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Motorgate Mess: Why Can’t RIOC Ever Get It Right?


The RIOC Motorgate mess, going on now for over a year, again shows how inept indifference disrupts community life. Residents want calm, and RIOC is unable to provide it.

By David Stone

“I think it is worth a story for you to examine the signage in Motorgate,” one longtime resident wrote. 

“Certain areas are closed off due to construction and exiting is a riddle because they post temporary signs which contradict the permanent ones and do nothing to block out the permanent ones.  Getting out is a maze and a dangerous one…”

She was right, but we found, the situation is actually worse.

Motorgate Parking Garage, September 2020.
“All signage that is contrary to the new traffic flow is already in the process of being blocked,” Shelton Haynes, then Operations VP, wrote in 2019. “New signage is in the process of being installed. Please note that traffic flow through Motorgate will continue to be monitored throughout construction.” This example is not uncommon.

The RIOC Motorgate Mess

A troubling aspect of the mess our reader reported in Motorgate is that it’s far from new.

“Repairing and enhancing a leaky Motorgate, the oddly named, crumbling parking garage serving Roosevelt Island, should be, no sweat, a welcome project. Who doesn’t want a better, safer place to park their cars? But here, this ordinary project somehow manages to generate as much conflict as applause.”

That’s from our report in the Roosevelt Island Daily, well over a year ago.

RIOC Motorgate Mess: Blocked Exit
In June, 2019, Frank Farance reached out to RIOC about blocked safety exits throughout Motorgate. Our investigation shows that nothing changed since then.

“We expect work to begin in about a week or so,” Haynes, now acting president/CEO at RIOC, said in an email, rebuking Farance.

But he was wrong. Work was already underway, and his lack of awareness continues. That’s troubling because the project is literally right over his head. His office, during the entire period, is directly beneath Motorgate.

“Please note that all work will be done in strict adherence of New York City Building Code regulations,” he added. “At least two fire exits will remain accessible near the work area at all times during construction.”

Another blocked exit, its red indicator glowing 24/7.

We took a walk through about half of Motorgate, circling around the construction. Not only did Haynes’s promises prove false, we found conditions worse than our reader reported.

Another marked and blocked exit.
Just for the record, one more marked and blocked exit in RIOC’s Motorgate mess. Why didn’t they just cover the exit sign, avoiding risks during the panic of an emergency?

And the beat goes on…

“Additionally, several parking spots, which look perfectly fine, are painted with slanting blue lines.  What do they mean?” Our reader wondered after encountering RIOC’s Motorgate mess.

The blue lines, we later discovered, indicate parking reserved for handicapped drivers, but how could you tell?

Few could, we found, because more than 80% of cars parked in these areas lacked any kind of legally required plates or hangers showing they belonged there.

And true to form, RIOC’s Public Safety Department is lax as ever. No tickets or any other kinds of notices or warnings were visible in multiple locations.

RIOC Motorgate Mess includes other hazards, like corrosive chemicals.
Other hazards related to Motorgate work includes unprotect, hazardous chemicals.

An unsettling surprise not reported before, corrosive chemicals with visible warning labels stacked unprotected alongside a traffic lane.

An errant vehicle? An easy theft? Both were present and immediate hazards, just over RIOC’s head.

RIOC Motorgat Mess Signs.
Over a year ago, VP Haynes said conflicting traffic signs would be eliminated…

Signs like these are on every level in Motorgate. Which way do you go? And in an already confusing environment, how can you be sure?

Far from clear, but if you look closely, you might guess that the blue markings indicate handicapped spaces. Yet they’re nearly invisible to drivers, not to mention rare and completely unenforced.

And how could PSD enforce a requirement that no one’s taken the trouble to make well-known? In every location, only a small percent of parkers fit the requirements, according to license plates and mirror signs.

RIOC Motorgate mess has more to offer…

RIOC Motorgate conflicting signs mess.
This one’s both Visitor and No Parking.

“Others have yellow lines which I accept to mean ‘no parking’ but don’t understand why,” our reader wrote.

RIOC’s no help. Yellow strips, above, may mean “No Parking” or “Visitor Parking.”

In every area we walked, drivers parked on yellow striped areas. In no location did we find a single sign telling drivers what the stripes mean.

And there were no tickets; so, what do the stripes indicate? Is it a state secret?

Careless material storage in RIOC's Motorgate Mess
Another unprotected area with possible flammable material.
We’ll let this be the last word. We have no idea what it means.


  1. Mr. Haynes says all work at Motorgate Garage is being carried on in compliance with the city codes, regulations, permits, etc. Would it be possible to have his comment on whether the work being performed at the Sanctuary complies with city regulations, permits, etc.? There is no permit visible on the premises.

    • A search last week of DOB’s database shows that no permits have ever been applied for at The Sanctuary’s address. And multiple complaints have been noted but left unresolved. But I can assure you that RIOC’s been told about it repeatedly and takes extraordinary steps to avoid responsibility. They even tried to pass it off as “not our property,” a lie, and by calling it “Hudson property,” also a lie. I spoke with a senior RIOC exec as recently as June and made the situation clear. Again.
      (RIOC’s ghosting us since July, employing press censorship, because they don’t like our coverage, although they have never complained about any inaccuracy or asked for a correction.)
      But in this instance, you need to understand that Haynes is merely a figurehead with no actual influence. In court papers, The Sanctuary’s owners are accused of bragging about their intimacy with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his influence in their favor, and this is one of the areas with RIOC where Hudson-Related virtually runs the show, not much unlike the rest of New York where real estate companies with big cash campaign contributions earn far more clout than the rest of us.
      It’s also frustrating because the gang we elected to represent our interests – Seawright, Serrano, Kallos – are plugged in members of Team Cuomo and will never make waves if it bothers the boss in Albany. RIOC’s board? No chance.
      In short, no one is going to do anything about this unless residents make enough noise that Cuomo finds it embarrassing. Otherwise, as with Motorgate, the usual rules simply don’t apply here.

  2. I’ve complained on numerous. Occasions to Public Safety and Motorgate garage about cars parking in the handicapped parking and nothing gets done. The other day someone was parking in a handicapped spot and I mentioned to the driver its for handicapped he still remained their without a placard.Public safety should have a list of license plates as to who is handicappied and notice should be g iven to carswho don’t belong their. It took me over 15 minutes to finally give up on trying to find a spot.
    A Motorgate Parker

    • There’s a lot of frustration with PSD, Rosemary. It’s hard to get them to enforce anything, which begs the question of why the community invest $4 million a year in them. I will go back for another look at Motorgate and see what I can document.

      • Thanks for trying to change the situation. In addition, I think that the promise was that the capacity will not be affected thought the construction times, which seems not to be the case. I’m a resident and was trying to get a spot yesterday, I was rejected with no explanation on when the parking lots will become available again.

      • RIOC talks a lot about accountability, but getting them to actually take responsibility is another story. Since Haynes took over, their inclination to take black out complaints and pretend there aren’t any has accelerated. Let’s just keep chipping away.

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