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RIOC Turnover and Quarantines


For RIOC, turnover and quarantines weave through a season spoiled by COVID-19, and yesterday brought a perfect storm.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Because former RIOC president Susan Rosenthal honored the tradition of an agency on Roosevelt Island but not of it, the trials staff struggled with through spring and summer were largely secret.

Gossipy mistrust and frustration swirled along Main Street.

But relatively secret departures — including Rosenthal — happened amid a series of quarantines. And every quarantine had far reaching impact.

Yesterday, July 16th, 2020, featured both.

RIOC’s tough season of turnover and quarantines was rattled by protests.

RIOC Turnover and Quarantines

As the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. met challenges from a badly handled redesign of Southpoint Park, another quarantine event swept through.

And there was state assembly member Rebecca Seawright, who bungled a Tuesday town hall, pushing her election needs into the mix.

Someone in the office tested positive for COVID-19, kicking off a search for anyone else who’d been in contact. Tests and quarantines ahead.

For the many staffers with families, it was another trial of risk and adjustments. But RIOC seemed up to the challenge.

Maybe it was the many months of working through trouble and sorrow. Or maybe it was a deep talent pool that’s led quietly, and maybe it was a combination of both.

Whatever it was, they swung into action.

Fresh staff departure

While acting president/CEO Shelton Haynes marshaled a response to the latest COVID-19 victim, Terrence McCauley‘s resignation landed on his desk.

As public information officer, his job is RIOC’s most precarious, averaging about one year’s tenure. Predecessor Alonza Robertson tumbled town a crowded exit ramp in 2019.

McCauley did not volunteer his destination in an email, but he seemed pleased with his decision. An award winning author, he also sports a strong track record in public relations.

Other exits were less pleasant.

Public Safety Hit Hard

Not only has RIOC’s Public Safety Department struggled through seven quarantines, chief Kevin Brown also managed social distancing in a force depending on teamwork.

But the worst was sadder news.

In April, detective Wayne Jones and officer Corey Fischer died from COVID-19, sending morale into a tailspin while quarantining hobbled operations. Both were popular, veterans of the local force.

The combination of troubles means PSD worked with deeply reduced staffing for months, but the public was never well-informed.

Adding more grief, iconic, retired chief Jack McManus also succumbed in April to cancer.

With the coronavirus raging, restrictions denied grieving friends the relief of public memorials.

RIOC Turnovers Outpace Quarantines

In June, as New York began reopening, RIOC shrouded multiple abrupt dismissals in secrecy.

On June 5th, high level turnover at RIOC stirred with the erasure of managers Jonna Carmona-Graf, an assistant vice-president, and Janet Fasano. RIOC offered no explanation. In fact, if not for a well-oiled local rumor mill, we might not know about the losses even now.

The Roosevelt Island Daily/News team knows why they left, but the state offered no respectful cover like “staff reductions” or “reorganization.”

A statewide hiring freeze blocks their replacement.

Susan Rosenthal’s weird firing…

Dust hardly settled along the exit ramp Carmona-Graf and Fasano walked before, on June 19th, Juneteenth, when Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office alerted only the conservative, Trump-supporting New York Post that president/CEO Rosenthal was fired.

The charges against her, none of which alone or collectively warranted the action, were the apparent product of a disgruntled employee out to nail the boss.

Operations vice-president Shelton Haynes, out of town on a family emergency, became acting president within hours.

To his credit, Haynes took charge and began fixing a cracked but not broken RIOC.

But he and his staff must deal with the employee credited with ambushing Rosenthal with petty, barely justified grievances. Some are reluctant.

And while not everyone was a fan of Rosenthal’s style of management, few believe she deserved the harsh hit Cuomo delivered.

Tackling RIOC’s Turnover and Quarantines

Out of turmoil grew awareness of resilience powering the core of senior staff hired mostly by Rosenthal.

Vice-president John O’Reilly and corporation counsel Gretchen Reynolds joined Haynes, hired by Charlene Indelicato, in steadying the workforce.

While working for Rosenthal was always insecure, she hired and maintained high quality, effective managers. Even as she shipped others coolly off the Island.

So, yesterday, as yet another quarantine event sent staff scrambling and McCauley’s resignation left a hole that can’t be filled, for Haynes and his levelheaded team, it was just another day of managing crisis.

By early afternoon, he and others closed up shop for testing and a limited lockdown, but he called around, making sure those needing to know did.

And today…?


  1. RIOC did not bother advising the community that the tram elevator was out, until asked by a resident and that is how we found out Terrance is no more.
    Shelton, you have to get your staff up to the job. We have Erica, Jessica and others who can send out messages on public safety.
    We still have copy machines and Scotch Tape to post notices.
    This island is lost by a RIOC where we do not know who works here and what they do.
    Shelton- get out of the office and onto Main Street.
    Spend Saturday with the masses (socially distanced) and respond to the people who live here!!!!

    • True, though Shelton did call us about Terrence, even before Terrence emailed. But he did so as he was about to get tested and probably quarantined because somebody on the staff tested positive. So, he says it will change in the future, but don’t expect to see much of him on Main Street soon. And let’s keep a good thought for who COVID-19’s latest victim is here on the Island.

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