RIOC OPS, October 2020, Now Improving Processes, Flopping with Cats


At RIOC’s OPS October 2020 committee meeting, promising stars shined with emphasis on performance. But old bugaboos surfaced or went unresolved. It wasn’t perfect, but it was promising.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

RIOC OPS, October 2020 Overview

Kicked off and keynoted by acting president Shelton Haynes’s fresh approach, RIOC‘s Operations Advisory Committee (OPS) meeting for October showed instant promise.

The OPS Committee– on ZOOM — is chair Michael Shinozaki along with Howard Polivy and David Kraut. Kraut, one of the community’s longest-standing volunteers, impressed, attending from his hospital room.

(Best wishes, David, for a safe and healthy return home.)

Haynes promised to use committee meetings as channels for better-informing board members, and that he did in style.

After he introduced Altheria Jackson and Mary Cuneen, the pair ran with it.

Slide shows emphasized improved process management, but unfortunately, some things went missing. Others showed up and were mishandled.

How to look better in your own mirror…

Impressive may not be strong enough, describing the change in how RIOC looks at itself and makes improvements under Haynes. Jackson, an assistant vice-president, acts as Haynes’s operations right arm now that he’s taken up other duties.

And while her command of projects was firm and well-informed, Cuneen’s crisp recital on managing internal controls shined new light on a commitment to continuous improvement.

Her slide show deftly illustrated an intricate process aimed at evaluating RIOC’s many internal operations, forming a basis for improvement. That’s too detailed for this article — and a bit over our heads — but clearly, RIOC is not slacking behind the scenes.

Needless to say, there were questions.

For example, how does the state agency determine goals? And less obviously, how can the community become more involved? This matters because, with residents and businesses having no formal role in governing, RIOC must act in harnessing legitimate mutual interests.

Community engagement matters, and it’s a glaring flaw reflecting badly on Roosevelt Island.

RIOC OPS 2020: The Projects

Haynes’s part of the presentation, smoothly aided by Jackson, included a rundown of projects underway. Although his rosy assessments didn’t always jib with reality and left critical issues out, his command and knowledge were evident.

Many projects are near completion, but Haynes’s announcement that Blackwell House’s completion, after decades of frustration, brings new and much needed vigor to Main Street. Only “finishing touches” remain before ribbon-cutting.

The major item featured was, of course, Southpoint, now stuck with the clunky “Open Space Park” title. As far as it went, the news was all good, but much was left out.

Haynes did not address — nor did the board ask — questions, ripe in the community, about how this $10 million contract found its way into Langan’s lap. Or why it goes so far behind the original intent of repairing the shoreline and improving readiness. See RIOC Busted: Southpoint Park Hoax Exposed

More significantly, Haynes failed to address — and the board did not ask — about mishandling of toxic waste in Southpoint, a serious misstep implicating both RIOC and favored contractor Langan. See Southpoint Toxic Waste: Is RIOC Hiding A Six-Hundred Pound Gorilla?

We’ll not linger on these issues here other than to note that failures in addressing them detract from what’s otherwise impressive successes.

But then, there’s still the unending cat wars…

After an hour of well-organized programming, Howard Polivy followed up with a question about the apparently bottomless issue of RIOC hassling the Wildlife Freedom Foundation (WFF), a small nonprofit that’s managed local sanctuaries for over fifteen years.

Until 2018, the relationship was cordial, but internal freelancing that year led to a high profile battle that, in the end, seemed to have no purpose. But RIOC’s bumbling exposed years of mismanagement of water resources.

For the RIOC OPS October 2020 meeting, though, the conversation centered on a prevailing threat to dismantle all the sanctuaries at the onset of winter. RIOC’s legal department’s motives are murky, but the stench of retaliation is strong.

In his answers to Polivy and a follow-up from Kraut about rent, Haynes was not accurate, but that may reflect a legal department that acts independently and is not under his control.

In spite of Haynes’s assurances, this feud, embarrassingly pitting a $30 million state agency against a tiny nonprofit, is far from resolved.

And there remains considerable doubt about who’s in control at RIOC with the legal department, headed by Gretchen Robinson, appearing as a quasi-independent operation.

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