Intentions In Doubt

Cross Purposes: RIOC's Messy Attempt to Connect with Residents

Updated 1 year ago David Stone
Cross Purposes: RIOC's Messy Attempt to Connect with Residents

In her President's Report, the segment which for all intents wraps up each RIOC Board Meeting, President/CEO Susan Rosenthal made a curious announcement. RIOC is hiring a "public information officer" to improve communications with the community. But that covers only half of the problem, and then, there was something else that contradicted any RIOC good intentions, just five minutes later.

Rosenthal was right. RIOC's been criticized for poor communications. But the State agency's perceived failure to listen causes the most friction. That's not to suggest that RIOC's messaging has been noted for its genius, though.

So, the new position goes after half the problem, the part that most benefits RIOC, clearing their collective throats, getting the messages across.

Public information officers (Think: Sarah Huckabee Sanders) act as official spokespersons for government operations. They can be helpful and informative as much as they can be dispensers of misinformation and providers of cover for misconduct.

The latter may not be the case with the new position, but something that happened shortly after the Board Meeting adjourned sent only bad signals about where RIOC is coming from.

****

As Board Members and public observes filed out of the Howe Theatre, I climbed up a few steps into the rows of seating to personally congratulate Dave Evans, the Residents Association Council Member who, again this year, applied his sound judgement and leadership skills to the task of approving Public Purpose Fund Grants.

Evans, whose self-confidence is evidenced by his openness and honesty, even got a rare round of applause during the meeting when asked to step forward by Board Member Michael Shinozaki.

And I'm happy to say he's a friend of mine, someone with whom it's easy to strike up a conversation in passing on Main Street.

With him was Sean Singh, his counterpart with RIOC.

I introduced myself, and Singh stood, nodding politely, while I volunteered my unsolicited opinion about why getting the process right so that disputes, like those involving the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association and the PTA did not muddy the waters.

Singh interrupted.

"This is off the record...?"

"Of course," I said.

I wasn't taking notes. I was just another resident chatting with a friend.

And we weren't exactly exchanging State secrets when Vice President and CFO Kimberly L. Quinones suddenly popped in between Evans and me.

She spoke directly to Singh.

"This is RIOC," she said. "We don't talk to the media."

Then, she turned and walked away.

Evans and I soon left for home together, me shaking my head.

"So much for improving communications," I thought to myself. 

Where do Quinones and others in RIOC's administration think residents get their information, anyway? 

Direct from RIOC? Hardly.

I don't claim to have a monopoly. Every mailbox on Roosevelt Island gets the Main Street WIRE, which routinely covers RIOC. The Roosevelt Islander blog earns 22,000 views every month from folks eager to know what's going on on our sliver of Manhattan.

So, who exactly is "We don't talk to the media" supposed to serve?

Not the community that lives here, that's for sure.

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