Public Exposure Must Be Taken Seriously

October 5, 2017

 To the Editor,


A public lewdness crime took place in the tenth floor hallway of 540 Main Street on the night of September 7. The victim was alone and petrified when she made a panicked call to Public Safety, pleading for help. She told them a man had his penis in his hands and was masturbating. Officers did not arrive for over seven minutes. It was later determined that they were already in the building at the 510 address. When they did arrive, they casually strolled up to the victim with no sense of urgency. When officers at the front desk were questioned about PSD’s slow response, they characterized the victim’s plea for help as a call for an “escort.”


In a meeting with Susan Rosenthal, president of RIOC, she stated that this incident is merely a “violation.” Violations are not considered dangerous criminal behavior. Public lewdness is a crime, and not a violation, under New York State criminal law. 


This case underscores several important changes that should take place in the PSD: 


• A number should be established for emergency calls, and the line should be recorded.

• Our community needs a community review board, not RIOC, overseeing the behavior of their own staff.

• The number of PSD staffers is not sufficient for the needs of the community.  

• Activity in the PSD office should be audio recorded, not simply video recorded.

• At least one officer per shift should be specially trained to deal with sex crimes and a victim’s advocate should immediately be assigned to the case.

• PSD should make it clear to the victim where their involvement ends and the NYPD’s begins. 

• Public Safety Officers must be instructed that sex crimes require an urgent, immediate response, and that invalidating or demeaning the victim is not acceptable behavior.


The sign on every NYPD vehicle states: Courtesy, Professionalism, and Respect. Our Public Safety Officers need training to live up to this motto. Failure to provide transparency is unacceptable in this modern age of technology. It gives the department the ability to cover up their mistakes and expose a disdain for our community; The attitude that trickles down from top RIOC management is that residents are “spoiled” and “should be thrilled” with the level of service we’re receiving. 


We residents, not New York State or New York City, pay over $20 million into the operating budget RIOC ​administers, including every aspect of Public Safety’s services. RIOC and Public Safety should be responding with the respect and service our $20 million deserves!


Joyce M. Short



[Editor’s note: The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation sent the following statement in response.]


RIOC can confirm that a female resident called PSD regarding a public lewdness incident on September 7, 2017, at 540 Main Street. PSD officers did respond to the call. RIOC cannot confirm Ms. Short’s description of events and notes that Ms. Short was neither present at the time of the incident nor at the time when PSD responded. RIOC’s PSD office has been working with the victim; however, investigations for unapprehended suspects are the province of NYPD and not PSD. PSD is conducting a thorough internal investigation of the actions alleged by Ms. Short.


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