UPDATE: Confirmed: RIOC saved 4th of July tickets for special friends

UPDATE: Confirmed: RIOC saved 4th of July tickets for special friends

RIOC saved hundreds of 4th of July tickets for preferred groups friendly toward their policies and performance. Following up on our original story, we learned how the scheme worked, but the why they did it remains as mysterious as ever.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

UPDATED, JULY 6TH, 2021

Did RIOC Lie About 4th of July Tickets?

It wouldn’t be a surprise, would it? Since facilitating Susan Rosenthal’s firing, a year ago, the new administration with its alleged Communications Team lies about just about anything. And when they don’t lie, they hide, which for the good of the the community is probably worse.

How the scheme worked…

On the grand scale of things, cheating on fireworks tickets isn’t the world’s greatest offense, but emotionally, it’s a big deal. Families with children eager for rare up close views were misled by the alleged Communications Team along with everyone else.

Monday, June 30th, a RIOC Advisory told residents that FDR Four Freedoms Park would welcome 1,500 visitors for the Macy’s Fireworks celebration in the East River.

Ticketing was severely limited, relative to other years, and making matters worse, no tickets would be offered for Southpoint Park, at all. The alleged Communications Team’s first big flop came in never telling anyone why attendance was so severely restricted. They still haven’t.

4th of July, 2016, picnicking in Southpoint Park

Eager Islanders were told they could get tickets at a specific RIOC webpage, starting at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

But something else happened on Wednesday, too.

400 Tickets Withheld

To be fair, RIOC never said all 1,500 tickets were available for the online lottery. Sure, they implied it, but they did lie about was resident priority. When Eventbrite went live at 1:00, no screen for local residents appeared, as had been promised.

And no open to all tickets came up at 4:00 p.m. either, another broken promise.

So far, this much was known.

But digging around, we found that, even prior to the online pileup, RIOC set aside a block of tickets for their own use. A small number, around 100, leftovers, eventually went to community groups as a goodwill or facesaving gesture.

On Wednesday afternoon, alleged Communications Team members Erica Spencer-EL and Jessica Cerone contacted the Disabled Association (RIDA), the Senior Association (RISA) and the Carter Burden Network (CBN/RI Senior Center), offering free tickets to their members.

The only hitch was, they must be claimed, including a list of names and addresses, by 4:00 on Thursday.

In other words, after RIOC announced a sold out event, they were still secretly offering freebies to at least a small group of nonprofits. Others that might be interested, like the Girl Scouts, were not contacted.

Hundreds of tickets remained, but although doing good deeds, RIOC’s community liaisons prefered maneuvering in secret. Were they evading questions about where the rest of the 400 went?

Our sources found that RISA, RIDA and CBN grabbed only 100 to 150.

RIOC, of course, volunteered no information and has not answered inquiries. They have not, in fact, even admitted setting aside 400, more than 25% of the total, for undisclosed motives.

The alleged Communications Team created additional havoc by not handing out tickets until late Friday afternoon. The nonprofits scrambled with distribution after closing for the holiday weekend.

Our original story on RIOC’s Misuse of 4th of July Tickets

“We are committed to effectively communicating with our stakeholders and undertake to be open, honest and accountable in our relationships with everyone we work with and with each other,” RIOC claims, among its attributes as a public benefit corporation.

But that’s never been completely true, and it’s especially untrue recently.

Southpoint Park Aerial View
Another unanswered question: Why did RIOC rope off prime fireworks viewing inside Southpoint park, shuffling everyone into a less attractive and distant area on the Cornell Tech campus?

“Open, honest and accountable…” on 4th of July tickets?

“Effectively communicating…?”

Not quite, as the Roosevelt Islander found after asking RIOC about a discrepancy in tickets.

Alleged public information officer Amy Smith used a tactical dodge, answering questions not asked while ignoring those that were. When the Roosevelt Islander followed up, Smith went silent.

Details…

As we reported three days ago, a ticketing system set up by RIOC’s alleged Communications Team was a disaster of legendary proportions. A blatant lie about resident priority in getting tickets was a prime ingredient.

But rumors persisted about something more suspect. The instantly overwhelmed ticketing website showed 400 fewer tickets than the total of 1,500 RIOC promised.

Where did they go?

Although Smith refused answering that question, the Roosevelt Islander, as well as The Daily, confirmed distribution of hundreds of ticket by RIOC on the side.

Without competition.

Because we don’t have a complete list of those receiving tickets while their neighbors got stiffed, we are not publishing names. But it appears, from what we know so far, that preference went to “cooperative” groups. And at least one group of equal stature, but critical of RIOC, got a rejection.

Jessica Cerone, an alleged community relations manager, handled some of that responsibility. For years, Cerone has been a close associate of alleged Communications Team manager Erica Spencer-EL. Spencer-EL has been a lightning rod for multiple community grievances in recent weeks.

Conclusion

In 2018, lead by then president/CEO Susan Rosenthal, RIOC set up a standard for performance goals. One committed to effective communications.

To effectively communicate with all stakeholders.

RIOC Performance Goals/Website

And in 2019, they evaluated the results. But by 2020, an internal group of malcontents living large off public money helped engineer Rosenthal’s dismissal.

And the reviews ended. As did the claimed values and good and responsible governance.

But maybe there’s some hope in opening RIOC’s kimono. With transparency, honesty and sound management now abandoned in favor of naked self-interest, there’s an advantage in Islanders knowing what they’re really dealing with.

You can’t deal effectively with enemies you can’t see.

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