At last, RIOC shuts down its costly, mysterious COVID testing site

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RIOC’s mysterious COVID testing site is closing, stopping the cash drain from residents’ pockets. But the state’s still unwilling to tell us enough about it.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

While lies and deception remain unchecked, RIOC says its Swift Rapid COVID testing site expires on June 30th. This follows an inexplicable month of sharing with an art gallery, two days a week, including a full time security officer from the bloated PSD staff.

Controversy: A mysterious COVID testing site, accountability absent

While a COVID testing site always made sense for Roosevelt Island, RIOC made a mess of it. It was like sending a team of untested rookies and managers out on a major league playing field. Without umpires.

But with deep pockets, i.e., those of residents, to pick from without resistance…

It started badly, but will it end in continuing silence and mystery?

The cost to residents, so far? Over half-a-million.

When the state announced the testing site, back in November, the amateurs’ got it wrong out of the gate. With the coronavirus pandemic raging, they promised a fast track opening in December. They opened instead in late January.

But then, the mysteries ripened…

After most of the money had already been spent or committed, senior staffer Mary Cunneen told RIOC’s super passive board that the Department of Health recommended six potential vendors for the site.

RIOC bypassed all six and signed up with Swift Emergency Medical, a hard to pin down entity with no apparent experience in the field. Why? Who knows?

And you’d think a responsible board of directors would pop the question, but you’d be wrong. They did not, at least not in public session where responsibilities could be exposed.

Supporting the request, Cunneen offered testing statistics that appeared, at best, mistaken.

At the board meeting, the meek, head-nod afflicted board, simply voted, “Yes,” unanimously, of course. And there went half a million in residents’ money for their mysterious COVID testing site.

Bypassed, also, was the rights of those paying the bills knowing much of anything about how it was spent.

While it might be easy to overlook money spent improperly, probably much of it wasted, on a valuable endeavor, now they’re getting away with it, what stops this unmanaged crew from doing it again?

Refusing accountability to this degree in a publicly funded agency is virtually unheard of elsewhere. But here, it’s on the rise. A sudden death in the Sportspark Pool, in May, for example, remains as mysterious as the COVID testing site. We don’t even know the name of the young man who died in that tragedy.

Resident or non-resident? We don’t know because RIOC’s keeping all that secret too.

Conclusion: Will the mysterious COVID testing site vanish without a trace?

Although RIOC refuses to answer any questions about the business and both elected officials and board members whistle by, we’ve submitted a FOIL request for all relevant information.

But don’t expect much soon.

COVID’s given RIOC license for even more foot-dragging, and evidence suggests they’ve adopted the Cuomo standard of partial responses and endless delay. Albany’s corruption may be ours.

But the Roosevelt Island Daily will keep asking until we get as much as we can.

Stay tuned.

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