How Loopy Is RIOC? Leaderless? Adrift in New York? What?


“How loopy is RIOC?” I asked myself before sharing their Advisory. “RIOC Advisories” are set up to inform a mailing list of current events, but lately, it’s mostly spam. This was different. “Be advised that the North Tram Cabin will resume service today, Thursday, July 21st at 3PM.” Trouble was, I was already riding in the “North Tram Cabin,” and it was just after noon. It was my second trip on it.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Hey, RIOC! Anyone Home?

After more than a month of partial shutdowns, reckless repair work and mass transit tangles, Roosevelt Islanders were eager to see the Tram return to full service. Early that day, I shared video of ghost cabins running back and forth across the East River, apparently in testing.

The Tram passing the Roosevelt Island tower without passengers or operator.

That was promising, and on the ground, barriers blocking platform entrances were being dismantled. For the first time in weeks, the MetroCard machines were working, and lines formed quickly.

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So, when we decided on a Trader Joe’s run before lunch, it was nice but not a total surprise when the operator locked out the south cabin and ushered us into the first trip in the north cabin on new hardware. A PSD officer had stepped on board and made a no-nonsense demand that everyone wear face masks.

And finally on the ground, I was happy to let everyone on Facebook know that the Tram was back in full operation. While trying not to bump into shoppers in the busy TJ aisles.

It was a given that RIOC, a pricey, low-performance state agency, would not stay current with anything even this simple. But their next move was as much funny as it was evidence of how far they’ve gotten out of their own loop in the past year under President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes and Governor Kathy Hochul.

Does One Hand Know What the Other is Doing?

So when RIOC email blasted, “Be advised that the North Tram Cabin will resume service today, Thursday, July 21st  at 3PM.,” it had already been running for close to an hour. In the surreal world of this state agency, the brain trust was not aware that the cabin was already running although their own Public Safety officers were onboard, enforcing face mask rules.


So, what you have is communications, Tram operations and Public Safety all working independently of top management which, bunkered in Blackwell House, seems more disconnected than ever. And just as expensive, funded by residents with the undemocratic RIOC Tax.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

While still unable to handle constant traffic violations threatening residents’ safety, RIOC’s Public Safety Department outdid itself during the Tram shutdown. Not only were Red Bus and Tram riders better protected from COVID than other methods of transit – especially the enforcement free subways and buses – they picked up where POMA’s construction crews left off.

After crews working on the Tram rope haul project left pedestrians walking in the street, PSD Deputy Chief Anthony Amaroso singlehandedly set up protective barriers for safety. Amaroso was in street clothes on a hot summer afternoon.

After this latest in a series of Where’s Shelton? events, the question of why Governor Hochul, who is ultimately responsible for RIOC, continues protecting this pricey stew of hit-or-miss management remains.

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