RIOC overreacts. Promenade restrictions now increase conflicts


Reactions were instantaneous when RIOC, the state agency that never makes a mistake, banned all “motorized vehicles” from both Roosevelt Island promenades.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Without Thought or Discussion, RIOC Banned Motorized Vehicles from East and West Promenades

The news thrilled some. E-bikes, e-scooters and the like changed strolling or relaxing on the promenades from pleasing to hazardous. Riders speeding food deliveries, using the waterside walking space for avoiding the stop and go and speed limits on Main Street, helped a few while inconveniencing many.

West promenade without motorized vehicles
The West Promenade near Manhattan Park.

Adding to the problem was the near total absence of Public Safety. For years, RIOC’s most expensive department proved itself unable to handle even pedal bikes. And now, there were electric vehicles racing in both directions, weaving through pedestrians.

Some – electric skateboards and unicycles, for example – were illegal in the city, already.

But cars, trucks and utility vehicles? While some residents disliked giving way to them along the promenades, they were often necessary because the promenades are “shared access” lanes for a reason: Housing complexes along the canyons have no other way of reaching their properties. Roosevelt Island, as modified from its original plan, was designed that way.

What is Roosevelt Island? New York’s City of Tomorrow?

A knee-jerk reaction oversteps authority, creating previously non-existent problems

No one questions RIOC’s responsibility for taking actions that protect the community. Many pleaded for exactly that long before a series of accidents – all but one on Main Street, not on promenades – spurred a response. But given how long they had for thinking it through – years, in fact – what they came up with was so bad that WTF flags went up, right away.

Banning e-bikes and e-scooters? Sure. Why not? They’re unlicensed, uncontrolled and require no training. But all motorized vehicles? That all-embracing ban is airheaded and maybe illegal. It’s also impossible.

For example, residents already point out that PSD cars violate the ban, rolling up the promenades when officers could as easily ride bikes or, heaven forbid, walk. And what about RIOC’s own red trucks collecting trash from overflowing containers? What about the long lines of school buses snaking to and from PS/IS 217, before and after school?

Clearly, RIOC’s brain trust was out to lunch while this scheme, banning all motorized vehicles, rolled out. Or maybe “fell” or “dropped” out is more like it.

Is banning all motorized vehicles the worst or just the dumbest of it?

“They’re denying us access to our own property,” one building manager complained. “We can’t get contractors in.”

Now, imagine there’s an electrical outage or the plumbing backs up. According to RIOC’s all inclusive ban, residents will not see electricians or plumbers rushing in with fixes. What then? Do you go without water or live with too much of it? Do you go dark for extended periods?

What about trash? Buildings are not allowed to use “motorized vehicles” for servicing routine needs, and they have no alternative access.

And for what reason? It’s a guess, but fair assuming that RIOC’s knee-jerk response came from anger after a small dog was fatally struck on the West Promenade. But that was a private vehicle without authorization using the promenade. So, you ban unauthorized vehicles, no?

Tossing the baby out with the bathwater, we decided, long ago, is foolish.

RIOC Public Safety first dodged responsibility for failing at patrolling the area by claiming understaffing. But then, after another hit pedestrian on Main Street, the state agency that never gets it wrong insisted they weren’t understaffed.

Whatever the motive, banning all motorized vehicles on both promenades is not the answer.

Some building managers contacted RIOC president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes in protest. As is his style, Haynes took days before issuing a non-response.

In short, RIOC hobbled several buildings, getting around its own failures at keeping the promenades safe. Kneejerk overreactions, in fact, aren’t sound in everyday lives, but they certainly aren’t from a brain trust loaded with six-figure salaries.

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  1. Amazingly as I was reading your article, whilst walking along the promenade to the Farmer’s Market there was a red RIOC utility driving (albeit very carefully) along the promenade.

    It was clearly stopping to check/empty public trash bins.

    So it seems their message was not absolute anyway.

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