Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brief Confusion Regarding Access To RIOC Staff By Roosevelt Island Press & Bloggers - Issue Now Resolved

You Tube Video of Deep Throat "I need to know what you know" scene

There was a small, minor problem yesterday between RIOC and myself regarding the process of gathering information posted on the Roosevelt Islander blog and my ability to ask questions of RIOC staff.

The problem started late last Friday afternoon when RIOC VP of Planning & Inter-Government Affairs Rosina Abramson responded to my inquiry regarding this You Tube video purportedly showing RIOC personnel at work. Ms Abramson looked into the matter and provided a very reasonable explanation for what occurred but prefaced her remarks with the following regarding future inquiries:
Fernando referred your e-mail/You-Tube inquiry to me. Thanks for asking and waiting for our comment. In future, please forward all press inquiries to me...
(Fernando is RIOC's VP Of Operations Fernando Martinez to whom I originally sent the inquiry concerning the You Tube Video.)

I was very concerned Ms. Abramson's statement to forward all press inquires to her would make it much more difficult and cumbersome to report on issues of concern to Roosevelt Island residents so I sent her the following message on Monday morning, copying RIOC Senior Staff, RIOC Directors and the Main Street WIRE Editor.
Thank you for the information clarifying what was going on in the video. I published post about it today.

As to your direction to forward all future inquires to you, I question whether that is the most efficient and effective manner in providing information to the Roosevelt Island community and hope that RIOC does not establish such a policy to funnel all press/blogger/resident inquires through you.

To be clear, are you instructing me, and is it now RIOC policy, that any inquiry regarding Public Safety, which I would normally make to Chief Guerra, or Operations question such as the Red Bus, Tram, etc. to Mr. Martinez or even something as simple as outdoor movies (Ms. Wilder) and Sportpark, (Mr. Smith or Ms. Masly) now has to be filtered through you instead of to the primary source?. Am I not permitted to make an inquiry of the Interim RIOC President/CEO Steve Chironis as well? Funneling all inquiries through you, will only add an extra layer of unnecessary, time consuming bureaucracy to the Roosevelt Island information gathering process.

As has been said many times before, Roosevelt Island is a small town and RIOC is not the the massive MTA or a NYC government agency which responds to the press in this manner. It certainly did not during Mr. Shane's tenure as RIOC President who brought a good deal of openness and transparency to Roosevelt Island and did not object to staff directly responding to inquires. In fact, he encouraged staff to respond to questions within there areas of expertise. In my opinion, it is not a good sign that RIOC may change this prior practice of allowing the appropriate staff person to answer questions of interest to the Roosevelt Island community submitted by residents, even if they happen to maintain a blog.

RIOC staff members such as Mr. Chironis, Chief Guerra, Mr. Martinez and the others are all professionals who have responded to inquires in the past and provided Roosevelt Island residents access to timely, correct and relevant information of concern to them. Is there really such a need to silence them now that Mr. Shane is no longer the President of RIOC?

Please advise.
Approximately 15 minutes later, Ms. Abramson responded:
It is a desire to make things more efficient and coordinated that prompted us to create a focused channel for press communications. We will take up your concerns with Executive staff and advise.
Approximately 25 minutes later Ms. Abramson added:
If you have a specific question within someone's realm of responsibility or expertise, of course continue to go directly to them. We read the You Tube question as generic - seeking RIOC's general response. Those I will be fielding for coordination and efficiency sake.
I replied:
OK - thank you.

Would the Riverwalk Commons Dog Policy be an example of a generic response?

I asked Fernando that since Related banned dogs from the lawns of Riverwalk Buildings at 405, 415 and 425 Main Street for heath and appearance reasons, would RIOC follow their lead and ban dogs from the lawn of the Riverwalk Commons between 425 and 455 Main Street. Fernando said that he would be getting back to me with a response.

Would this issue be considered under your domain or Operations.
Ms. Abramson responded:
When in doubt, come to me. We're all very close and there's no such thing as asking the wrong person. We'll transmit internally as appropriate.

Re dogs: RIOC is surveying the Island to identify all the variations on dog policies in different areas so we can develop a standard approach which balances dog owners needs with the general public. Working on it now.
Issue solved but I must admit to missing my exchanges with former RIOC President Steve Shane. For those interested, here is the first online back and forth between Mr. Shane and myself from July 11, 2007 - the second week of the Roosevelt Islander Blog's existence.