The RIOC War on Trees Claims a Century-Old Beauty on Main Street


The continuing war on trees that RIOC started two decades ago, wiping out innumerable, often healthy trees, hit the community again. Already long gone are the willow grove accenting Lighthouse Park, the towering old-growth trees shading the middle of the Rivercross Lawn and myriad others. Now, it’s an evidently healthy maple that stood for over 100 years.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

You Can’t Fix Stupid

Once upon a time, Roosevelt Island sported a proud sign near the bridge helix: “Tree City USA.” This seems to have offended RIOC.

Or as Frank Farance noted, “Stupid people keep doing stupid things.”

With RIOC, it’s analogous to the plight of moths captured by light bulbs.

Moths are nocturnal, evolved to orient to the moon, the brightest light in the sky, on their nightly hunts for sustenance. A brightly lit bulb transfixes them, and they keep bumping against it, unable to find a way out.

RIOC’s like that, except the attractive objects are bloated salaries and benefits packages. They’re blinded to other options in the world because the pull of easy money is so strong.

That’s the core of the Elbow from Ass Distinction Disorder (EADD) infecting the state agency running Roosevelt Island.

Nothing in the remains of this RIOC-felled tree suggests any sign of ill health. The core system is clean, the bark robust and uninfected. This tree thrived for over a century, including this year when it filled the sky with richly colored leaves from spring to its death in autumn.

The RIOC War on Trees: Lost in Yonkers

“In the words of Kari Lake,” she wrote, “this is BS.”

“I was just there — the pedestrian sidewalk — not a walkway — Next to the trees is mostly blocked off completely so folks have to cross the street.”

RIOC’s Communications AVP had written, “The work performed will not affect vehicular traffic or the pedestrian walkway.”

That was untrue, but the kid from Yonkers, perhaps preoccupied with fundraising for the city’s mayor, did worse. Akeem Jamal acts like a foreigner in unfamiliar territory.

“To keep up with RIOC’s commitment to providing the best quality of life possible for those who live, work and visit our community,” he oozed, “RIOC will be performing tree work to beautify and remove hazardous trees.”

First, RIOC has no such commitment, but even so, how does destroying healthy, old-growth trees contribute to “the best quality of life?” 

Who Is Responsible?

Ultimately, it’s Governor Kathy Hochul who runs RIOC through surrogates but refuses to remove the dead weight dragging it down.

But in the meantime, it’s the usual culprits. An uncaring, bobblehead board declines its responsibilities to the community. And the leadership of President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes is roughly as effective as inflating a balloon figure for curing loneliness.

Yet, the war on trees is not new to Acting Chief Operating Officer Mary Cunneen.

Five years ago, also without community notice or discussion, she ordered the removal of two towering shade trees in the middle of the Rivercross Lawn. A freedom of information request revealed that she sought three bidders for remedial tree work.

Two submitted proposals in the spring, but neither believed that both trees were beyond saving. Then, months later and for undisclosed reasons, she pulled up a third bidder who came in higher than the others and proposed killing both Rivercross Lawn treasures.

Guess who got that bid?

You guessed it. The RIOC war on trees cleared Rivercross Lawn of its shadiest elders.

Was Cunneen involved in the current destruction? She’s been Acting COO for months. Of course, she’s responsible because this is in her territory.

Don’t Breathe Easy

There is worse news ahead because RIOC’s “best quality of life possible” measures continue through this week. It’s not a question of whether they will gratuitously waste more viable trees, it’s how many?

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