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Snubbing local media, RIOC and RIDA announce a ribbon-cutting for the FDR Hope Memorial

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In a joint announcement, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) and the Disabled Association set July 17th for a ribbon-cutting opening the FDR Hope Memorial. Local media were not included in the press release, although residents footed much of the costs.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Leave it to RIOC, seizing a significant local event as an opportunity for extending its protracted battle against local media.

But even the state agency’s churlishness can’t reduce the importance of this moment in Roosevelt Island history.

FDR Hope Memorial, Then and Now

Plan as depicted on approval for the FDR Hope Memorial. It shows President Roosevelt, in a wheelchair, greeting a disabled child. Artwork by Meredith Bergmann.

A cherished project by the late Jim Bates, then president of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association, the memorial got its first spark in 2010.

An inspiring leader, Bates struggled with fundraising for the project. By 2015, he collected $125,000 from donations as well as grants from the Roosevelt Institute and state assembly member Rebecca Seawright.

An anonymous donor then chipped in an additional $150,000.

But as we reported, last August, there it sat until RIOC stepped in in 2018. Then president/CEO Susan Rosenthal got her board to adopt the project with a financial cap of $278,000.

The wheels came off, though, and by last summer, the memorial was left overrun by weeds.

FDR Hope Memorial site, August, 2020.

Waking up RIOC

Seeing the memorial site in a weedy, abandoned condition, we reached out to current RIDA leader Wendy Hersh.

“I better check with RIOC,” she emailed.

After firing Rosenthal along with a pair of project managers, the state agency let the project drop, but Hersh’s call did the trick.

Now, all that was needed was a contractor safety plan, then two more months to the finish.

“That’s according to RIOC,” we wrote, then, “but it seems fanciful for an agency that finishes few things on time. Or without additional contractor expense. So, add a RIOC cushion of, say, another hundred grand and three months.”

Even The Daily wasn’t cynical enough for RIOC.

A full year later, Jim Bates’s long awaited dream finally gets its ribbons cut on the 17th.

You can read full details from the press release here. Attributed to Amy Smith, a member of RIOC’s alleged Communications Team.

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