Outa here? Follow up on RIOC’s vanished Vice President


As of yesterday when we posted about RIOC’s vanished Vice President Debra Kustka, it was mostly mysterious. Suddenly erased, she was just gone. But during the course of a day, we learned more, if not everything.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Vanished Vice President Quit

RIOC President/CYA Shelton J. Haynes established a bunker upstairs in Blackwell House.

“She quit,” an unimpeachable source told The Daily. “She couldn’t get anything done.”

Such is life at RIOC under President/CYA Shelton J. Haynes and Director of Programing and Partnerships Erica Spencer EL. The pair, it appears, share an uneasy partnership in control of the clodhopping state agency.

“Her resume speaks for itself,” another said of the vanished Vice President. “(Kustka) realized quickly that nothing was done, even when Haynes held the role.”

Since Haynes took over from ambushed President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, little has been initiated other than inexplicable relocations and personnel dismissals. Haynes has bragged about finished projects, but closer examination shows almost all were started by Rosenthal and managed by others.

“Unfortunate loss of a qualified professional but she was smart to leave when she did. He’s all over the place,” our informant added. Finding evidence rebutting those claim is challenging, putting it in the most generous terms.

Details arising

Our resources tell us that, not long after taking her new position, Kustka chaffed at the lack of leadership resulting from the unqualified pair running the show. In 15 years at Hudson River Park, she’d been a doer, but she hit a wall with RIOC.

Co-workers say she voiced frustrations about the lack of leadership leading and inaction. That was not her style. Internally, there have been complaints about Spencer-EL, citing her unwillingness to return telephone calls or respond to emails. That bogs things down, especially in light of what’s regarded as Haynes’s diffidence behind a charming mask.

Another complaint – this one going back to 2021 when Transportation Director Cy Opperman quit – is the high number of paid employees not showing up for work. That includes execs with six-figure incomes. Opperman, long regarded as an effective, community oriented manager, withdrew his resignation, but vanished Vice President Kustka must have witnesses the same flagging commitments to the jobs at hand.

The results, from the mess in Southpoint to rock salt still spilled everywhere five days after an ice storm, are everywhere.

A vanished Vice President

Our sources tell us that managers were called into a meeting last week. That included some who were aware of Kustka’s frustrations. “She quit,” they were told.

But after four months on the job, departing without notice or saying “Goodbye” to befriended co-workers seems unlikely. Speculation centers on a confrontation with the thin-skinned Haynes and, as with others, a sudden disappearance.

But with a board filled with water tigers and with electeds officials as feeble under Boss Hochul as they were under Cuomo, we may not get all the details – or any change – soon, if ever.

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