First, they lost their dog and, then, their faith in Public Safety


Last Tuesday, Laura and Giovanni Battistini witnessed a car running over their dog, Luigi, on the *West Promenade. Thursday, following media coverage sparking community outrage, PSD showed up at their door. It went badly, prompting a letter to RIOC president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes.

(*Correction, the original version of this article misidentified the location as the East Promenade.)

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Public Safety Makes an Unscheduled Appearance

After Assistant Public Safety Chief Anthony Amorosa went through the motions of gathering information, the family took the meeting in another direction.

“We then tried to steer the conversation from the merciless act of one driver to the biggest issue that affects all of us here on Roosevelt Island,” they wrote in a follow up letter to Haynes. (Letter attached at the end of this article.)

“Now, we want Luigi’s painful death to become the opportunity to address obvious flaws in the management of the safety on RI. We do not want this to ever happen again, to either another beloved pet, or – worse – to a child, a resident, or a visitor.”

Luigi died after being hit by a car on the East Promenade. PSD says they can’t do anything to prevent future incidents because they are understaffed.

They had questions for Amoroso, questions residents have been asking without getting results from Public Safety for years.

At the top of the list, why are building managers allowed to hand out motorized vehicle permits, allowing cars driving freely along the promenades? Although the East Promenade — where Luigi was killed — has a big “No Cars” sign at its entrance, it’s regularly ignored.

Amorosa’s answer was troubling. At first glance, it’s a typical Public Safety dodge of responsibility.

“Public Safety cannot do anything about permits because buildings are the ones to give them away,” Amorosa said. “Each building has an unknown number of permits that they can give to whomever they want, and that’s their right. And even if they asked, Public Safety could not keep up with those permits because they change at all the time.”

But that was even more troubling because it was a lie.

Investigating on Their Own

Introduced to Rivercross’s building manager, the Battistini’s questioned him about the permits.

“To our surprise we learned that his building does not give permits to any vehicles and this practice never existed. None of the WIRE buildings are entitled to give permits whatsoever to access RIOC property, the only exception one maintenance vehicle and only for a few hours at a time to contractors.”

Stunned, their question for Haynes was unavoidable.

“Public Safety does not have the correct information about safety rules and regulations of the island. So, how can they enforce them? It took a simple chat of a few minutes to find out the truth. It wasn’t that difficult. Why does someone whose job description, in fact, includes knowing rules and regulations and enforcing them, not bother to do so?”

East Promenade where motorized bikes and cars are free to travel.

“The residents of Roosevelt Island deserve better…”

Amorosa had even more to say about ongoing hazards on the promenades. According to the Battistini’s letter, he claimed…

  • It is absolutely illegal for any electric vehicle to use the West promenade, but RIOC is not enforcing this rule with signs or any type of barrier at the entrance of the promenade because the setup would cost too much to RIOC, it would go against the rules of the Fire Department, and it may make some residents upset.
  • It is impossible for PSD officers to enforce those rules on the West promenade because the riders of those electric vehicles run away from them when they try to stop them; PSD officers cannot possibly run after them.
  • PSD is understaffed and therefore cannot patrol the promenade effectively.

Public Safety, it seems, has built an inventory of excuses for doing nothing to protect residents.

Claiming it’s “impossible for PSD officers to enforce those rules” is essentially an argument for disbanding or seriously reducing the headcount. Many seniors quit walking the promenades because of safety concerns. Children never play there as they did before the proliferation of motorized bikes. But Public Safety’s got it covered.

And by “it,” we means their asses.

The worst of it, though, is the unsupportable claim that PSD is understaffed.

According to their own official stats, Public Safety handles an average of 220.5 incidents each month. Roughly half involve standing by, maybe directing traffic around first responder ambulances, and lost and found activity.

Do the math. Public Safety has a bloated staff of 50, including managers. That comes out to less than 5 incidents, roughly one every six days, in an average month, per worker. Does that look understaffed to you?

But what’s the point in staffing at all if, on the front end, the department concedes it can’t enforce the simplest rules? And busies itself with mostly passive work as well as idling on street corners staring at cell phones…

A Demand for Public Safety

“We demand that you step in and take an inventory of all dangers on hazards that we face daily on our promenade,” the Battistini’s tell Haynes, “and, most importantly, come up with a concrete plan to address and resolve it. This needs to be done with utmost urgency.”

But Haynes, for the record, has overseen PSD for years, and no amount of anger or accidents ever moved him to act.

Finally, in a note to The Daily, the family has a message for RIOC and PSD.

“In case you… publish it, you might consider pointing out that RI residents pay directly out of their pocket for the service provided by PSD, on top of all local taxes. As a matter of fact, we only recently found this out ourselves, despite being residents of RI for 14 years and only because we are now purchasing our apartment.  It is possible that, like us, many residents are not fully aware of this.”

A pair of articles worth reading:

Giovanni and Laura Battistini’s letter to Shelton J. Haynes

More from the Roosevelt Island Daily

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  1. Dear PSD: the dog didn’t have to die, on or off the leash. Simply put, you are not doing your job: cars run on the Eastern Promenade, bikes and e-bikes race on Western Promenade, mothers grab their children and pull them as quickly as they can from the bikes’ path, modified cars idle by FDR park with very loud sound systems on, then the cars start after 10-10.30pm and add to the chaos created by gun-sounding exhaust on FDR Drive and Queensboro Bridge. Lastly but not the last one by any measure, the other day an SUV with extremely loud music was stopped across Westview so that the driver and his buddies could shoot the breeze; the traffic was backed up on Main Street but PSD was nowhere to be found. How shall we explain this indifference? Easy: a good salary for a job that doesn’t entail much: stand on the sidewalk and watch cars drive by, never having the guts to stop a noisy car or tell a driver he/she is not allowed to drive on the Promenade. Oftentimes you are friends with the people who disregard our rules and will not tell them off. However, your courage shows when you walk around writing parking tickets. Otherwise, you don’t patrol the island and, when you do, you ride in twos (so you can chat from car to car). You should be present. Instead, people from outside the island come here and do what they’re not allowed to do otherwise because they have learned: there is no law enforcement on Roosevelt Island. Accept responsibility and use the huge budget at your disposal to make a difference and bring back the island to a time when it was safe. Thank you!

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