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Stupid, Stubborn or Incompetent? RIOC Invites New Penalties


Stupid, stubborn or incompetent? With RIOC, it’s often hard to tell, but we discovered a case which may cover all three. And net over $100,000 in sanctions against the state – paid for, of course, by residents. The Daily routinely reviews court records involving RIOC because lawsuits, large and small, are always running and informative.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Stupid, Stubborn or Incompetent? You Decide…

Westview, 625 Main Street. A school and two residential buildings separate it from 20 River Road, but apparently, RIOC never noticed.

It all started simply enough. A man, Manuel Gonzalez-Ortega, had a slip and fall accident at 20 River Road in Manhattan Park. Not surprisingly, he sued the owners, Roosevelt Island Associates, over his injuries.

Simple enough. Happens all the time, but his attorneys made the case more sweeping, including multiple parties, including Westview, RIOC and even Riverwalk in Southtown as defendants.

So, you sort this out in court. And generally, the process followed a normal course. Upon learning that Westview does not and never did have any connection with 20 River Road, the defendant dropped his claim. But in the flurry of counterclaims, RIOC refused to drop its against Westview.

No question, 20 River Road’s owner may be liable, and RIOC’s counterclaim against them makes sense. But why continue it against Westview? According to attorneys representing Westview, they have no good reason. Maybe they are stupid, stubborn and/or incompetent.

In any case, Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson’s rejection of Westview’s request may cost RIOC $100,000 in sanctions. Which residents will eventually pay.

The Details…

Although the lawsuit names both President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes and Robinson as being aware of Westview’s complete lack of connection to 20 River Road, its focus turns on emails to and from Robinson.

Attempting to resolve the conflict simply, on December 15, David Hirschhorn, an owner’s representative at Westview, emailed Robinson. “Obviously, Westview has nothing whatsoever to do with 20 River Road,” he wrote.

He continued, “The plaintiff has finally discontinued their bogus action against Westview, but incredibly, RIOC…is now refusing to similarly discontinue… You more than anyone in the world, well know… that Westview has absolutely no involvement or liability in this case.

“Westview has wasted over $10,000 defending this case and by RIOC’s continued refusal to do the right thing, we will continue to incur expenses… Before our attorney has to make a motion to dismiss RIOC’s claims, as well as seek costs and sanctions, I wanted to bring this to your attention as I cannot believe this is a strategy RIOC General Counsel supports.”

Simply put, Hirschhorn offered Robinson an easy way out. Robinson was not moved, and why should she be? It’s not her money, is it?

Taxpayers have deep pockets, and RIOC is happy to pick them.

Robinson Pushed Blame Elsewhere

Although they employ a staff of attorneys, RIOC regularly hires outside counsel, costing residents hundreds of thousands annually, for routine cases. But Robinson remains their boss, and she turned down Westview’s simple request. In typical RIOC style, she palmed it off on the outside counsel.

Westview’s attorney, in a motion filed on March 25th, calls it “nothing short of willful bad faith misconduct.”

“Accordingly, Moving Defendants (Westview) seek sanctions against RIOC in the amount of not less than $100,000 for actual and punitive damages resulting from RIOC’s wrongful and fraudulent conduct…”

In the neighborhood of 90% of RIOC’s operating budget is paid for out of local resources, with nothing coming from the state. That is, we pay for stupid, stubborn or incompetent acts and have no choice in the matter. In fact, if left to RIOC’s responsibility alone, we would not even know how they waste our money in “willful misconduct.”

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