An attack on Susan Rosenthal, last June, enabled by New York State racism, and fostered by a derelict board… Those are the raw accusations in new lawsuit filed by the former RIOC president/CEO. Coupled with a suit filed last year still pending, this one narrowed its aim.
By David Stone
Attacking the attack on Susan Rosenthal
NOTE: A full copy is available at the end of this report.
“Rosenthal, a Caucasian female with a long history of not only fighting for civil rights, but with a proven and undeniable track record of achieving racial and gender diversity on Roosevelt Island,” Attorney Stephen Storch summarized, “was falsely branded a racist and terminated on Juneteenth on the basis of a laughably inept ‘investigation.’
“The Office of the Governor had…through its deputies, already been looking for an excuse to terminate Rosenthal because of her repeated complaints about the serious public safety hazard posed by deteriorating abandoned steam tunnels on Roosevelt Island.
“The bogus racist charge provided just that cover.”
Arguably, the worst charge followed.
“In a cheap grab for publicity, and in violation of its own rules and past conduct, the Governor’s Office issued a press release which has destroyed Plaintiff’s reputation.”
That refers to a press release by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top lieutenant Richard Azzopardi. Released only to the New York Post, it listed the causes of Rosenthal’s dismissal as racism and sexual misconduct.
Until she read the Post story, like everyone else, Rosenthal was unaware of the reasons for her dismissal. She had been told only that she was out. And thanked for her service.
Susan Rosenthal, featured speaker at RIVAA Gallery’s Black History Month exhibit.
RIOC’s Board of Enablers at Their Worst
The RIOC board’s fealty to the Cult of Cuomo routinely frustrates local residents hoping for increased democracy. But this time, their standard, spineless negligence bubbled over the top.
“The RIOC Defendants were fully aware of who Rosenthal is as a person and of her record of promoting racial equality and diversity,” Storch writes.
“Under their own rules, the RIOC Defendants knew that they had the power to hire and fire. Yet, they stood by and permitted this wrongful and discriminatory act to be executed in violation of both their fiduciary duties and federal law, New York City law and New York State law.”
Why a board with multiple attorneys and professional reputations would knuckle under to such cruelty and racism is near impossible to understand. But the attack on Rosenthal is in their basket, pulled off from Albany without so much as a public whimper from any of them.
Susan Rosenthal counters the attack
The new lawsuit, filed on April 27th, includes a robust testament to Rosenthal’s character. Listing a string of hires and promotions of people of color, it stresses robust support of BLM. While in office, Rosenthal sponsored Black History Month and bought relevant art from RIVAA.
But according to Rosenthal, the racist accusations are no more than cover for more nefarious intentions.
In 2017, “Rosenthal retained Langan Engineering to update and complete its 2012 report,” her suit says.
“The firm’s conclusion was ominous; i.e., there could well be catastrophic results, were Roosevelt Island to face a major weather event, owing to the tunnels’ poor condition.
“Nevertheless,” it continued, “higher-ups would not accept Rosenthal’s proposal.”
Breaks and cracks mark the seawall protecting the deteriorating steam tunnels along much of Roosevelt Island’s eastern waterfront.
When Albany officials refused acting on several solutions she proposed, Rosenthal, a responsible executive, repeatedly reminded them of the hazards.
Aggravation over her pursuit of safety for Roosevelt Island residents, instead of getting action, she says, led to her firing.
The weakened tunnels, she insists, remain a “ticking time bomb.”
But then the attack on Susan Rosenthal got stupid…
As both state and RIOC claim, Rosenthal was an “at will employee.”
That is, they could legally fire her at any time for any reason or no reason. But not for an illegal reason.
When Cuomo’s team violated policy as well as local, state and federal statutes by firing her, they opened the door for a lawsuit. If Cuomo simply wanted her fired, he, his henchmen or the feeble board could’ve done it without leaving Rosenthal any grounds for complaint.
But in a bone-headed assault, instead, Governor Cuomo’s deep thinkers had something else in mind. And the board’s mindless locals whistled along.
“In a cheap grab for publicity, and in violation of its own rules and past conduct, the Governor’s Office issued a press release which has destroyed Plaintiff’s reputation. As set forth below, this abhorrent treatment was motivated by Defendants’ belief that no one would ever question such conduct described herein being directed at a Caucasian woman,” her lawsuit maintains.
The rushed, fumbling investigation, inspired by griping from a notoriously disgruntled employee, supports that conclusion.
In reacting to Rosenthal’s initial lawsuit, the state never produced a written report or a single affidavit in support of their actions. In real world terms, the state’s case is about as solid as a fart in a windstorm.
The board and the state’s responses are due, this month.
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