Was it RIOC retaliation against a Roosevelt Island mom who charged the state agency with racism, last week? Without prior warning or even an explanation, she says, RIOC banned her girls from swimming at Sportspark.
By David Stone
At 2:00 yesterday afternoon, Susana del Campo Perea left Sportspark with her daughers after a swim. It’s their daily habit, but this time, it was different.
Accosted outside, RIOC personnel told her, “…my daughters can not swim anymore,” she reported in an email.
“They can’t swim, they can only soak their armpits and feet in the playing lane.
“Why is RIOC doing that to my daughters?”
Her 7 and 9 year old daughters stood by during the confrontation, RIOC not shielding them.
Del Campo Perea asked for an explanation but got none. She was told only that “the instruction came from above and only for my daughters.”
Journalists covering Roosevelt Island routinely hear requests for anonymity when sources complain about RIOC. The expectation of punishment from the state agency is universal, whether warranted or not.
A recent, apparent example of RIOC retaliation blundered into view last summer. After leading an environmental protest against RIOC plans for demolishing Southpoint shorelines, Wildlife Freedom Foundation president Rossana Ceruzzi soon faced a renewed threat against the group’s animal sanctuaries.
Within weeks, Ceruzzi received a demand from RIOC chief counsel Gretchen Robinson that WFF must pay $400 monthly rent or face eviction on 30 days notice.
But contracts obtained by the Roosevelt Island Daily through a FOIL request show that no other groups are charged rent for using RIOC controlled land.
And much like the situation with del Campo Perea, RIOC played hardball. Robinson refused any negotiation, telling WFF to pay up or face removal of all animals in the sanctuaries in 30 days.
Thereafter, the sanctuaries, housing animals from homeless cats to injured possums would permanently shut down.
Only after state assembly member Rebecca Seawright intervened did RIOC back down. Eventually, a contract freed WFF from rental fees that would’ve put it out of business.
Now, Robinson is again involved in what looks like RIOC retaliation against a resident who protested.
Last week, following an incident at Sportspark, del Campo Perea accused pool personnel as well as PSD chief Kevin Brown with racial profiling.
Within hours, she was cornered by Brown and two other uniformed officers on the front steps of Blackwell House. Hoping for help from RIOC president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes she sat there waiting to catch him leaving his office.
An ugly confrontation followed with del Campo Perea capturing Brown on video accusing her of lying while she broke down as the three officers hovered over her.
Then, after hearing nothing more from RIOC and getting no response to her request for a meeting with Haynes, she heard from the state agency at midday on Tuesday. Although no details were offered, she was asked to meet with Robinson at 4:00.
Because del Campo Perea had no babysitter available, she declined. She expected follow up, but what she got instead was her daughters banned from swimming at Sportspark.
Was it another incident of RIOC retaliation?
We don’t know, but RIOC offered no other explanation or defense.
Elected officials, Seawright and city council member Ben Kallos, did not respond. Nor did RIOC board members, although del Campo Perea included them with copies of her email.
Silence reinforces the image of RIOC as a state agency operating without guardrails, doing as it pleases without oversight or accountability.
As the firewalls envisioned in RIOC’s enabling legislation power down when the heat rises, the powerlessness of residents balloons proportionately.
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