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Dog issues prompt a statement out of Shelton Haynes’s bunker

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Addressing dog issues smoldering through the last several years, RIOC President/CEO Shelton Haynes said, Residents Association President Rossana “…Ceruzzi has made me aware of growing concerns surrounding dogs that we plan to address immediately.” But evasive as ever, he never defines the “growing concerns” nor does he take any clear position. The statement was emailed publicly as an advisory.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Dog Issues, Old News, Rehashed

As we reported in February, dog issues concerning RIOC’s failure at building anything resembling an acceptable Southtown dog run festered since 2019. Clashes involved some residents alarmed over dogs running off-leash and others pleading for a long-promised dog run.

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At RIOC’s October 2019 board meeting, they announced a plan for building a new dog run in Blackwell Park, next to 510 Main Street, the southernmost part of Roosevelt Landings. Led by Octagon resident Scott Piro, a group of dog owners studied several possible locations, settling on this one. It would replace an older run, also in the park, before the end of winter.

That plan was fiercely opposed by Rachel Dowling for a variety of reasons, and she notably has spoken up about dogs unleashed in Fireman’s Field.

Distilled from three years of contention is that RIOC failed to please anyone. Although the existing Blackwell Park dog run was dismantled, the new run never got built. Shelton Haynes was RIOC’s Operations Vice President – responsible for parks and the dog runs in them – in October 2019. He became acting CEO in June 2020, assigning his operations duties over to his longtime friend Altheria Jackson.

His claims of becoming suddenly “aware” don’t ring true, the kindest way we can put it.

This Southtown dog run, which would embarrass a poor county, is the only alternative dogs have for running free. It’s dangerous, filthy and lacking in facilities and maintenance.

Dealing Exclusively with Rossana Ceruzzi and the Common Council

In a ridiculous word salad of a sentence in desperate need of a rewrite, Haynes grew even vaguer.

“Some of the noted concerns were finding temporary solutions and discussing long term plans for upgraded dog runs, developing a communication plan that would place signs in specific areas known to be problematic, enforcement of policies and stipulating the consequences for dog owners not adhering to clearly defined rules and regulations.”

In other words, “Yack, yack, yack and nothing.” Established upgraded dog run plans sat idle under his watch for three years, and the rest is unclear gobbledygook. RIOC-speak. Sheltonese.

And taking nothing away from Ceruzzi, she is the wrong person because RIOC’s hit team compromised her under Haynes. After Ceruzzi had the nerve to challenge Haynes’s radical plans for demolishing Southpoint Park, RIOC Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson attacked in the summer of 2020.

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Although it was not done with any other Roosevelt Island nonprofit, Robinson abruptly demanded rent for animal shelters managed by the Wildlife Freedom Foundation. Ceruzzi is the group’s founder and Executive Director, and the fee would bankrupt them. In Bolivar Shagnasty style, Robinson directed them to pay up or shut down in 30 days.

Fortunately, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright intervened, and RIOC backed off. But only because Seawright argued that raising rent during a pandemic was unreasonable.

The ax, then, still hangs over WFF’s neck. How can dog owners or protestors expect Ceruzzi to act fairly on their behalf?

A Simple Dog Issues Solution

Resident concerns about dog issues, much of it centered around excrement left behind by careless owners, are right.

The health issues related to dogs roaming off-leash and leaving behind excrement in public places are serious and can pose a risk to both dogs and humans. Some of the potential health risks associated with dog poop include intestinal parasites, bacteria that can cause stomach upset or infections, and diseases that can be transmitted from dogs to humans.

And unleashed dogs frighten some children.

But just a minute, dog owners protest. Where else can they go?

Under Haynes’s “leadership,” a barely acceptable dog run in Blackwell Park was torn down without replacement, leaving only a disgusting, dangerous run next to portable toilets in a field.

Haynes offered no insight, but dogs and dog owners are part of the fabric of Roosevelt Island. They’re not just dogs, they’re our dogs.

With dogs as part of his proposed “community outreach,” Haynes could show real leadership by addressing the needs of dog owners without leaving them completely dissatisfied or in jeopardy. Simply put, he could build a couple of real dog runs.

If Haynes can’t figure that out, he should resign and go back to his bunker.

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