Seawright-Haynes Town Hall: The Bomb That Bored New York To Tears

The Seawright Haynes Town Hall put together in haste and shared on Facebook in July bombed. It bombed as any informercial masquerading as a town hall would.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

The Background Noise From a Phony Town Hall

Assembly member Rebecca Seawright wiped away any pretense about the online event’s purpose, starting with a circle jerk of Democrats running for office.

(Note, I’m using circle jerk as a euphemism for the CF it was, but it takes some effort.)

Aware that only 60 minutes were available, the political circle jerk ate up one-third immediately. It was an ad, not informational, an echo chamber, boasting of alleged achievements and slapping each other on the back.

While captive viewers and even some on the ZOOM call rolled their eyes.

Each eager to please Democrat sucked up to locals and their “special needs,” without ever identifying one. And scoring points with entrenched party regulars, Seawright dubbed Carolyn Maloney “America’s Congresswoman,” but scared up only a single achievement: Funding for the Second Avenue Subway.

And how long ago was that and where on Roosevelt Island does it stop?

America’s congresswoman got only 41.5% support in her recent primary. That is, way less than half of her own party.

Southpoint Park Trail never made an appearance in the Seawright Haynes Town Hall.
Southpoint Park as it looks today and will never look again if RIOC’s plans go through. See the adult tree on the left? Remember it.

Maloney responded by mispronouncing Haynes as Shelton Hayes and looking around distractedly without adding anything to the rest of the meeting. Toward the end, she took a telephone call, lamely trying to hide it by covering her phone with her hand.

With about 40 minutes left to go, Shelton Haynes, the supposed star of the show, spoke.

The Staged Seawright Haynes Town Hall

Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. (RIOC) acting president/CEO Shelton Haynes took a few minutes, quickly detailing his intentions and plans for making RIOC transparent and responsive.

Not a politician, Haynes talked a little too fast and with too little detail. After all, this was the core topic, but inherited conflicts and whisking them aside took center stage instead.

That was unfortunate because Haynes is sincere about improving the state agency as a public resource, but he didn’t get enough time to make the case.

Politicians and a meat market’s worth of baloney gobbled up most of the time.

But what’s got Seawright shook up…?

Langan Makes Its Case for Shoreline Restoration

Juan Osario, representing Langan, lead contractor for shoreline work in Southpoint Park, took most of it from there.

It wasn’t pretty, and the alleged town hall left much out.

But Osario didn’t help his case when he blamed construction materials dumped from Goldwater Hospital for messing up the shoreline. In the real world outside the infomercial, Cornell dismantled Goldwater, and no materials ever landed on the Southpoint shoreline.

But sadly, no one corrected the obvious error. And digging into the details didn’t improve things.

Toxic Waste and More Toxic Waste

Never part of the original effort to “enhance” Southpoint, harking back four years, safety suddenly became the main concern. But he bungled even that, and it’s critical.

It’s all about toxic waste and how Langan plans handling it, and it was weighted with misinformation and contradiction.

Osario’s arguments for fixing the seawall were convincing, those for handling toxic waste were screwball.

First, remember the tree from the picture above?

Among Langan’s false claims, Osario said that, for the entire park away from the seawall, a membrane protects against toxic waste beneath. But that can’t be true or the lovely tree above would not be standing.

You can’t install a membrane under living trees and bushes.

Smallpox Hospital Ruins, RIOC Southpoint Park
Needless to say, if a membrane protects the whole park, then the Smallpox Hospital and old growth trees nearby would not be here now.

And that brings us to the core failing in the project gobbling up the Seawright Haynes Town Hall.

Since before the park opened, RIOC brutally mishandled toxic waste hazards.

Don’t Buy The Head Fake

Ramming this flawed project through, RIOC deflects attention from hazards existing for a decade, asking you to focus on the shoreline.

