Cover for bank open house

RIOC had a bank open house. You’re not supposed to know.


On Monday, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation hosted a “bank open house,” five bankers surrounded by politicians, but no residents. As usual, RIOC trotted out a load of misinformation as if thinking bankers, investing millions, would never double-check.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Assembling a Bank Open House

Calling this closed off “dog and pony show” an “open house” was an unintentional joke to begin with. But when you saw three distinct misrepresentations in the first paragraph, you knew where it was going. (See a full copy of the brochure handed out to the bankers below.)

Material provided by state assembly member Rebecca Seawright’s office tells the story. While Seawright has worked hard on her commitment for bringing direct banking back to Roosevelt Island, RIOC’s efforts are glaringly suspect.

Deception in the first paragraph

  • Roosevelt Island has “…a growing population of over 12,000 residents.” It’s under 11,000 and has stagnated or even declined since the 2010 census.
  • The Island also has “a hospital.” It doesn’t. Coler is a long term care rehabilitation center, and if the city finds a buyer for the land, they’d close it tomorrow.
  • “The Cornell Tech campus and the newly opened Graduate Hotel sit elegantly on the south end of the island.” Did the parks fall off?

In a comical miscue, the brochure touts Roosevelt Island as both “Manhattan’s Hidden Gem” and “…the hottest up-and-coming neighborhood in Manhattan.” Hm.

While these are minor errors, anyone being asked to invest here must wonder why any deception at all was necessary. And more followed.

But first the “Bank Open House Run of Show”

RIOC’s alleged Communications Team set the estimated two-hour event as a kind of dog-and-pony-show.*

*The term dog and pony show first appeared in the United States in the 1880s, referring to small, traveling circuses that largely consisted of acts involving trained dogs and ponies.

The Grammarist

The Grammarist adds: “In the 1960s the idiom dog and pony show was first used figuratively to describe an event where elaborate, attention-getting elements are employed to distract from the smallness or lack of depth of the operation.”

(See the Bank Open House Run of Show below.)

Surprisingly, the first item is “Special guests arrive to 619 Main Street.” 619 is the former site of the Amalgamated branch, closed over a year now. So, that’s not surprising. But what is surprising is the absence of the site’s manager. No one from Westview, resident or manager, was scheduled for the event.

Instead, you had RIOC CEO Shelton J. Haynes, CFO John O’Reilly, and an array of elected officials. Most of the electeds were no-shows, sending representatives filling the bill with 3-minute speeches. (What a delight for bankers!) The only elected we could confirm as showing up was Seawright. The assembly member has repeatedly shown her commitment for the project. Haynes, on the other hand, could not be bothered to stay for the entire event and left early.

The Worst of It? The RIOC Pollution

Page 3 from the Bank Open House Brochure.

RIOC is clear from the start that there are “two storefronts available.” Did they hope that their “special guests” wouldn’t notice that Sportspark is not in any way a “storefront?” It’s a sports facility. And who’s going to believe RIOC’s serious about a bank when it lists as top features a pool and a fitness room?

In a feeble bid at inspiring interest, they list the walking distances to “transportation hubs.” Roosevelt Island does not have transportation hubs. There are subway, ferry and bus stops, plus the Tram. None are hubs.

But the bank open house’s worst offense…?

As The Daily noted previously, the only viable location for a bank on Main Street is at 619, precisely where they were standing. A branch opening incurs heavy expenses, the heaviest of which is installing a vault and safe deposit boxes. 619 has both, but RIOC never arranged a tour of the very facility where they were blowing smoke.

But that’s not the worst because, not only did they downplay 619’s virtues, they treated it like a red-headed stepchild. In the brochure, you see Sportspark – on the left – decorated with colorful subheadings and nine bullet points, most of which have nothing to do with banking.

For 619 Main, a dreary list of four bullet points, the last of which – “Excellent space with basement area for a safe” – is a falsehood undermining the location’s value. 619 doesn’t even have a basement, and as we’ve noted multiple times in posts and verbally to the politicians, a vault and safety deposit boxes are already there and waiting.

RIOC should and probably does know the truth, leaving the community with the usual questions: Why are they lying and misleading again? No one in their right mind can possibly believe, after this bank open house fiasco, that the state agency that never fails has any serious intention of finding a bank branch for Roosevelt Island.

This dog-and-pony-show was put on to relieve political pressure, making a pretense of action while the real intent was holding on to cushy, high paying jobs.

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