Finger-Pointing Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival Committee Seizes Chance To Praise Itself, Throw RIOC Under Bus

Updated 17 weeks ago David Stone
For illustration only: An example of the kind of bus under which the Cherry Blossom Festival Committee chucked RIOC.
For illustration only: An example of the kind of bus under which the Cherry Blossom Festival Committee chucked RIOC.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going," a saying attributed to both Joseph P. Kennedy and Knute Rockne, is locally reflected in the Roosevelt Island Cherry Blossom Festival corollary: "Those who act tough and proud will vacate a situation when it becomes difficult lest they be proven not as tough as they appear to be."

After The Daily made public a letter from Joseph Williams, protesting shoddy Cherry Blossom Festival planning and execution - and the Festival Committee's indifference - the primary organizers couldn't resist an opportunity to sweep aside responsibility for... well, for anything that turned out badly.

Or to throw RIOC under the bus.

"To the best of our knowledge, RIOC communicated with the MTA regarding transportation arrangements and with Public Safety regarding local traffic," Lynne Strong-Shinozaki and Lydia Tang jointly wrote wrote in a bulk email to an unknown number of unidentified recipients, presumably but not certainly including Mr. Williams.

The phrasing, used earlier in a bulk apology, reflects the Committee's ongoing efforts to deflect responsibility for, not just traffic mismanagement, but also for other unaddressed failures, such as not securing anywhere near enough toilet facilities or available food and water supplies.

The mass email was sent at 10:37, last evening, more than a week after Williams contacted the Committee, at their request, in a detailed complaint.

"On behalf of the Cherry Blossom Festival Committee," the bulk email began, "we were saddened to learn that the special family gathering you had planned on April 13, the day of the Cherry Blossom Festival, turned out so disappointingly for you and your visiting family members," downplaying what happened, which was much worse than "disappointing."

A 65th birthday celebration was destroyed while relatives, young and old alike, were thrown into unanticipated dangers that could be seen as life-threatening, not merely inconvenient.

"We apologize for any misunderstanding regarding the activities that the Committee planned that interfered with or disrupted your celebration," the email said.

Not for the mess their poor planning caused. For others' misunderstanding.

It's poster made clear that the RIRA's Cherry Blossom Festival Committee was the leader... until things went wrong.
It's poster made clear that the RIRA's Cherry Blossom Festival Committee was the leader... until things went wrong.

"As you may be aware, the Committee was solely responsible for the performances held at Four Freedoms Park and activities held at Gallery RIVAA and South Point Park," the Committee said, repeating a gross falsehood.

From the day of its inception, the Cherry Blossom Committee has been fully responsible for all aspects of the festival, even if some things are delegated to others.

In fact, in an earlier response, the Committee thanked RIOC, among others, for "vast support," while claiming all credit for the Festival's successes and none of the failures.

And for ignoring Williams for a full week?

The Committee had a "big me, little you" excuse: "In addition, we are sorry about the delay in responding to your detailed letter of complaint, which was relayed to us on April 14th ; preparations for our own family celebration of Easter impeded an earlier reply."

To be sure, failures were everywhere, including RIOC's. The State agency again failed to be the adult in the room, leaving too much to a Cherry Blossom Festival Committee that was clearly unprepared, had too little experience and not enough qualified volunteers.

But the Committee, which also took pains to distance itself from the Residents Association Common Council of which it's a part, takes the cake in irresponsibility, still unable to stand tall, a week after so many suffered along with the Williams family, and admit ownership of the festival, top to bottom, laboring to shift blame while at the same time seizing every ounce of glory.

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