Why the RIOC OMNY Crisis Is Worse Than You Think

Why the RIOC OMNY Crisis Is Worse Than You Think

Behind the RIOC/MTA OMNY crisis is a larger, mostly unknown truth that, according to RIOC’s own numbers, deprives them of $1 to 1.5 million every year.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The OMNY Crisis Follows Twelve Years of RIOC Bumbling

Roosevelt Island Tram at work
You pay $2.75 to ride, but due to a flawed contract, RIOC gets only $2.00. The MTA keeps the rest.

As City Council Member Julie Menin wrote yesterday, “In addition to not having OMNY integrated with the tram, RIOC is also currently missing out on collecting full revenues from Metrocard rides due to an outdated agreement with the MTA that did not account for fare hikes, as RIOC only receives $2.00 for a Metrocard swipe.”

This goes back to 2010 when, after hard work by then RIRA President Matthew Katz and City Council Member Jessica Lappin, RIOC cut a deal with the MTA for bringing the MetroCard system to the Tram. A boost to Roosevelt Islanders, it was also badly flawed because it did not contain any escalation clause.

That means, in short, that RIOC has not collected on any MTA fare increase since 2010. You pay $2.75. RIOC gets $2.00, and the MTA keeps the rest. RIOC, which pleads poverty whenever it’s helpful, and its hapless board simply stands by…for ten full years. And the state agency that never made a mistake has talked about it publicly for over two years while doing nothing.

Several of the same hapless board members who now nod, “Yes,” to everything CEO Shelton J. Haynes passes down from his Albany handlers approved it. But it gets worse because, through four succeeding administrations, nothing was done to correct the failure. So, tally that up with that sorry crew’s stack of fiduciary failures.

What’s the cost…?

Ridiculously off-base but still a guide to RIOC’s stumbling through an alternate universe, RIOC was willingly sacrificing around $1.5 million in 2021. That uses RIOC budget projections, approved by state handlers, of $6,356,000 in Tram revenue.

That was brainless, but it shows that RIOC, without lifting a finger in protest, was willing to cough up over a million in revenue, as it has for six years in a row. One thing making it possible is that RIOC makes up any shortfall via the hidden RIOC tax levied against residents without consent.

“It is outrageous that RIOC’s MTA (contract) has not been updated and is missing these vital funds which is why I wrote the letter to RIOC yesterday,” Menin added for this article. “This is not only fiscally irresponsible but also unfairly hurts residents of Roosevelt Island.”

In perspective…

RIOC has bumbled and wasted our tax dollars through the Cuomo years and, yes, sadly on through Hochul. But the cost to the community is magnified by stinginess when it comes to investment. That is, while allowed by law to contribute as much as $1 million in Public Purpose Funds to local nonprofits, RIOC never exceeded $150,000. That’s less than 10% of what they give up to the MTA every year out of negligence and/or incompetence.

The OMNY Crisis Conclusion

Of the many things that should happen, if good government comes to Roosevelt Island – replacing RIOC’s board in total, firing Haynes and other underperforming executives, hiring a genuine oversight officer – updating the contact with the MTA while bringing in OMNY are top of the list of possibles.

Governor Hochul’s hands are tied to the political patronage mill Cuomo built up to win votes; so, she can’t be counted on for anything more than the obvious. She may save the Tram from a disastrous fall out of the MTA system, but otherwise, she’s most likely staying in Cuomo’s shadow as long as she survives in office.

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