It wasn’t perfect, but on several levels, the October Board meeting was the most informative and best organized since Susan Rosenthal’s exit. Concrete achievements and some surprises, shaded by an all-new awareness of community needs, rolled through the session.
by David Stone
The biggest news of the evening at RIOC‘s October Board Meeting was the approval of plans for Southtown Building #9. It brings the community expansion to a close, a process that took much longer than anyone expected.
Hudson President David Kramer, who has fronted the Hudson-Related partnership for 25 years, touched the high points, requesting board approval before breaking ground.
- The 28-story tower includes 357 apartments, adding roughly 500 new Roosevelt Islanders.
- Construction will take two years.
- Among the enhancement will be a mirrored extension of Riverwalk Commons. No new commercial spaces are anticipated, but tentative plans include the long-awaited dog run, a hammock area and pickleball courts.
- Temporary inconveniences include limitations on the use of Firefighters’ Field because of safety requirements as the tower goes up and accommodating a temporary dog run during construction.
- Building #9 will become RIOC’s new 7,000-square-foot headquarters. If the community is lucky, this means moving RIOC executives out of the deeply unsuitable bunker in Blackwell House.
Initially approved in the 1990s, the nine buildings making up Southtown took far longer than expected. The September 11th, 2001 disaster and subsequent economic slowdown joined with the 2010 recession and the Coronavirus pandemic in dragging development out.
The Board approved the whole package unanimously.
October Board’s Other Features
Although the Southtown approval was a landmark for Roosevelt Island, there was more worth noting. Among the most exciting was President CEO Shelton Haynes’s report that the Sportspark renovation is 95% complete.
A few punch list of items remain, but probably the biggest obstacles are FDNY and the Dept. of Buildings inspections and approvals. Both city agencies have moved at a glacial pace in the past here.
The board also approved a contract that brings in outside lifeguards and management. The three-year deal was prompted by suspected negligence that may have led to a still unexplained drowning in May 2021.
Also in the mix…
- Pickleball everywhere: Haynes said that basketball courts behind Sportspark will become pickleball courts. There will be added inside courts as the gym reopens. And probably others to come, given the level of enthusiasm.
- In an unintentionally lighter moment, Haynes promised to resume monthly community engagement gatherings along with meetings with elected officials. It was surreal. If any of these events ever occurred, the community never heard a word about them.
- Assistant Vice-President Altheria Jackson‘s last day at RIOC is October 21st. Jackson, a longtime friend of Haynes’s, was always controversial. Repeatedly promoted to positions where the gap between her salary and her abilities grew wider, whistleblowers argued that she was a cronyism hire who never connected with the community or co-workers.
- An admired manager, Michelle Williams, also left. Her departure came shortly after Haynes’s controversial firing of RIOC MVP John O’Reilly. As with Jackson, Haynes mumbled something about pursuing other interests. That was better than lying about the disappearance of Markus Sztejnberg, but it similarly sidestepped responsibility.
It’s a Wrap
RIOC’s October Board Meeting for 2022 may mark a fresh start for community responsiveness and openness. Much more work is needed before RIOC becomes transparent and accountable, but hell, it’s a start.