What’s worse than RIOC seizing space in historic Blackwell House? Answer: Demanding free parking to go with it.

What’s worse than RIOC seizing space in historic Blackwell House? Answer: Demanding free parking to go with it.

RIOC seizing space in Blackwell House, giving president/CEO Shelton Haynes a new office, was classic bad optics. But it took just a single week to top it as the state gobbled up sparse street parking, reserving them for his “guests…”

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island Daily News

What’s so bad about RIOC seizing space in Blackwell House…?

Skipping for the now the glaringly obvious, let’s look at the painfully insensitive.

Plunked down on the second floor, up the stairs, Shelton Haynes new digs are not ADA compliant. That is, persons with disabilities are unwelcome, denied access the same as those without.

“Under the ADA , workers with disabilities must have equal access to all benefits and privileges of employment that are available to similarly situated employees without disabilities.”

United States Federal Regulations
Light streams over Blackwell House on a spring morning. It’s an historic landmark, renovated mostly with community money. But RIOC seized space, making a home for Shelton Haynes, its president and chief executive officer.

If you have physical limitations, you can find your way from the street around to the original main entrance for Blackwell House. There’s a ramp there, but once inside, you’re out of luck if you hope to visit the president’s office.

It’s upstairs.

Incalculable insensitivity. Only the able-bodied welcome.

And then, there’s the obvious…

After decades of neglect and fumbled efforts, in November, everyone came out to cheer when Blackwell House finally re-opened.

Shelton Haynes stood tall, flanked by elected officials. State Senator José Serrano was there, and so was Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. And chameleon city council member Ben Kallos was there, taking credit for money set aside by predecessor Jessica Lappin.

Lappin came too.

In all the reported happy talk, nobody mentioned RIOC seizing space inside for everyday office work.

RIOC occupied 591 Main Street, free of charge, for decades. Every president/CEO prior to Haynes found it satisfactory and public funds never took a hit. What’s the cost of undermining an historic landmark for his office?

After their freebie lease in Westview expires in July, RIOC will disperse office staff in various, mostly unspecified locations. But at least one elite will park in Blackwell House, and he and his “guests” will traipse through the historically preserved areas as a matter of routine. Many times every day.

And the intrusion expands with the sounds of meetings and general conversation spilling into the public area.

Is RIOC seizing this space more boneheaded than it is insensitive?

The shame is that the question even comes up.

But then, four designated parking spaces extend the patroonship…

Nothing says, “We count more than you people” more clumsily than does taking parking sparse spaces away from the community for the patroon and his guests… and rubbing it in by leaving them vacant, most of the time.

A gas guzzler in the all new official New York State Shelton Haynes parking area. Behind it were three empties, and a resident counted up at least five more free spaces taken up by RIOC, a short distance away.

In an open slap in the face for the community, Haynes lays claim to parking spaces that will not be used most of the time. They will sit vacant as they have since Friday. When the patroon takes a long weekend, the official New York State Shelton Haynes parking area soaks up sun and rain.

The official New York State Shelton Haynes Parking Area, mid-morning on Monday. The only change in four days is the delivery truck with a driver risking a fine for violating this special reserve.

Residents asked why Haynes wasn’t using Motorgate like almost everyone else? Why was RIOC seizing space it would rarely use when plentiful other options awaited?

Considering his $200K plus annual salary, couldn’t he pay for parking? You know, like the rest of us….

Haynes predecessor, Susan Rosenthal, rode the Tram and walked to and from 591 Main Street every day.

And Haynes new office in Blackwell House is even closer to public transportation.

View from the official New York State Shelton Haynes Parking Area to the subway entrance.

Another puzzle, why is RIOC seizing space for Haynes and his “guests” when the subway is steps away? If he needs to get somewhere during the day, too far for walking, he can use a car from RIOC’s embarrassingly large fleet, can’t he?

RIOC seizing space…?

Why an historically unpopular administration planted here without the hint of approval from the community would take such ill-considered measures is, more or less, mind-boggling.

Less because Haynes spent time in his first month attacking resident critics, showing a lack of governing acumen or wisdom, a la Trump, and because the state agency’s prolonged bunker mode guarantees he will never answer questions about it.

More because the tone-deaf agency took a step residents never imagined they were dimwitted enough to make.

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