$32 million. That’s the price tag for the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation for this year. The vast bulk of that comes out of the pockets of resident, via the hidden RIOC tax, but what return do we get for it?
by David Stone
$32 Million: Now You See It… Oops! No, You Don’t
Watching RIOC is something like watching an invisible snowman melt, except instead of snow, cash evaporates. It’s just gone, and there’s hardly a trace left of it.
To be fair, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) isn’t entirely invisible or melted off. Even at the worst of the pandemic, our Red Bus powered transportation system stayed reliable. The drivers were close to heroic, early on, even though the execs never gave them much, if any, credit.
The Tram, too, although that’s outsourced. Public Safety? Visible, but ineffective except for great skill with parking tickets and briefly acting as crossing guards when schools are open. Early in the pandemic, two officers died from COVID, but in spite of multiple promises, President/CYA Shelton J. Haynes failed to memorialize them in any way.
Invisible, see? With a few exceptions, but hardly enough to account for $32.8 million. And other failures outweigh them many times over.
Failure at Just Showing Up
“80 percent of success is just showing up.”Woody Allen
Since completing the nightmare makeover in Southpoint Park, Haynes, who pulls down $216,000 per year to lead RIOC, has been as sparse as salt in a high blood pressure diet. In fact, he never showed up even for that opening. Nor, according to one knowledgeable observer, has he been spotted there since.
Yes, he made an appearance at The Girl Puzzle ribbon-cutting and mumbled along through a December board meeting on Zoom. Since then? Nada. Same for his alleged Communications and Community Relations Team. In the meantime, critical issues grew worse with neglect.
Major No-Shows for $32 Million
- A bank for Main Street – Last fall, Haynes and company arranged a bankers tour, recruiting prospects for replacing Amalgamated after a year of lethargy. At the time, RIOC still acted like they were dragging a burlap bag of mashed potatoes around with them. But at least, it was something. That was in October. Neither the public nor the media were invited, but after being caught, RIOC promised future updates. There have been none, and the next dirty secret – they have zero prospects – is conspicuous in the silence.
- OMNY for the Tram – As the MTA finished installing OMNY readers in all city transit locations – except the Tram – in 2021, RIOC failed to work with its own sister agency. In February, City Council Member Julie Menin roughed up Haynes in a letter demanding he act. He acted, alright. After over a week, Haynes puffed up his chest and
took responsibility…blamed the MTA exclusively. Two hours later, RIOC scrambled out an abject apology, contradicting Haynes without using his name, author unknown. But there is nothing since, and we know this much only because Menin made it public. Invisible, RIOC never made any public statement.
- East Seawall in Danger of “Disastrous Collapse” – In October, RIOC finally acknowledged the emergency issue ousted President/CEO Susan Rosenthal tangled with Albany overseers about. That is, a 2014 engineering report showed that sections of the East Seawall were in imminent danger of collapsing from neglect. That’s 2014, folks. Haynes signed off on a contract for an inspection and a plan for repairs. Not a word since, and we only know this much because the board approved the money in a public session.
- The AVAC System – Starting last May, the AVAC system failed more than a dozen times at various locations, mostly south of Good Shepherd Plaza. Much of Rivercross remains out of service. After a couple of falsehood-laden “Advisories,” RIOC produced a brief summary of the problem and its fixes, promising updates. Since then, a half-dozen or more breakdowns occurred, but not a single update from the vaunted Communications Team.
- The Traffic Safety Plan – In October, after three people were struck by cars in Main Street, including a child and a seriously injured senior, President/CYA Haynes personally promised a detailed traffic safety plan. Seen it? All that ever really happened was an ill-considered West Promenade blockade that did little more than obstruct building services.
What’s Going On?
Other than a strange list of job openings discovered on the public website Indeed, RIOC executives have been silent for all of 2022. Those jobs duplicate in responsibilities those already filled by the vaunted Communications and Communications Team. But RIOC has not explained the puzzling gambit.
So far in 2022, RIOC canceled two scheduled board meetings without explanation, but the $32 million juggernaut has another set for later this month. If they don’t cancel again, we may find out what’s become of that invisible snowman.
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