David Stone

Roosevelt Island Youth Program end of season soccer celebration last fall, before RIOC sent the program into oblivion.
Roosevelt Island Youth Program end of season soccer celebration last fall, before RIOC sent the program into oblivion.
Photo courtesy of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program

"Deteriorating turf conditions at the Octagon Sports Field have forced its closure," RIOC announced late Friday. It's a move that should raise eyebrows, not because shutting it down is a bad idea, but because it reflects again on a troubled history of questionable spending and promises more to come.

According to a contemporary article in the Roosevelt Islander in January of 2010, estimated cost of the artificial turf now needing emergency replacement was $1.8 million. It was supposed to last 10 to 12 years.

It's now done for in just 8.

With No Prior Warning, an Immediate Shutdown at Octagon Field

The purchase was overseen by Fernando Martinez, RIOC V.P. of Operations who a few years later was jailed for crimes related to inflated purchase prices, although the Octagon Field deal was not one of those cited.

At the time, Roosevelt Island Youth Program Executive Director Charlie DeFino questioned the RIOC Board's decision, noting that President/CEO Steve Shane showed him a different turf for approval than the one submitted for a vote.

According to a report by Frank Farance at a RIRA Town Hall, DeFino also told him that "the sample provided to him ripped easily. This artificial turf is not the one used by the City Parks Department."

Troubling also was RIOC's failure to consult the Youth Program, which is the main local user of the field for its soccer program, instead going to outsider Zog Sports for advice.

This was another in a long series of RIOC insults to the Youth Program and DeFino which eventually resulted this spring in the State's unreasonable crushing of the 40 year old organization and the brutal takedown of its leader.

On one issue, though, we know that DeFino and Farance were wrong.

"The community will be stuck with this surface for at least 10 years," they warned. In the end, it was worse.

Sporting the traditional lack of transparency, RIOC concluded, "Due to numerous unsafe snags, rips and tears on its turf, RIOC plans to repair and redevelop the field as well as all surrounding fixtures and facilities, including comfort stations, seating, security features, and lighting design." (Italics ours.)

As this looks like the State may be counting on short memories to use the failure of artificial turf for which it paid nearly $2 million as rationale for vastly higher spending on other related amenities, need 'em or not.

Nowhere does RIOC mention warranties by the turf's manufacturer or consideration for holding anyone responsible for what appears to be an expensive failure.

No estimate of costs were included nor was there any discussion of spending approval or other discussions by the Board, which putatively manages RIOC but has been gutted by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Is anyone monitoring this stuff?

"This major renovation will begin in the Fall of 2018," the announcement concluded flatly.

With the Roosevelt Island Youth Program destroyed and the supposedly resident control RIOC Board sucking wind under Cuomo's despotic control, potential critics seem limited.