green and brown pistachio nuts
Photo by Marina Leonova on

Are RIOC communications completely nuts or just seem like it?


RIOC communications, already a years-long mess, took a strange turn in 2022 – from poorly done to apparently completely nuts. Important information gets skipped over like a carefree child at play while RIOC doubles down on “…temporary paver repair and resetting work along isolated sections of Main Street.” What’s going on with RIOC’s brain trust? Is anybody home?

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The Downfall in RIOC Communications

Former Public Relations Director Terrence McCauley. Above is what RIOC communications looked like in the spring of 2020, before Acting President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes turned the department over to a team with vast experience with fencing and volleyball.

Shortly after taking the reins at RIOC, the now invisible Shelton J. Haynes appointed Erica Spencer-EL head of communications. In a fouled environment, veteran spokesman Terrence McCauley bounced. His career as an award-winning novelist lit up. While dark days descended over his former employer.

The next year and a half marked a sorry period of media blackouts, confrontations and, finally, bunker mode. RIOC execs hunkered down in their offices, appearing only like puppets in a board approved “branding and marketing” scheme.

But the effort at treating the state agency like an Old Navy branch failed on multiple fronts. It wasn’t just a stupid idea, it was also poorly executed.

green and brown pistachio nuts
This is what RIOC communications looks like today./Photo by Marina Leonova on

From Lousy to Bizarre

With RIOC locked up tighter than ever in its bunker, the full extent of internal changes is unknown. But rumors have Spencer-EL and probably the rest of her team – Jessica Cerone and Amy Smith – either gone or muzzled. In their stead is a smooth-writing but completely nuts piece of automation that’s as disconnected from the community as is a beach in Honolulu.

Here are some critical issues for which RIOC has been silent throughout 2022:

  • OMNY card readers for the Tram and an MTA contract costing Roosevelt Island over $100,000 every month, according to their own figures
  • The repeatedly broken or jammed AVAC system
  • The new Tram elevators, one never opened, the other already suffering breakdowns
  • Who is managing the business with multiple execs missing?
  • What is the response to the damning whistleblower report made public and forwarded to the Inspector General?
  • Where is the traffic safety plan promised by Haynes back in October?

In the meantime, whatever operation or whoever it is in charge of RIOC communications assures us that “The temporary paver repair and resetting work along isolated sections of Main Street is complete.” And they’re doing sidewalk repairs near something called the “Motorgate half-circle.”

On Monday, as we reported, a broken Tram elevator left people in wheelchairs and parents with strollers stranded for hours but got no notice from the state agency that never fails.

What’s going on? Who, if anyone, is in charge here?

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