photo of a lightning strike
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An Unusual Storm But Another Predictable RIOC Flop


The latest RIOC flop spilled predictably as Hurricane Henri sped up the Atlantic into New England. Until a long time concerned resident chastised president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes, it’s as if the state agency never heard about it.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

“We have been monitoring the storm all week,” Haynes claimed, and there is no impact for Roosevelt Island. Hope this eases your concern.”

An hour later, Roosevelt Island got soaked with heavy rain as lightning flashed overhead.

“Below,” the hopelessly detached CEO added, “are the primary areas impacted per NYCEM” 


In reality, Mayor de Blasio declared a state of emergency for the entire city, earlier in the day. And Haynes’s boss, Governor Andrew Cuomo did the same.

But RIOC never noticed. Not a word for residents, not even as crews set up a movie on Firefighter’s Field while the storm approached.

Nothing about the Tram, even after an electrical storm thundered through, abruptly canceling a high profile concert in Central Park.

As RIOC slept.

photo of a lightning strike
Photo by Andrew McMurtrie on

Nostalgia for an era before the deluge… of RIOC flops…

Little did we know that Haynes’s ill-informed comments were just the start of a deluge of amateurish mistakes. But it reminded us of what we didn’t realize were the good old days when RIOC was in reasonably responsible adult hands.

Before Haynes ceded authority to Community Relations Manager, etc., Erica Spencer-EL, an experienced public relations manager, Terrence McCauley, managed a reliable information flow for the community. With McCauley in charge, you took for granted that the bases would be covered.

But Haynes yielded substantial authority for RIOC’s general management to Spencer-EL. She took over communications, although she had no experience in the field. A few months later, she added Amy Smith, a PR specialist while, according to Haynes, RIOC was under a hiring freeze.

Things did not improve.

This week’s highlights from the alleged Communications Team

  • On Tuesday, the team announced an R-Rated movie for “tomorrow, August 20th,” although the next day would be Wednesday, August 18th. No correction was ever issued nor was any alert sounded as heavy rains flooded Firefighter’s Field during the next movie night on Saturday.
  • With still no word on Hurricane Henri, RIOC announced at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday: “Phase 1 of the Blackwell Park Improvement Project is complete!”
  • “Good Evening, Shelton – This may be good news, but why has there been NO Advisory about Henri…?” a longtime resident asked RIOC’s president. That prompted the brainless response noted above. And nothing more after the storms began. Until…
  • …this morning when RIOC email blasted this gem: “Due to expected high winds and heavy rain south point park and light house park will be closed until further notice. Also the sports park pool will be closed today.” Not only was there an eye-opening lack of capital letters, but Southpoint, Lighthouse and Sportspark were all misspelled. And, semi-alarmingly, high winds were not predicted for Roosevelt Island by anyone.
  • At 10:05, RIOC added: “The Good Shepherd Community Center and the Cultural Center will be closed today.” No reason given.

“Too bad this s—t keeps happening with these folks…” a reader wrote.

Asleep at the wheel isn’t a sufficient description now that the mess Haynes created in the wake of Susan Rosenthal’s mysterious dismissal has taken over so much of RIOC. And badly bungled the job.

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