Under pressure, a RIOC cold-hearted dodge implies residents and critics are lying


Under pressure, RIOC, late yesterday afternoon, email blasted a defensive, barely literate dodge over criticism after a child was stuck by a car on Main Street. It dismissed any responsibility, offered neither remorse not empathy and, worst of all, blamed residents for “misinformation.”

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Under pressure?

Topped by a title, Statement from Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) President and CEO, Shelton J. Haynes, the state agency that never makes a mistake lead with what one resident called the “…worst written sentence in RIOC history.” 

It told a story in itself.

“I am extremely saddened and concerned by the escalating incidents that further highlight a need for reexamination of Main Street and island promenades as it pertains to safely traversing this progressive island.” 

RIOC Advisory, October 16th, 2021

If Haynes actually wrote this – it’s unlikely – he wasn’t concerned enough to read it himself. In the telephone version of this advisory, someone else reads it. The voice, listeners say, is not Haynes’s; it’s an unidentified woman.

Shelton Haynes with Erica Spencer-EL, September 11th, 2021
On September 11th, Shelton Haynes with alleged Communications Team director Erica Spencer-EL

Note: See a full copy of the advisory at the end of this post.

How we know, this was not written by Haynes…

“You are absolutely correct it should not have taken this long and I will take responsibility for any past delays.”

That was July, 2020, Haynes responding to a community complaint. It’s typical, it’s literate, it’s responsible, but the October 16th advisory is neither. Author suspicions fell on chief counsel Gretchen Robinson because of the abundance of lawerly dodges.

But Robinson is a trained lawyer, and capable writing is a professional requirement. Although she may have advised, the more likely author is a member of RIOC’s alleged Communications Team lead by Erica Spencer-EL. If so, it wasn’t public information officer Amy Smith, a professional writer with stilted but efficient skills.

The densely overwritten dodge, written under pressure, came from the computer of someone barely influenced by high school English.

Flourishing dodges and a bow to politicians

Take a gander at that first sentence again.

The ghost writer says Haynes is “extremely saddened and concerned by the escalating incidents that further highlight a need for reexamination of Main Street and island promenades as it pertains to safely traversing this progressive island.”

But the email never identifies a single incident. And while a series of incidents might escalate, a single incident does not. But that’s a quibble relative to the closing phrase. First of all, we walk, ride or roll; we don’t traverse. That’s ridiculous, but again, it’s relative…

…to the hopelessly butt-kissing “this progressive island.” “Progressive” is a political hot button and probably a shout out to state assembly member Rebecca Seawright, who fancies herself a progressive.

Rebecca Seawright, center with scarf, on hand for opening of the FDR Hope Memorial. Shelton Haynes, top left, was there along with other local politicians, congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, white hat, and city council member Ben Kallos, open shirt. But showing up for events is not the same as advocating for constituents.

While Seawright may or may not be progressive, there’s nothing progressive about Roosevelt Island. The community’s progressive origins, trampled over time, are long gone. And if anything, under the boot of Andrew Cuomo, governance here is as regressive as any in America.

Roosevelt Islanders are taxed without consent for the cost of RIOC’s operations. Although local residents pour an estimated $80 million annually into Albany’s pockets, not a dime comes back in support of the state agency mismanaging the place. Moreover, residents are never consulted on how their money is spent nor are they allowed a vote on board membership.

That’s not progressive, but neither Seawright nor state senator José Serrano nor city council member Ben Kallos are on record with any objections. This may explain why the ghost author of Haynes’s message makes a point about kissing their… uhm, unjustified credentials.

Solutions without identifying the causes

Under pressure from unidentified overseers, RIOC claims a commitment to restoring “…the feeling of safety to all.” The feeling of safety. Really? How about just plain safety?

But neither Haynes nor RIOC can do that because the issues are never identified. Is it reckless biking everywhere? Illegal electric skateboards? Unicycles? Cars ignoring crosswalks and stop signs? The invisibility of the pricey – $4 million per year charged to residents – Public Safety Department?

Because this is all reactive lip service forced by outside politicians, we don’t know what pseudo-Haynes is talking about. And honestly, we can’t be sure he does either.

Haynes consults with Public Safety chief Kevin Brown at the September 11th ceremony.

By the time the advisory stumbles to an end, it’s clear that the primary motive is defending a rudderless, unaccountable Public Safety Department, not protecting residents. And mock-Haynes is willing to diss Roosevelt Islanders in getting there.

Under pressure, pseudo-Haynes slaps worried residents out of the way

After a pair of lists palming off previously tried tactics that failed and a few already in place as solutions, mock-Haynes takes a shot at residents.

In the most recent incident and to dispel misinformation, Public Safety Department (PSD) officers were in the vicinity of the event when the incident occurred. As another point of clarification, the Public Safety Department is not short-staffed as we have only one vacant position at this time.  

RIOC Advisory, October 16th, 2021

The “misinformation?” In emails and Facebook posts, residents criticized Public Safety for refusing requests for help, claiming understaffing, shortly before a child was struck by a car in a crosswalk near PS/IS 217. (To be fair, RIOC never identifies the “most recent incident.)

But the understaffing excuse is common and familiar. PSD assistant chief Anthony Amorosa, in fact, recently used it as the reason why the promenades could not be patrolled after a dog was killed there by a car.

Because pseudo-Haynes never identifies the “most recent incident,” we can’t disagree that “officers were in the vicinity.” What difference does it make, though, if they can’t or won’t protect vulnerable residents?

And as one Roosevelt Islander noted, if officers were “in the vicinity,” whatever that means in real time, “they were probably looking at their phones.”

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