But at the very start, then acting president/CEO Susan Rosenthal said the intention was a ten year plan for “enhancing” Southpoint and especially securing the future of the Smallpox Hospital. All that’s gone with an emphasis on “safety,” not from the murky risks of the East River, but from toxic waste.

The plan Langan pushed last night is full of negligence and evasion.

Some quick history… What the Seawright Haynes Town Hall avoided.

When toxic waste was found, RIOC halted construction of Southpoint. An innovative membrane, laid over some of the park, blocked it from reaching the surface, and two feet of soil tops it for good measure.

But nowhere in the project plans does it show where that membrane begins and ends.

For certain, there is no containment protecting the Smallpox Hospital and areas south… like Four Freedoms Park. And where’s the protection for Cornell Tech?

Lurking behind all this is the inescapable fact that RIOC simply doesn’t know much because sufficient testing never took place.

Even as precautions settled the center of the park, testing for the shoreline didn’t take place for another four years. And the inevitable conclusion is that areas routinely walked through, others home to the cat sanctuary, are contaminated.

But RIOC never tested the main pathway through the park. Worse still, they never tested whether the membrane worked.

Until shoreline bores bit the surface in 2013, nothing was done, and even after that, RIOC knew about toxins not remediated and did nothing. Not even so much as a sign alerting visitors to the hazards. These include pesticides, poisonous metals and more.

And since tests were never done, we don’t know the source of the shoreline toxin or how recent they are.

A cover up… or negligence?

Not one of the officials attending the Seawright Haynes Town Hall spoke up about toxic waste. Not one questioned its handling.

No, not one.

The circle jerk filling up one-third of the event helps explain. This is all about politics and bypassing years of failure.

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14 thoughts on “Seawright-Haynes Town Hall: The Bomb That Bored New York To Tears

  1. I listened and found half was taken up with remarks to enhance every politician. Important question were not asked. RIOC said nothing, The community never approved of the Fitzgerald and Halliday proposals for the south end. We hated the ideas and told them and RIOC.
    Are we digging up Central Park because there may be pollution and contamination under that site?

    1. Add to that, Fitzgerald and Halliday’s work was done four years ago and had a completely different goal. What happened in the meantime? It was, again, RIOC under Rosenthal finagling behind the scenes with an unknown purpose.

  2. David Stone’s reference to a “circle jerk of Democrats” is highly offensive. It diminishes him to resort to such gross sexual language involving male masturbation. Two of the elected officials who participated are women. An apology is in order. Sexual harassment training is an even greater need.
    I listened to the town hall and heard numerous substantive questions raised and responses from Sheldon Haynes and his team. I did not agree with all that was said. More, not less, scrutiny is needed. But insensitive and highly partisan language derived from male egos is not the appropriate response.

    1. Do your research. A circle jerk is also “a slang term for an echo chamber,” according to Wikipedia. Your interpretation is jejune.
      Political correctness bias seems to inform your interpretation, and be advised, careless accusations of sexual harassment are the weapon of bigots and will result in banning from this site, if repeated.
      The questions chosen by Seawright’s team were picked to fit prepared answers. And the 20 minute echo chamber of narcissism truncated an already far too short “town hall.” There was no substantive discussion, as there should be.
      As a life long Democrat, I was once again dismayed by the gaggle of electeds claiming to represent us while really only pledging allegiance to each other.

  3. The presentation of the proposed Roosevelt Island shoreline restoration project by Juan Osario of Langan Engineering on last night’s Seawright Haynes Town Hall was very informative. As someone who is new to the project, I found Mr. Osario’s command of the complex proposal illuminating. I commend Assembly Member Seawright and RIOC’s Acting President Haynes for enlightening those of us who had heard only a word or two about the plan before last night. They performed a true public service.

    1. Some of it was good, but there were significant errors and omissions. And it was way too short for real discussion, a fact made worse by the party eating up the first one-third campaigning. For all their bragging, with the exception of Ben, the Democrats have stiffed Roosevelt Island for years. All talk, no delivery.

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