Judged by recent observations, RIOC managers are rare birds never seen anymore outside captivity. Start with bunkered, elusive CEO Shelton Haynes… No, start at the top. New York Governor Kathy Hochul has not caught the scent of RIOC’s mounting failures under her direction. Her hypocritical evasion of leadership echoes on down the pike and piles up on Main Street.
by David Stone
As unresolved problems mount for Roosevelt Island, the absence of managers, starting at the top with Haynes, radiates from Blackwell House in every direction.
“I am just so disgusted and exhausted from RIOC,” says one business owner. Her repeated attempts at contacting RIOC managers about problems earned not a word of response.
Another prominent executive reports waiting three weeks to get a return call from Haynes.
“Were you expecting something different?” another chided me after multiple RIOC managers failed at correcting yet another illiterate email “Advisories” blast. “Hoping for the best; expecting the least…”
In the end, it all comes down to Governor Hochul who promised so much more and delivered so much less. Although she gets credit for a good choice in returning Fay Christian to RIOC’s board, she gets an F for not consulting with residents. And another for doing so little else.
Why failing miserably to meet her promise of increased transparency at state agencies – RIOC grew much worse – she has so far also failed to sign legislation passed by Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and Senator José Serrano that would inch democracy a few steps ahead for Roosevelt Island.
RIOC Managers Last Seen
CEO Haynes was last reported seen in public hustling past the Dear Leader Garden on his way to his gas guzzler parked in the New York State Shelton J. Haynes Parking Area. He completed a full day of avoiding historian Judith Berdy by darting away.
Berdy had been emailing him about an obtrusive hot dog stand jammed into limited space at the Tram Plaza during construction. Haynes rarely returns telephone calls – to some of us, never – or emails. But Berdy parked herself across from Blackwell House, where Haynes maintains a bunker. All she got, though, was a photo of his escape.
That’s not to say that all RIOC managers are unresponsive. Although reported blacklists within the state agency prevent them from responding to certain people, some have quietly risen to the occasion.
PSD Chief Kevin Brown has kept Roosevelt Islanders safer on Red Buses and the Tram by sending his officers out enforcing mask mandates. And Matthew Kibby responded to reports about weedy conditions in Southpoint Park. Cleaning up has made the best of the site’s disastrous makeover, making it about the best we can ever expect there.
But the Laundry List of Neglect Is Long
No one much aware of Haynes’s work before he became CEO expected him to suddenly become a good or even adequate manager. Nothing in the record shows he’s ever done it or predicts that he will.
The net result is a laundry list of troubles that show him as either overmatched or uncaring. In no particular order…
- After promising to keep Roosevelt Islanders informed of his team’s efforts at securing a bank on Main Street, he went silent. Some suspect that the only attempt came after Seawright and then-Borough President Gale Brewer pushed hard.
- A potential “catastrophic collapse” of the East Seawall, related to unmanaged steam pipes running for a mile underground, lingers after seven years. Again under pressure and failing to get the city to take responsibility, Team Haynes awarded a contract to BBF* Langan Engineering for a survey. That was six months ago, but all we have from RIOC is silence as we approach hurricane season. *Best Business Friend
- The Drowning in Sportspark. In May, last year, a young man drowned in Sportspark’s pool. To date, RIOC has not even released his name or any liability it may have. Haynes reportedly ordered that all internal discussions be verbal with nothing in writing. Sources also tell us that RIOC fired the entire lifeguard staff, then outsourced the jobs.
- Nearly two years ago, after multiple people were hit by cars on Main Street, Haynes promised a comprehensive traffic safety plan. Islanders are still waiting.
- OMNY for the Tram is a more complicated matter than simply installing readers. A contract with MTA covering collections is way out of date and must be renegotiated or replaced. But the MTA has not budged. That’s probably because the contract gets them over $1 million every year in unearned revenue. No one at RIOC has publicly explained to anyone, except for brief board meeting chatter.
- Repeated failures in the AVAC trash collection system continue with not a word from RIOC. Perhaps this is because excuses pushed by them last year proved bogus. But the future of the AVAC may be in jeopardy. Without anything resembling transparency from RIOC, it’s hard to tell.
And So On…
Left off the list are others like the failing plans for dog runs, the lingering construction mess in the Tram Plaza and the depressing overall appearance of Main Street.
These leave the absence of RIOC managers as irritating as the puzzling failure of Hochul’s Albany team to act. Roosevelt Islanders are left with deteriorating, even threatening conditions while everyone responsible dozes through summer.
The community has nowhere to turn.