The love letter, by an unnamed author or authors, composed for Governor Kathy Hochul goes by another name. Abandoned for five months, RIOC News returns, looking like resume sent upstream to Albany. It’s as if the current version of RIOC looked at itself in the mirror and really liked what it saw. Now, they’re sharing their view with the governor who will decide their fate.
By David Stone
The Roosevelt Island Daily News
The RIOC Love Letter
Old enough to remember when handwritten letters still circulated, I recall some good advice someone shared, long ago. If you want to discover the most important part of any letter, skip to the end. Read that first because the rest is prologue.
Sure enough, there it was…
“Finally, I want to welcome our first female Governor, Kathy Hochul, and Lieutenant Governor, Brian Benjamin, who will undoubtedly fight for a bright future for all New Yorkers.”RIOC President Shelton J. Haynes, RIOC News. President’s message.
So, there you see why the newsletter idea got dragged back out of the wastebasket for a new round. It’s a resume and a love letter from the state agency where the sun always shines and mistakes never occur.
Haynes’s message works diligently at preempting complaints showered over RIOC in recent months. For example, he declares, “face masks remain mandatory on the Roosevelt Island Tram and the Roosevelt Island Red Bus.” But fails mentioning the months of hounding by residents and this newspaper it took to get any enforcement.
Not a word of thanks to those who repeatedly documented maskless riders on both tram cabins and buses, finally forcing the issue.
The bank gambit…
Without a hint of shame, Haynes writes, “We know the importance of having a full-service bank on the island and the convenience that it brings for residents, merchants, and visitors alike.”
But residents dealing with physical limitations and other resources got a RIOC cold shoulder while palming off a myth about bringing a bank to Sportspark, a facility uniquely unsuited for it.
The only realistic shot at a bank for Roosevelt Island is in Westview. Expensive to install vaults and safe deposit boxes are already there, but RIOC, under Haynes, will not talk with the owner.
RIOC brags about working with stakeholders but names just two, ignoring others in routine contact, including one accusing Haynes’s administration of racism. Of those mentioned, Lynne Strong-Shinozaki is politically connected with the Albany machine and the wife of a RIOC board member.
Governing with intimidation…
The other is more complicated. Rossana Ceruzzi is the Residents Association president, but her main gig is the Wildlife Freedom Foundation. A year ago, when she lead protests against an atrocious plan for tearing up Southpoint, RIOC retaliated with an aggressive, bullying attempt at shutting down her beloved animal sanctuary.
RIOC Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson demanded a non-negotiable $400 per month rent. A FOIL request by The Daily found that no other Island nonprofit faced a similar penalty. And Robinson dropped it only after state assembly member Rebecca Seawright intevened.
Understandably, Ceruzzi’s freedom in speaking up has been seriously curtailed.
As a postscript, RIOC’s love letter claims full credit for works inherited in progress
Under the heading ISLAND PROJECTS UNDER THIS ADMINISTRATION, Haynes’s team grabs credit for work it merely finished off. Making it worse, they don’t share an ounce of credit.
After abandoning it for two years, Haynes takes credit for the FDR Hope Memorial. The project was championed by his predecessor who also found the funding. But that’s just the start.
The ridiculously over-expensive McManus Field toilets, Motorgate upgrades and the Youth Center rehab all get the “under this administration” treatment.
A times, it feels like piling on, but RIOC’s offenses are many and some outrageous. But when they set out crediting themselves as compassionate shepherds for Roosevelt Island, a counterbalance becomes a must. Although Governor Hochul’s actions have not built much confidence in change yet, we hope she will see this love letter as the deception it is.
A fuller picture of what’s gone on since Cuomo stripped the community of sayso in how Roosevelt Island is managed demands some storytelling. We hope this perspective helps her sort out what stays and what must go.
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