RIOC Budget for 2023-24 Hides Huges Losses at the Tram


Tram operations will cost Roosevelt Islanders at least a million dollars in the RIOC budget for 2023-24. But it’s hidden, never clearly exposed in the financial plan for operating the twin cabins. Asked for comment, one expert said, “Shelton (President/CEO Haynes) is just not in the game…” He’s not alone. 

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The RIOC Budget for 2023-24 Fails Out of the Gate

“Budget talks tomorrow but where’s the budget?” one observer asked. “Seems like Haynes is hiding something. Making his own rules as usual. We have the right to see what RIOC is spending… and on what!”

All true but with complicity from Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskis, Chair of RIOC’s Board, disregard for rules rides hand-in-hand with disrespect for residents.

The Roosevelt Island Tram slips through in the dark. RIOC tries doing something similar with its financial plan.

Visnauskis was made aware that Haynes and his board were violating the spirit of Open Meetings Law, failing to post the budget for public review prior to their September meeting as well as an Audit Committee meeting preceding it.

They also failed to post prominent notices for the meetings as required. One sorry result is that no one lined up for public comments before the full board meeting started, a rare occurrence.

Notified of each violation, Visnauskis did nothing. There’s a lawlessness about RIOC that runs from the top through Visnauskis straight to the bottom in Blackwell House.

Before reading about the staggering Tram losses, keep in mind that residents are forced without comment to foot all of the costs incurred by RIOC. The state has not contributed a dime in years.


Resident fees and leases fund the vast bulk of RIOC operations, which makes the Tram losses more painful. The black magic of it all is that Roosevelt Islanders involuntarily subsidize the MTA to the tune of $1 million+ each year.

Here’s how.

The Hidden Tram Losses

The math is surprisingly simple when the details are known. Here’s how it works.

In the RIOC budget for 2023-24, Tram revenues are projected at $4,622,000. But expenses are projected elsewhere and not itemized.

What you should know: Of $5,263,700 approved in bulk “Management Fees,” $4.9 million are dished out for the Tram.

That is, RIOC no longer operates the cabins but pays a subcontractor nearly $400,000 more than it collects. Bad as that is, the MTA subsidy is worse.

As RIOC executives – and Visnauskis – have known for years, the MTA only turns over $2.00 of the $2.75 it collects because it swindled RIOC’s numbnuts when the MetroCard deal was signed.

That’s right. RIOC’s brain trust signed off on a contract without a term limit and no escalation clause. And the current congress of deep-thinkers, headed by Haynes, does not fight back.

An image of the board could be used for the dictionary illustrating “feeble.”

You might better ask, Why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? Answer: Because the costs fall on Roosevelt Island taxpayers who never have any say in the matter.

Where are the elected officials who promise to look after our interests? They make a lot of noise – to no effect – about OMNY for the Tram. But when a hidden subsidy giving away more than a million in Roosevelt Islanders’ money to the MTA creeps into the RIOC budget for 2023-24, they stay silent.


No wonder people are curious about what else got hidden in the numbers.


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