Politically Calibrated Announcement Concedes Failure - Obscurely

Buried in the Details: RIOC Admits Octagon Field Is Toast for This Year

Updated 19 weeks ago David Stone
Informal games continued after the announced closing of Octagon Field.
Informal games continued after the announced closing of Octagon Field.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

RIOC, although run by unelected State officials, observes political techniques time-honored among politicians. Bury bad news at the bottom of a press release, and maybe some will miss it. Make it vague and release late on Friday, when fewer are watching. Such went the devastating news about Octagon Field, now conceded as all but dead for this year.

When RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal addressed the Board, last summer, after abruptly shutting down Octagon Field, she said repairs would begin right away and be finished by spring. An earlier round of bad purchasing decisions and neglectful upkeep, neither admitted to by RIOC, forced the closing.

Down for the count went countless league and local pick up games, mostly soccer, as well as Riverwalk Bar and Grill, which could not survive the sudden loss of business caused by turning away off-island groups who refreshed there during normal summers.

"I lost 600 customers," owner Jonathan Hoo told The Daily.

Numerous soccer players and parents complained about what they perceived as RIOC's laggardly pace at repairs.

"The evaluation phase was to be completed by July 2018 but was not completed until September," Rosenthal explained in January, while declining to predict a reopening date.

"This was because the architects brought in 3 subcontractors for site surveys, permeability tests and video inspection primarily because the field was not draining properly. We had to ensure that the pipes were just clogged and not collapsed."

Parents weren't buying.

"If there was significant unclogging work going on June-September, that is news to me. Our boys were out there every day and we never saw any work being done," Tapan Parikh wrote in response to an earlier article

"When these same parents met with Steve Noone in October (after the evaluation, and shortly before his departure), he did not mention any such delay due to clogging, and also suggested that the field should be ready by July. Somehow, after his departure, the timeline of the project was extended by several months, and this clogging became a major delay-causing issue - retroactively, as it were."

Closing up shop, Riverwalk Bar & Grill owner Jonathan Hoo said shutting down Octagon Field cost him 600 customers... and his business.
Closing up shop, Riverwalk Bar & Grill owner Jonathan Hoo said shutting down Octagon Field cost him 600 customers... and his business.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Noone, in November, joined a mass departure of RIOC executives that includes Vice President/Legal Counsel Jacqueline Flug, next week.

Burying the Bad News

After business hours on Friday, prime time for politicians to spill bad news they hope you'll miss during the TGIF hustle, RIOC Community Affairs Supervisor Jessica Murray dropped a hidden bombshell under the heading RIOC announces field usage updates for soccer enthusiasts while Octagon Field is offline...

Forget for now that Octagon Field cannot be "offline." Athletic fields are never online to start with. They're open, or they're closed. In this case, it's closed and now, RIOC finally admits, for a very long time.

I was taught, long ago during a more literate time, to look for the most important information in any letter in the final paragraphs.

Murray saved this stunner for the very last: "While the pre-construction phases for the Octagon renovation project began in June 2018, due to unforeseen delays, the field work is now expected to be complete in Fall 2019." (Italics ours.)

While Tapan Parikh and many others will protest claims that any phases, other than putting up fences got underway that early, their complaints have fallen on deaf ears so far and continue to do so.

“We’re announcing these updated policies today to let the community know we’re listening," Rosenthal is quoted in the release. "We’ve heard you, and we’re working to accommodate your requests.”

Apparently not requests for an explanation of such a major, poorly explained screw up, however.

RIOC's lack of transparency is in full feather, i.e., nobody at fault, it just happened, couldn't be helped, we're doing our best, etc. 

That's butt-covering, not explaining.

More options for outdoor play...

Yes, RIOC did have some changes to offer as a cover for the terrible news that followed:

  • All permitting on Firefighter’s Field, excluding RIOC programming, will be suspended on Fridays and Saturdays, allowing open play until the Octagon Field renovation is complete;
  • Island residents will be surveyed to seek new community usage policies for the renovated Octagon Field.
  • Capobianco Field will be opened to permitted requests to alleviate overuse of Firefighter’s (sic) Field.

If you believe that jamming more activities into Capobianco Field is a cheering thought or that Firefighters Field is not already showing severe signs of overuse, take another look. 

And in case you're wondering, RIOC did not accept any responsibility for the disastrous closing, last summer, or for the gross failure to get a fix expedited.

Business as usual, late on a Friday.


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