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“Useless, unreliable bureaucrats…” Resident Sizes Up RIOC


Is RIOC staffed with “Useless, unreliable bureaucrats?” as this resident says? Or is it a profound lack of leadership, corruption, laziness… Or what?

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

“Stranded in Queens, having to take a series of trains and Q102 bus just to get home…no notices received via RIOC’s alert system to my knowledge. This is major planned maintenance and they simply haven’t bothered to inform the community.”

Frustrated Roosevelt Islander
Useless, unreliable bureaucrats?
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Useless, unreliable bureaucrats…?

Although conditions trend sharply downward, that is not true of all of RIOC, just a significant portion. The buses and Tram still run. They cleaned much up by outsourcing. Still kept the bloated staff but reduced their impact.

Our reader was frustrated over RIOC’s failure at warning residents about an F Train shutdown that left many surprised and scrambling for a way home. But this was not an exception. In the first ten days of March, the state agency’s advisory system pumped out a grand total of seven, mainly repetitive announcements. Not one was helpful for the daily lives of people living here.

Nothing about changing rules for COVID, nothing about pending, dangerous weather conditions or about face mask or COVID kit giveaways… but two about DOT bridge testing. It’s completely unpredictable, erratic, leaderless.

What makes this negligence worse is that Roosevelt Islanders pay, via the hidden RIOC Tax, for three full time Communications and Community Relations staffers. One pulls down $122K per year. Another is a public relations specialist. And for a nearly $300,000 annual investment, we get a dozen or so boilerplate mailings a month….

Frustration mounts.

A Short History Trip

Two years ago, while we were in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, RIOC actually excelled at communications. Then President/CEO Susan Rosenthal appeared in a face mask, urging residents to stay safe. Then public relations officer Terrence McCauley produced a Daily Update with COVID and other local information. That’s one person, doing the work himself. The borderline literacy came after his departure.

This continued until mid-June when an internal group conspired with Governor Cuomo’s minion to get Rosenthal fired on questionable grounds. Shelton J. Haynes, now RIOC President/CYA, almost immediately made Erica Spencer-EL head of communications. For no other clear reason than that she wanted it. Spencer-EL’s prior communications experience, according to one local wag, was handing out volleyballs.

Anyway, McCauley left soon and so did professional communications – even as the employee count doubled. It’s a clown show, now, and the trio barely does enough to keep a high school intern busy part-time.

And now…

Hope is not on the horizon. Under Cuomo, patronage and nepotism hires of unqualified personnel weakened RIOC. There were thefts and questionable contract awards. And sadly, after Cuomo got shoved out and Kathy Hochul moved in, the impossible happened, RIOC got worse. No one thought it was possible.

But Hochul’s promises of reform turned out about as effective as a fart in a windstorm.

So, locate your own resources online with the MTA, NYC Ferry and the National Weather Service. Nothing’s changing RIOC as long this sorry line from Cuomo to Hochul stays in office.

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