How a Local Hero Overcame RIOC’s Rejection, Got the Job Done


Few think of Dexter Benjamin as a local hero on Roosevelt Island, but he is. His often smiling face brightens the Main Street Canyon. An athlete who gets around on one leg, Dexter relies on a prosthetic limb or a crutch, but no one ever put a wheelchair to better use.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Some good news landed with the CBN/Roosevelt Island Older Adults Center last week. A top-quality ping-pong table was being donated, and all they had to do was pick it up. For seniors, ping-pong is often the most active sport with the least risk.

Local hero Dexter Benjamin catches a break after arriving safely with the new ping-pong table in tow.

And it’s popular at 546 Main Street. But funding is never enough, and donations spray light and joy over restricted lives. You’d never expect the need for a local hero. Just go get the table and bring it home.

But then, the never-disappointing RIOC turned enabler. Not on purpose, of course, but not all that unexpectedly either.

How RIOC’s Rejection Made Dexter Benjamin a Local Hero

A call went out to RIOC. Could they send one of their many trucks over to Astoria and bring back the eagerly awaited table?

“No. We can’t do that..” came back the answer. No further reason was offered.

The decision, according to our sources, was made by Assistant Vice-President Altheria Jackson. High school graduate Jackson pulls down a six-figure salary at RIOC, although no one knows for sure what she does or has done for the community.

Few residents would recognize the operations chief if she strolled down Main Street.

But she’s a longtime friend of President/CYA Shelton J. Haynes who recruited her from Georgia because no one closer could do what she does. Whatever it is.

RIOC’s rejection proved futile. Word got back to Dexter, a ping-pong enthusiast and instructor, and he acted. What he did was so unbelievable, only a video can convincingly tell his story

Local hero Dexter Benjamin takes it to the streets.

Roosevelt Island Disabled Association founder, the late Jim Bates, had a motto. “Enabled, Not Disabled.” Dexter Benjamin could hang that plaque around his neck.

RIOC’s rejection aside, the senior center now has a new pool table. Thanks to none other than Dexter Benjamin.

CBN/Roosevelt Island Older Adults Center director Lisa Fernandez greets Dexter on his return to Roosevelt Island. She has her camera in hand because you had to see it to believe it.

Roosevelt Island has more good, contributing people than most of us know, but for today, we salute Dexter Benjamin, a genuine local hero.

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