Nonprofit anxiety now skyrocketing as RIOC seizes more public space

Nonprofit anxiety now skyrocketing as RIOC seizes more public space

As RIOC seizes more public space, it’s at the expense of local community groups, and many are worried. Even before the Blackwell House takeover, the state secretly sucked up space in the Cultural Center.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

In better times, independent productions like this Christmas show in rehearsal, depended on space in the Cultural Center.

“It would be devastating our business if they keep blocking out spaces that we cannot use,” worried one manager.

Roosevelt Island community groups are scrambling for a future filled with unknowns, and some may fold.

RIOC Seizes More Public Space, But Why?

RIOC seizing more public space is a given, but understanding why isn’t well-known. Shrouded in secrecy and undisclosed motives, the super secret state agency vibrates dysfunction and favoritism.

The proximate cause of the space crunch is the pending end of RIOC’s lease at 591 Main Street. After occupying generous free space in Westview for decades, the state agency now chooses to squeeze out nonprofits rather than pay up.

Overtures from Westview management, asking RIOC president/CEO Shelton Haynes about the agency’s plans, met silence. Our sources tell us that neither Haynes nor anyone on his staff even acknowledged the communications.

Seizing community spaces, it seems, was always the plan.

Not long after, also without public notice, Haynes moved into second floor space in historic Blackwell House. Residents invested hundreds of thousands over the years, some of it because of inept RIOC management, in refurbishing the site.

Haynes also seized public parking space nearby, four spots reserved for his gas-guzzler and his guests.

In May, RIOC also demanded a takeover of Gallery RIVAA two days a week for continuing the painful comedy of its expensive COVID testing site failure.

But the extent to which the opaque state agency gobbled up valued rooms in the Cultural Center wasn’t well-known until recently. RIOC’s seizing more public space there was under the cover of COVID restrictions.

RIOC using several rooms of the Cultural Center as storage

“It’s looking like some — not all — of the associates of “the Queen of Mean” are making it difficult to impossible for some long-time permit holders at the Cultural Center and at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd to get their new inquiries and applications for June to December addressed, as they plan summer and fall activities,” a concerned resident wrote.

“It’s been exacerbated by RIOC using several rooms of the CC as storage for records probably kept at 591 Main until now.”

This echoed other comments.

“There are two classrooms that are temporarily storing materials, but I’m not sure what’s there or for how long. They covered the windows and put locks on the door.”

What’s “temporary” about RIOC seizing more public space?

As was noted when RIOC referred to Haynes’s turning Blackwell House historic space into an everyday office, the “temporary” piece results from multiple failures, starting with a deal for finishing Southtown.

Over three years ago, when Hudson-Related hustled RIOC’s board into a rushed approval for Buildings 8 and 9, the last in Southtown, a move by the state agency into Building 9 was part of the deal.

Without conflict, in 2019, RIOC’s board shared space on the stage with MSTDA shows and classes.

That, we reported, would increase local blight with a big new hole on Main Street.

But the developers built only Building 8, a showpiece in affordable housing, maybe the best in New York. Building 9 remains little more than a plot of land, leaving RIOC homeless.

Of course, if not consumed by internal dramas and battles over turf, RIOC might’ve seen this coming. Working something out with Westview’s management makes more sense than crushing community groups. But it requires some things on which RIOC’s always short: common sense and respect for residents.

Whatever differences they had — and there were plenty — with building managers, administrations prior to Haynes’s found ways to work things out without harming residents.

But that’s over now because RIOC’s management was so crippled by the internal Rosenthal coup, a following makeover succeeded only in solidifying the security of known incompetents.

Conclusion: Fear of Speaking Up

“The politics of being at their mercy for space makes it difficult to go on the record,” one resident said in reference to RIOC.

RIOC retribution toward critics is on record and increasing.

“If anything, after COVID, they should give their main space users even more priority to recover from the period of time they were closed,” our source added. “They are nonprofits after all!”

But the current administration’s lack of empathy is well-documented. The past year witnessed the devolution of “Public Benefit Corporation” into “Employee Benefit Corporation.”

Unless elected overseers, like assembly member Rebecca Seawright, intervene or that long lost shipment of board member spines arrives, the Roosevelt Island community and its valued groups will continue losing ground to RIOC.

More from the Roosevelt Island Daily News

  • Paving Over History, RIOC Obliterates the NYPL Garden
    RIOC calls it, “…renovating the open space and garden adjacent to the R.I. branch of the NYPL,” but really, it’s paving over history. Unless paving over open space qualifies as “improvement.” By David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News Observing the destruction, Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS) president Judith Berdy mused… “The play area in
  • People and Paint: Summer Splash, Scenes from an Opening
    People and Paint make the story of this invigorating summer breakout as Summer Splash opened. It’s summer, people away, but the crowd came anyway. By David Stone Photos: Tad Sudol, Gallery RIVAA The Roosevelt Island Daily News Summer Splash: People and Paint Going out for gallery openings, people think about the art and the artists,
  • Extreme Heat Sends New Yorkers to Emergency Rooms as Climate Toll Grows
    Samantha Maldonado, THE CITY This article was originally publishedon Jul 27 at 8:28pm EDTby THE CITY The city is on pace to match 2018, when more than 700 people headed to the hospital due to hot weather, data shows. As the planet is warming, New York is feeling the heat: It recently placed as the
  • Exceeding Expectations: Seen on the Roosevelt Island Tram
    Exceeding expectations is not normal with RIOC, but they pulled it off here. While the commitment to mask wearing is admirable, the WTF element carries us away. To the Midwest. By David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News Exceeding Expectations on the Roosevelt Island Tram A reader emailed that she was “on the tram facing
  • Some good news as PSD steps up its game against maskless Red Bus riders…
    Face mask compliance among Red Bus riders improved recently, and now RIOC’s public safety department steps up enforcement. But success is limited as long as Roosevelt Island neighbors refuse to help out. By David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News How PSD Steps Up Its Game Better late than never, on Monday, we found PSD
Share

Written by:

464 Posts

View All Posts
Follow Me :

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: