After a month of being sidelined on quality-of-life issues by RIOC and the MTA, Roosevelt Islander complaints surged, and elected officials acted. Being kicked around by RIOC and the MTA is not new, but conditions deteriorated badly since Governor Kathy Hochul took office. Recently, they got worse.
by David Stone
The latest disregard for quality of life issues on Roosevelt Island, an eight-month plan for reduced subway service, raised resident ire over the top. Already underway, the work hampers travel to and from the community for multiple extended periods.
Responding to a resulting complaints surge, four elected officials signed off on a letter to MTA and RIOC presidents. In it, they ask Janno Lieber and Seldom Seen Shelton J. Haynes for “a strong plan” of shuttles and other alternatives that will reduce the pain.
Under the letterhead of Julie Menin, the City Council Member joined State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, Senator Liz Kreuger and Congressman Jerold Nadler in support.
Acting on the Complaints Surge
Copy attached below…
Along with the subway issue, they addressed “the lack of OMNY on the Roosevelt Island Tram,” but they got the issue wrong.
They asked that Lieber and Haynes work with Cubic, the MTA’s OMNY installation vendor, but Cubic is not the problem. What’s blocking installation is an outdated MetroCard revenue-sharing contract that allows the MTA an unearned $100K+ in monthly revenue.
With the MTA towering over an extraordinarily weak RIOC, there has been no movement toward a new or renegotiated contract. Governor Hochul runs both agencies but will not provide the leadership needed. She is also the primary obstruction against dealing with a super-expensive but fumbling RIOC under Haynes.
Given that the letter showed little urgency and Hochul’s open disregard for Roosevelt Island, don’t get your hopes up for any change. This is not the first try at dislodging the MTA/RIOC logjam, but it’s the first joint effort in a year.
Seawright and Kreuger Take on Visnauskis
More promising was Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright’s tackling Housing and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskis at an Albany hearing. HCR oversees RIOC, but Visnauskis has not done much to help Roosevelt Islanders. She participated in the Cuomo Coup that brought Haynes in as head of RIOC and shows no signs of managing the mess that created.
But in answering Seawright’s questioning about Motorgate price increases, especially for people with disabilities, she was all-in on community engagement.
Visnauskis said she’d already met with Senator Kreuger – whose committee controls RIOC board appointments – and would work with them on community issues. But she’s never done so before and rarely shows up on Roosevelt Island; so, prospects for improving RIOC are slim, at best.
All things considered, though, the community’s complaints surge, standing up and demanding action had an impact. Whether the elected officials’ power and commitment are enough to bring change is an open question.
In the meantime, Roosevelt Islanders’ calls, emails and letters remain a potent force. If residents don’t stand up for themselves, they can’t expect the electeds, the MTA, Hochul and Haynes to change anything.