activity reports or any other observations reflects relatable activities.

On the contrary… As we’ve seen, time and again, PSD can’t even harness bicycle abuses.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve watched bikes race through crosswalks, past stop signs… Never mind. I’ll never be a millionaire, even if this would make a good start.

Another prime example, maybe even the worst, is the Youth Program. And in analyzing anything about this operation, remember that a politically driven assault destroyed a 40 year institution just to create internal RIOC opportunities.

Before a backroom collaboration pooled resources at 591 Main to destroy Roosevelt Island Youth Program, Charlie DeFino ran a popular operation for Island youths.

Lots of volunteers and energetic part-timers pitched in.

Especially popular was its soccer league, today barely an echo of what once was.

RIOC’s total contribution to the private, nonprofit Roosevelt Island Youth Program? $200,000 per year.

After RIOC managers engineered a takeover, the next budget escalates to nine full-time employees and $581,533, just in raw payroll, benefits not included.

There’s more, but suffice to say, until someone has enough backbone to uncover the politics beyond this nonsense and act on it, nothing will change.

RIOC will continue to take care of RIOC first, and that’s simply dangerous.

If we don’t fix RIOC’s budget…?

I say “we” because residents have too long been silent with the state, and the state’s seen that as indifference. And maybe it is, but if so, we’re in trouble.


Because when RIOC’s projected budget for next year fails because of the ongoing pandemic, just as this year’s did, someone has to make up the difference.

State law requires balanced budgets, and that includes RIOC’s.

What gets cut? Assume RIOC denies it until they do it, echoes of RIYP, but the Tram and free Red Buses take the first big hit.

Because Hudson-Related dictates much of RIOC’s operations and Red Buses do next to nothing for their properties, expect fares to return and service reduction.

The Tram? It’s a sales point for Southtown, but that doesn’t mean full-time operations, just the view of landings on Roosevelt Island.

With Red Buses essentially a budget drains without revenue and Trams a local luxury failing to pay for itself, now, they’ll go before the bloated payroll…

Unless you speak up about fixing RIOC’s budget responsibly, and doing it now while there’s time.

Making your concerns known to RIOC may help somewhat, but it’s emerging that assembly member Rebecca Seawright currently runs the show as a conduit with Governor Cuomo’s faceless Albany team.

Filling up her answering machine (212-288-4607) and email ( may do more good than anything else.

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