David Stone
Early Sunday morning on Roosevelt Island
Early Sunday morning on Roosevelt Island

Last November, we wrote about the new, enhanced level of cluelessness infecting 591 Main Street with RIOC under the combined leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo and President/CEO Susan Rosenthal. Since, shockers like the outright destruction of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program, a 40 year institution here, demonstrate disregard for community standards. Now, quality of life issues are taking a drubbing with RIOC giving off-islanders' needs preference over residents' as summer approaches.

The situation was more volatile, the tone more menacing, when Strother Martin glared at Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke and issued his judgment, "What we have here is a failure to communicate." Even so, those words came to mind when I read the email exchange between Rivercross resident Janet Falk and RIOC Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson.

"This note is to protest the issuance of a permit for loudspeakers to be broadcasting at Firefighters Field prior to 8:00 am on Sunday, May 13, which is also Mother’s Day," Falk wrote to RIOC's President Rosenthal.

"As you may be aware, the standard time to allow loudspeakers at an event is 8:00 am.

Janet Falk
Janet Falk

"I called Public Safety at 7:29 am to protest the noise. I was told that someone would look into the matter.

"When I called again at 7:49 am, I was told that the race team had a permit to broadcast earlier," Falk reported.

"I cannot believe this permit was issued for that early hour with no consideration for the residents of 425 Main Street, where I live, and those of 415 and 405."

My first thought was that even 8:00 a.m. on a weekend morning is insane. What the hell is RIOC thinking of?

Falk, like most residents, values the chance for sleep and quality time on weekend mornings. Respecting that is just common sense, but it says something about the tolerance RIOC has forced on us that she was ready to accept 8:00 a.m., just not 7:30.

RIOC's laggardly response took a day and a half with Public Information Officer Robertson responding in Rosenthal's behalf near day's end on Monday. A polished and respectful professional, Robertson began well enough.

"Thank you for your email regarding loudspeakers yesterday," he wrote.

"NYCRUNS was hosting a Mother's Day 5K/10K race for Moms and or family members to compete together here on Roosevelt Island Sunday morning. All the women finishing the race received a flower at the finish," he explained with the sort of tone deafness for which RIOC's become known, as if the finishers receiving a flower somehow mitigated the calamity of being rousted out a sound sleep early Sunday morning.

"As part of the pre-race set-up, we understand the group conducted a microphone check at 7:35 a.m. which is not allowed. PSD strictly enforces this; including yesterday when an officer responded to the location and requested them to stop.

"NYCRUNS’ signed permit for yesterday’s event states that 'amplified sound is permitted no earlier than 30 minutes prior to race start' and 'speakers on Firefighters Field must face east and noise level must be respectful to the neighboring community.' Yesterday’s first race began at 8:30 a.m., which means amplified sound should not have been permitted before 8 a.m."

Here again: how on earth did RIOC reach the conclusion that blasting loudspeakers at 8:00 a.m., adjacent to residential buildings, was in any way "respectful to the neighboring community?"

"NYCRUNS is an experienced organization that hosts several Island events each year; we don't anticipate any further issues about this policy," he added optimistically.

"Please accept our apology for any temporary inconvenience this may have caused. We hope you had an enjoyable Mother's Day."

Falk bristled, reacting to the note within 20 minutes:

"Thank you for your note.

"You have explained the contract, but what actually took place shows a failure to understand and enforce the terms of the contract by two Public Safety officers," she objected.

"Please investigate and learn why the Public Safety officer who responded to my call told me the permit allowed the race organizers to use the loudspeakers at an earlier time, when that was clearly not the case and was a violation of the contract.

"Please investigate and learn why the Public Safety officer who spoke to the race organizers was not able to deter them from continuing to use the loudspeakers prior to 8:00 am.

"Now that race season is underway, multiple groups will be here..."

Falk's response ended with a summary of upcoming events and additional concerns about traffic.

"Surely, there is ample time for RIOC and Public Safety to improve their procedures so that residents are not disturbed by loudspeakers."

By late evening, RIRA Common Council Island Services Chair Mickey Rindler weighed in.

"The use of loudspeakers on Firefighters field early this past Sunday morning is one of many violations regarding noise before races. There are also issues with traffic and residents’ access to street parking both in Southtown and on the newly opened loop road around Cornell on mornings when there are races."

Referring to "Girls on the Run," another race scheduled for June 3rd, Rindler noted, "Last year, I counted 55 taxis, private vehicles and Ubers dropping runners off for this event in a 15 minute period and this was just a fraction of the vehicles as people were arriving for more than 1 hour. Traffic was completely backed up on Main Street."

Conclusion

Aside from the debate and the fact that RIOC's again fumbling with a lack of internal controls and clueless about what goes on after 591 Main Street closes up, it's another sign of RIOC detachment from the community that they'd even give a second thought to requests for events by nonresidents that permit loudspeakers outside apartment buildings at 8:00 on weekend mornings, never mind 7:30.

Rindler requested a meeting with Rosenthal to talk over community concerns. If he can take her to school about RIOC's responsibility for quality of life standards, that should benefit all of us until Cuomo's Albany team ships the next wave of unqualified leadership into executive positions 591 Main.

We may get lucky with a breather before the next rendition of cluelessness descends.

Indeed, what we have and have had for years with RIOC is a profound failure to communicate. It starts with listening and should not end with smoothly handled apologies that offer no change and no real commitment.