“We’re back! Effective tomorrow, Wednesday, May 26th,” a RIOC advisory sang,” the Roosevelt Island Pop-up COVID-19 Testing Site will open doors to its new location at RIVAA Gallery (527 Main Street).” But it’s still a community money pit with many questions unanswered.
By David Stone
Earlier this month, we reported the move from the old library site to the art gallery. RIOC offered no reason for the change nor for a reduction from four days a week to two.
And where did the “Swift Rapid Testing,” in which the community invested nearly half-a-million without consent, go? And now it’s a “pop-up?” In fact, it’s the “Roosevelt Island Pop-up COVID-19 Testing Site.”
RIOC’s communications went from clumsy and evasive to mangled. And still evasive as many questions plague the site, matched only by the state’s opaque refusal to answer.
Roosevelt Island Pop-up COVID-19 Testing Site Problems
Let’s start with the biggest and oldest. How was this money pit started without community input or, apparently, legal authority? And why continue for months at $68K per when it failed out of the gate?
Although boasting a capability of testing 500 people per day, Swift Rapid COVID-19 Testing failed out of the gate. Not that rapid testing was unneeded in the community, but with community input — or professional advice — RIOC badly overestimated demand.
And committed hundreds of thousands of apparently unauthorized dollars to it.
Rather than accept the mistake, something the Cuomo-infected state agency rarely does, they blundered ahead as if the empty shell actually had something going on inside.
Then came the lying and the overcharging…
At a RIOC board of enablers meeting, Mary Cunneen, a RIOC manager who plays an unidentified role with the center, told the feckless agency directors that the operation averaged over 500 tests every week. We don’t know who gave her those numbers, but any casual watcher along that stretch of Main knew they were fantasies.
The board never blinked.
And external statistics refuted RIOC claims.
Men and women lie. Numbers don’t.
New York City Department of Health weekly reports have not shown numbers that high for the entire 10044 Zip Code. Not even close. And Cornell Tech told a local task force that all employees, students and others on campus were tested daily at their own facility, which alone accounted for hundreds.
RIOC did not offer any verification for claims used to justify budget busting expenses during a critical period in their finances.
But going back to January, the DOH reports did not show any significant uptick in local tests when Swift opened its doors.
Worse yet, the so-called Roosevelt Island Pop-up COVID-19 Testing Site shut down briefly last week. But the DOH did not reflect a decrease in 10044 testing. In fact, there was a substantial uptick while the facility was closed.
The overcharging? In April, RIOC announced that Swift would now offer more reliable antigen testing for COVID-19. Residents already footing the bill for the site must pay $200 for the tests, but according to Kaiser Health News, such tests cost only about $50.
And now the Roosevelt Island Pop-up COVID-19 Testing Site gobbles up Gallery RIVAA
“This week, the site will be operating on its normal schedule of Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Fridays from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM,” RIOC said.
Of course, no explanation was given for abruptly changing course and reopening with a full schedule.
But RIVAA is still running its biggest annual show, its Vernissage season opener. A solo exhibit by popular artist Georgette Sinclair is on tap for June.
How the incompatible operations will coexist is not known, and no physical alterations were observed during the last several days.
But not only is RIVAA an active art gallery, it’s unsuitable in other ways. For one thing, as RIOC knows, it is not ADA compliant. There is no running water on the main floor, and the single toilet is down a set of stairs in the basement.
All this adds to the many mysteries — that should be investigated — surrounding everything about the Swift Rapid or Roosevelt Island Pop-up COVID-19 Testing Site.
And until someone outside does investigate this expensive boondoggle, we’re unlikely to learn much of anything from super secret RIOC.
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