RIOC’s Gross Neglect of Good Shepherd Plaza, Visible Decline


Once graceful Good Shepherd Plaza is historic, the old church an icon of early Roosevelt Island development. Anchoring the center of town, it should reflect the vibrancy of a united community. Instead, it symbolizes something else: gross neglect.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

“You recently devoted a lot of space to the terrible condition of our public spaces,” our reader wrote. “I agree completely and am particularly troubled by the silver paint that was spilled in the Church plaza near the bell well over one month ago.”

She was right, but only partly because this was just the tip of the iceberg.

“Evidently the paint spilled and a small person walked in it and made silver footprints.”

Another reader had already sounded an alarm.

“Opposite Rivercross, in front of the Island House Sales Office, is the small garden & modern art installation which WAS a lovely little place to read, relax, & reflect. This area has become an eyesore, as it has not had the grass mowed in months, & the bushes and shrubs are totally overgrown and unsightly.”

On a sun-washed day in 2018, with then-City Council Member Ben Kallos and RIVAA President Tad Sudol lending support, then-RIOC President Susan Rosenthal unveiled the newest addition to the Island of Art theme.

Rosenthal and Sudol teamed up for advancing the Island of Art theme. Current RIOC President Shelton J. Haynes has no apparent appreciation for art.

Four years later, on a similarly sunny afternoon, the story is different.

Weedy growths cover the base of the once-valued plinth, and uncut grass adds to the neglect. But neither this nor the paint spill stand alone as signals of RIOC’s gross neglect. Weeds are everywhere.
Dead weeds, Good Shepherd Plaza.

All Around Good Shepherd Plaza, Neglect Is Glaring

Two years ago on Roosevelt Island Day, RIOC’s Community Relations Team brought small, local nonprofits together in a competitive paint-off. Recently set up picnic tables at the back of the plaza got the creative treatment.

Girl Scout troops and others painted up a storm before the picnic tables were returned to Good Shepherd Plaza… where two years of gross neglect followed.

The point of painting wooden installations – like picnic tables – is protection. Layers of paint turn back weather and usage damage, and adding a little art brightens the pictures.

Until it doesn’t…

Just two years later, a row of rotting, uncared for picnic tables, a community pleasure, now an embarrassment at the entrance for the historic Chapel of the Good Shepherd.
When the decorated picnic tables were still fresh. You can see the old church’s historic marker.

Is RIOC Hostility at Fault?

Some suspect the RIOC and Haynes’s open hostility towards the managers of Island House may inspire the gross neglect in Good Shepherd Plaza. As a reader noted, the ugliest of the messes are directly outside the sales offices for Island House and Westview.

Some of the neglect is just awkward like this cluster of mismatches directly across Main Street from RIOC’s offices, otherwise known as “The Place Where Nobody Works.” The idea of the planters was spreading them around the plaza in decorative variety.

In contrast, RIOC takes good care of the grounds outside their Chief Executive’s office in Blackwell House.

Nice, right? Carefully tended lawns and shady trees accent the pathway Haynes walks on the intermittent days when he shows up for work.

Also, Recently in the News

But RIOC can do even better.

Dear Leader Garden welcomes the Chief Executive upon his arrival. The New York State Shelton J. Haynes Parking Area is immediately across the street. This proves the RIOC has an eye for beauty and can execute it when the right sort of folk need a pick-me-up.

Conclusion: Saving the Worst for Last

Beneath the 9/11 Tree, planted by residents honoring local lives lost in the disaster, the commemorative plaque is lost in weedy overgrowth.
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