Doing the right thing is not a sure thing with RIOC. More than a few WTF moments have sparkled through Roosevelt Island during the Haynes regime. And as a rule, they neither admit nor fix any mistake. But suddenly, something has changed. Or maybe more… But some things are getting better, at least for now.
by David Stone
Doing the right thing made a hesitant start last month in how RIOC’s legal team handles freedom of information requests. It wasn’t an earthquake, but without notice, they reduced their usual, totally illegal and unethical stall on responses to a standard 30 days.
A boatload of moldering requests remains unanswered or incomplete. That hasn’t changed. But the change in the duration of their mandatory stall is not something Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson would do on her own. Her game’s more about obstructing media requests not finding solutions.
So, what happened? Who made her do it? Is there a good seed blossoming inside the state agency that never makes a mistake?
Doing the Right Thing for Public Safety
A year or so ago – it was never officially announced – the Kevin Brown Fire Hydrant Blockage created a safety hazard, smack dab in front of Bread & Butter Deli. Nothing could dislodge it, not even FDNY complaints.
Seconds count in emergencies, but Brown seemed content to let three complexes protected by this hydrant take on the added risk. But why?
Ridicule mounted as the paper signs hung from the metal rails washed out. Garbage accumulated, and Red Bus drivers grumbled. To no avail.
Wondering why may be a waste of time. Maybe we should all be happy that the blockade finally came down… but we’re still curious. And fairly certain Brown would never have conceded defeat without a push from somewhere or someone.
And Then, the Fabled Dog Run
Even before Haynes took over RIOC, the conditions of its two dog runs were a disgrace. Dog owners were reluctant to use them for a variety of reasons: no running water, no shade, injuries to dogs, etc.
And under pressure from a small, vocal minority that doesn’t like dogs, RIOC made a bad situation worse, ticketing people who let their dogs run free in Firefighters Field* during times when it was not otherwise in use.
*Although on its website RIOC alternatively uses “Firefighter’s Field” and “Firefighters Field,” – and there is no sign anywhere – we’re using the logical choice.
Protests led to an announcement by Haynes that, after consulting with Common Council President Rossana Ceruzzi, he would build the worst possible dog run under the Queensboro Bridge.
Here is the Shelton J. Haynes Roosevelt Island (South) Dog Run, just three months later:
Happily, the worst that came of that blunder is RIOC dumping mulch in the current dog run. Mulch is inappropriate dog runs because it fosters disease transmission. But relative to the mess they could’ve made under the bridge, it comes off as not so bad.
Then, without a further word – or apology – RIOC leaked plans for doing the right thing with a new dog run using a part of Firefighters Field. Although most of the details are still unknown, the video above shows plentiful space available, unused in what would be right field when baseball games are played there.
What motivated this change? Take for granted that neither Haynes nor anyone in his protective circle would take this initiative. They’ve never stood up to the anti-dog crowd.
Doing the Right Thing – But Why?
It’s safe assuming that this trend, doing the right thing, will not be a RIOC constant, although many would welcome the surprise. That’s because RIOC hasn’t bothered to explain any of the changes, leaving the community to wonder why.
Dismantling the Kevin Brown Fire Hydrant Blockade: Either FDNY or pressure from RIOC’s Albany handlers forced the action. Team Hochul tolerates a lot of RIOC rubbish, but maybe this one was just too over the top.
Lightening Up the Freedom of Information Stall: The stall, exposed in a pending lawsuit as an effort to keep damaging information secret – contrary to the purpose of the law – was too awful to last, once exposed. Some elected officials, especially Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, were appalled and may have waded in.
Designing a New Southtown Dog Run: Because Haynes and Company routinely mangled everything about the terrible dog runs, it isn’t likely he’d suddenly become enlightened. Inside sources tell us that Hudson President David Kramer stepped in and took responsibility. He’s done it before when RIOC fumbled, and it makes sense.
Sadly, none of these suggestions involved RIOC suddenly doing the right thing on its own, but we’d be happy to be wrong.
Here’s hoping that we are.