RIOC’s May Board Meeting crawled by on the 19th with a little business, plenty of evasions… and then, some residents finally got their say. It wasn’t entirely humorless, but the fun was unintentional. That’s just RIOC.
by David Stone
RIOC May 2022 Board Meeting
During Shelton J. Haynes’s tenure as President/CEO, board meetings have been fewer and far thinner in content than ever. While the corporation’s chief executive reserves plenty of time for self-promotion, little is set aside for public business. This was no exception.
Blackwell Park Design Services
RIOC’s commitment to secrecy, deepened since Governor Kathy Hochul took office, allowed room for just two public agenda business items. The first, though, a $628K contract for Blackwell Park Design Services with MKW + Associates, LLC, opened up a discussion.
That’s where a little unintentional humor crept in.
Because MKW + Associates, LLC was not the low bidder, topping Langan Engineering by $180K, questions arose, but they shouldn’t be taken seriously. As experience shows, RIOC’s board passes everything thrown at them and does so unanimously.
In this instance, though, Michael Shinozaki wanted to know more about why Prince Shah, Assistant Director of Capital Planning and Projects, recommended MKW over two lower bidders.
But with unintended humor, he couched it in terms of “successes” RIOC has had with Langan. Has Shinozaki seen Langan’s butchery of Southpoint Park?
RIOC overthrew a much less costly community developed and approved remodeling in favor of Langan’s super-expensive attempt at a Brooklyn Bridge Park North. It was all wrong, and it shows, not even living up to its false promises.
Before the Board unanimously approved the decision, Howard Polivy inquired about whether residents would be consulted on the design, CFO John O’Reilly stuttered before blurting, “We always do that.”
Really? Starting when?
The Importance of Public Buy-in on Government Projects
The importance of public buy-in on government projects cannot be overstated. Without the support of the people, government projects are often doomed to fail. Furthermore, public input helps ensure that projects are designed in a way that meets the needs of the community.
Unfortunately, RIOC has a long history of ignoring public input. The most recent example is the disastrous redesign of Southpoint Park. Despite widespread opposition from Roosevelt Island residents, RIOC pushed ahead with a design that was completely inappropriate for the space. As a result, the park is now an eyesore and a source of frustration for many people.
If RIOC is serious about moving forward with projects that benefit the community, it needs to start listening to the public. Otherwise, it will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.
And for the record, RIOC gave the board a single explanation for bumping Langan. It was their “financials,” specifically their debt to assets ratio. No joke. After years of awards, most recently for a steam tunnel survey on which they’ve since gone silent…
What the June Board Meeting Left Out
- PSD’s Manhandling of a Small Woman Driver Over Illegal Parking
- The Traffic Safety Plan Haynes Promised in October
- The Departure of 17 Year Executive Erica Spencer-EL and Public Information Officer Amy Smith
- An extensive NYS We Deserve Better Whistleblower Complaint accusing Haynes and his management team of misconduct
- Any Update on the Steam Tunnel in Imminent Danger of “Catastrophic Collapse”
When a Quirk Let the Sun Shine In
Over the predictable complaints of The Angry Man Previously Known as David Kraut, public comments made it into the core of this meeting. Usually read out before scheduled board business, they got bumped into the middle following another lengthy blackout in Executive Session.
And there were a couple of clear knockouts plus a surprise.
(Our apologies for not catching all the names released by Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson before reading aloud.)
- A thoughtfully composed plea for a decent dog run, including a list of injuries suffered by animals trying to use it. (Later, Haynes previewed a temporary dog run adjacent to the NYC Ferry Landing, but it’s clearly a long way off, and RIOC has fumbled the issue for years.)
- In a surprise, former Assistant Chief Counsel Arthur Eliav revealed that he sent a detailed letter to the board a month ago. He wondered why no one responded to evidence presented about misconduct by Haynes. Eliav, after 15 years with RIOC, was fired in 2021. No reason was given publicly. This appears to be at least the 6th referral concerning Haynes forwarded to the Inspector General.
- A resident lit into the board, accusing it of failing in its responsibilities for governing RIOC. This featured but was not limited to complaints about reviewing what are generally considered bloated executive salaries. Haynes, for example, tops the salaries of every governor in the nation, except Kathy Hochul, and so do several in his circle of executives.
- Rick O’Conor, the publisher of the Roosevelt Islander blog, asked if RIOC would start responding to media inquiries. Under Haynes, a media block out has put the lie to Hochul’s promises about transparency as has using every angle available in avoiding full disclosure in FOIL requests.
- O’Conor also asked about the board’s reaction to the NYS We Deserve Better whistleblower complaint.
The board kept silent on all of it except a request from Vicki Feinmel for Pickle Ball courts. Yada yada yada.
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