Signature Art Event, June 1st & 2nd in Lighthouse Park

Is RIOC Prepared for FIGMENT NYC 2019? We might be surprised

Updated 1 year ago David Stone
FIGMENT NYC 2019 preparations started in Lighthouse Park last Wednesday.
FIGMENT NYC 2019 preparations started in Lighthouse Park last Wednesday.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

"On Thursday, May 23rd," RIOC's press release said, "the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) held a Town Hall with representatives from NYC Emergency Management (NYCEM), the NYPD, and Figment (sic) to review preparations and take questions from the public regarding the upcoming Figment (sic) NYC..." and, then, they called the art project a "festival," which didn't inspire confidence that the State agency had a handle on it. Do they?

Indications fluttered in spring breezes for weeks. RIOC bounced off ridiculously poor planning for the Cherry Blossom Festival with determination to take lessons learned forward and do better with FIGMENT NYC.

Yes, FIGMENT is all caps, and RIOC's repeated failure to spell it correctly makes their press releases and public announcements seem like cookie-cutter bureaucratic spillage.

And the failure, unshaken by multiple requests and reports, to share anything about locally oriented events coming up, like Roosevelt Island Day and free movie nights, may make them seem more hobbled than focused.

But there's good reason to expect FIGMENT NYC, which will occupy Lighthouse Park plus some other ill-defined locations north of the Queensboro Bridge, to be relatively ripple free.

The inadequate PR signals nothing more than a severe staff shortage exacerbated by RIOC's Albany handlers' obstructing important local hires. The few people working to fill in where dismissed Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson left off are doing double, even triple duty, and all things considered doing it reasonably well. 

And last week's public meeting stepped in the right direction. Putting planning in PSD Chief Jack McManus's hands and bringing in the City's emergency planning expertise is as smart as it gets.

Legitimate concerns were captured when one local resident told The Daily, "I'm hoping that as the long holiday weekend concludes, some leadership will be shown to better inform the folks who live & work here." She worried about how well prepared Island merchants were after discovering that RIOC failed to engage with them, leaving it to FIGMENT, which really isn't geared for that.

Another, Frank Farance, shared concerns about inadequate Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) deployment - RIOC plans to use only a few, 2 to 4, of the trained volunteers for traffic control, a number considered merely "decorative," not helpful.

Farance also extrapolated from an anticipated number of visitors, based on FIGMENT's report for last year, and found that, as with the Cherry Blossom Festival, many would be forced by crowding to walk in the streets, not on the sidewalks.

But all this may be mitigated by, first, RIOC's engaging NYPD and Emergency Management, both of which will increase staffing on the Island during FIGMENT NYC, but because we might be seeing a substantial overreaction with a Cherry Blossom Festival mistake being repeated.

Do you remember RIOC's Facebook Page for the Cherry Blossom Festival? Inviting disaster immediately prior to the April event, RIOC and the Cherry Blossom Festival Committee ignored the fact that that nearly 14,000 people reported that they were coming and a whopping 70,000 said they were interested.

Anyone experienced with registrations for free events knows that many never show up, but those numbers were scary. And to the detriment of all, RIOC looked the other way when a handful of Common Council members frantically tried to get their attention.

The results were horrible, leading to this week's energetic planning.

But again, no one in charge - or questioning those in charge - is paying attention to real numbers, instead using last year's unverified estimates. FIGMENT NYC on Governors Island, it was reported, drew 12,000 on Day One and 3,000 on a rainy Day Two.

And Governors Island is accessible only by ferry, not subway, tram or road.

Taking in those facts can catch your breath, but something's funny. As of this morning, just four days ahead of the event, a mere 1,800 clicked "Interested" on FIGMENT's own website in spite of months long promotions and a boost from the Gothamist

Where did the 12,000 number come from? Should we expect anything approaching that? If so, why hasn't the throng of outsiders made themselves known?

Fair skies and temperatures in the mid 70s are predicted for Saturday. Estimated crowd sizes may be less reliable, and we'll have one more lesson learned.

We shouldn't expect it to be a painful one. 

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