Roosevelt Island Hurricane Irene Media Briefing From RIOC, Reviews Staff Performance During Storm, Assesses Damage After Storm and Lessons Learned For The Future - Are We Prepared For An Emergency Evacuation?
On the afternoon of Friday September 2, Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Vice President of Operations Fernando Martinez provided a post Hurricane Irene briefing for the Roosevelt Island media - myself and David Stone of the Main Street WIRE. Mr. Martinez provided a brief statement reviewing RIOC's operations during the storm and it's aftermath. Mr. Martinez then took questions from Mr. Stone and myself. Questions were asked and comments discussed concerning:
- the existence and feasibility of a Roosevelt Island disaster emergency evacuation plan,
- the extent and cost of damage to Roosevelt Island,
- damage to the Smallpox Hospital, Lighthouse and Southpoint Park,
- what lessons were learned,
- public safety incidents during the storm,
- problems with the phone and communications systems,
- retail stores closed prior to storm,
- red bus and tram operations,
- where was RIOC President Torres during the storm,
- use of the RI311 See Click Fix system to report problems,
- RIOC's use of their social media to distribute information during the storm and
- damage to RIOC staff personal property.
for RIOC Directors Sal Ferrera and Fay Christian as well as Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Matt Katz, Planning Committee Chair Frank Farance, Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy and Assembly Member Micah Kellner's staffer Robert Atterbury at Lighthouse Park.
I asked Mr. Katz to comment on the briefing he received. Mr. Katz replied:
While the meeting was very complementary to the RIOC staff, we agreed that questions of how and when to implement safe evacuation procedures remained to be addressed. In addition, the unexpected loss of telephone lines to both RIOC and Public Safety negated the presence of their personnel all weekend in both offices. This was an eventuality that couldn’t be anticipated, but certainly contingency plans for the loss of landlines must be considered prior to the next major weather event.Both myself and the WIRE reporter were originally invited to attend the morning briefing with RIOC Directors at Lighthouse Park but received emails two hours before it was scheduled to start that the briefing had been rescheduled for later in the day. When I arrived for the rescheduled briefing at RIOC Headquarters, I was advised that the Directors Briefing had already occued and that I was attending a separate media briefing.
UPDATE 9/4 - I asked Ms. Berdy for a comment on the briefing she attended. Ms. Berdy replied:
I was invited to the 11 a.m. briefing at the Lighthouse where Mr. Martinez recapped RIOC's actions before, during and after Hurricane Irene. The executive staff of RIOC was present, though they were silent. I complemented all the management present and I am happy that they were here to oversee the safety of the Island.
The communications with all residents is an ongoing problem. Between e-mails, facebook and the Internet, many are still out of information. RIOC had to be reminded to post paper notices advising of the situation.
Thanks to Mr. Ferrera for offering the gym of the Child School for sheltering space. (This will be an ongoing project since there are a lot of conditions to follow to become a "shelter."
I am most upset that the "worker-bees" are not recognized. I want to thank the laborers who, moved fallen trees, cleaned storm drains, moved heavy equipment, readied the parks and roadways and were out there getting wet and dirty before, during and after the storm. Thanks to the PSD officers who tried to keep our roving neighbors from walking under dangerous and newly fallen trees.
Thanks to the building staffs of all the housing that stayed here and made sure their residents were safe and sound in their apartments.
Happily, the Tram re-opened before any NYC mass transit on Sunday afternoon, due to the fact that the tram staff was there all night and immediately set about testing and getting the system up on Sunday.
I am most distressed that RIOC President Leslie Torres left on a trip just before the storm. As a President and CEO of a private corporation she would have been expected (and would have) returned to her desk and been on scene for an urgent situation such as hurricane preparation.
There is no excuse for her absence. Her staff performed very well without her, but she is the boss and it is her job to be here.