Is Shelton Haynes Having A George Santos Moment Now?


“Doesn’t change Shelton’s George Santos approach to story-telling,” a resident reacted after reading the latest magazine article exalting Shelton Haynes. He hit the newsstands for a second time this week, now with an article that exceeds the first in unrestrained errors as well as aimlessness. Is it “pay to play” as the sloppiness suggests or has business reporting gotten that bad?

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Shelton Haynes is, of course, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation‘s bunkered President/CEO. But in what looks suspiciously like a George Santos moment, the article contends he’s spun a sterling level of achievement since his alleged college graduation.

This is news to us, and we were here for it.

And like George Santos, the precious Republican, soon-to-be congressman, the stories are ripe with fiction and false claims. Haynes did not, however, write either article nor would he be fool enough to publicly proclaim his own greatness.

But Somebody Else Did…

And that somebody is probably on RIOC’s payroll and reports to George Santos Shelton Haynes. Who else would have any motivation for writing such bunk? Or maybe it’s a disguised sponsored post, which would explain the meandering, cliche-ridden style?

Roosevelt Island is a “hidden gem…” Ever heard that one before? How about “…a small town in the middle of New York City…” ?

Because RIOC’s delicate leader doesn’t make public appearances nor does he answer press queries, it’s impossible to verify his support for the avalanche of misstatements.

As reported last week, an article in Ceoworld awarded Haynes with super powers in a profile patched together from fabulous claims stitched with random quotes. Were it not for his photo, Haynes was barely recognizable.

But this one, in Boss Magazine, is funnier in a twisted sort of way. The title? Get ready for this…

RIOC CEO Shelton Haynes’ Plans to Elevate NYC’s Historic Roosevelt Island, A Hidden NYC Gem

Give the editors – no named author took credit for this beauty – some credit, though. The article does not follow that storyline. Its exaggerations and false claim are, nevertheless, at the championship level of misinformation.

Shelton Haynes
Shelton Haynes in 2019 before taking over the controls and RIOC and “elevating” Roosevelt Island. At that time, he still appeared in public, answered questions and maintained his natural gregariousness.

Setting the Stage for the George Santos Moments

In a piece that, like the last, does not recognize or quote a single community member, it says of Roosevelt Island “…Its geographical and historical uniqueness flourish due to the stewardship of the state-run agency Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC).”

“In 1984, New York created Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to function like a local government,” it adds.

But no, it doesn’t and never was so intended. And the state was expected to dole out money for operations in its annual budget. Instead, they found the secret stash in Roosevelt Islanders’ bank accounts more easily accessed and have siphoned it without restraint since then.

By contrast, local governments are democratic. Elections are the best way of keeping officials on their toes because they must answer to those governed. New York State isn’t having any of that here.

From Andrew Cuomo to Kathy Hochul, governors who pull all the strings on Roosevelt Island have been fiercely undemocratic. Conveniently, this renders RIOC a protected patronage dump. It’s all about pleasing Albany and securing the votes of a specific demographic in New York City.

The approval of those of us calling this “hidden gem” home isn’t especially pertinent.

That makes it critical not to embarrass the governor but make her proud instead. That means build, build, build and brag about it whether you do it or not.

The Latest In Falsehoods, RIOC-Style

Of its many projects, RIOC is tasked with one project that spans decades: The completion of the island’s master plan adopted in 1969. Haynes now sees the finish line, which his team will reach with the construction of Riverwalk Building 9…

Boss Magazine

But Haynes or his so-called team did next to nothing in getting spadework started on Building 9. His predecessor, Susan Rosenthal, negotiated a deal with Hudson-Related that included Building 8, which is already fully occupied.

Although progress stalled because of the pandemic, the Board approved Rosenthal’s deal in 2018, two years before Haynes became even interim CEO.

His team did play a late-stage role, though, getting mugged by the developers, letting them off the hook for promised public restrooms and lighting for the adjacent Firefighters’ Field. Both were community interests Rosenthal won and Haynes’s team dumped.

Haynes has learned to transform the big picture into reality throughout his career. Since becoming CEO of RIOC, Haynes has achieved a concrete objective by increasing RIOC’s annual capital program from $4.5 million to more than $19.6 million. 

Boss Magazine

This is a falsehood so blatant it would make a habitual liar blush. But here again, Haynes gets credit for Susan Rosenthal’s work. Rosenthal persuasively and repeatedly pitched infrastructure development with RIOC’s board.

Blessed with a windfall from a deal allowing Cornell Tech to use state land in its construction, she lined up project after project. Haynes may have played a role, but if so, it was publicly invisible, underscoring this as a George Santos moment.

During that critical period, Haynes was propped up by a $175/hr consultant who was followed by $1 miillon+ per year Owners Representative (LiRo) and CFO John O’Reilly. These folks implemented designs that Rosenthal won.

Any role played by Haynes is unclear… except for a gift for getting credit for others’ work.

In the article, for example, Haynes gets credit for completing the seawall railings project. That was finished in 2019, much of it in time for the 2018 FIGMENT NYC event in Lighthouse Park.

Rosenthal did that and won the creative art event too. It was previously held on Governors Island. Haynes’s team subsequently lost.

It Gets Worse

Probably the most inept of false claims is that “Haynes and his team funded the final phase of the FDR Hope Memorial.”

That was also Susan Rosenthal. The installation stalled for a decade because the founders could not secure enough funding. But Rosenthal stepped in, getting board approval for completing the late Jim Bates’s dream project. Bates was president of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association.

But guess what Haynes and his team did…

FDR Hope Memorial, Summer 2020.

They left it unfinished in a weed-filled lot until The Daily publicly shamed them in an article. When the memorial opened in 2021, Rosenthal was not mentioned in the ceremony. That would upend the George Santos moment narrative.

But the bozos didn’t top there. They describe the memorial as “the culmination of Four Freedoms Park.”

The FDR Hope Memorial is not in Four Freedoms Park, and as for the “culmination” or consummation of the conservancy-run park, it happed ten years earlier.

But for sheer incompetence…

In December 2021, RIOC unveiled Kentucky sculptor Amanda Matthews’ five massive, arresting bronze sculptures designed for women who met adversity with resilience, centered around muckraking journalist Nellie Bly.

Boss Magazine

But the artwork’s title – The Girl Puzzle – never gets a mention and, even worse, a location. The once internationally acclaimed work is as lost on Boss Magazine as it is abandoned by RIOC.

Hanging Out the Welcome Mat…

Shelton Haynes champions development on Roosevelt Island and invites residents and tourists to visit its eclectic businesses, restaurants, and other attractions.

Boss Magazine

When you think about it, though, you realize you never see him in any of them. As a general practice, Haynes’s daily presence – on the occasions when he’s here – is confined to Blackwell House plus the open space he hustles through on his way to the New York State Shelton J. Haynes Parking Area.

The article goes on to tout Hudson-Related’s Shops On Main. Haynes describes the stores as “attractions for tourists and residents.”

Finally, they lean lightly on Cornell Tech, falsely declaring Cornell Tech “…the newish hub for graduate students in tech, design, law, and business — is on the verge of completing two more phases of additional campus housing.”

This alone shows that whoever composed this junk has probably never seen Roosevelt Island. No verge exists let alone “additional campus housing.”

But it gets worse. Honest.

The editorial follows this opening to prance out five paragraphs of praise for the Roosevelt Island Graduate Hotel on the campus. The world-class graduate university got just a single sentence.

Closing the George Santos Moment Floodgates

Wrapping up, Boss Magazine then tells the world, “While islanders understand that living in the middle of the East River is a compromise — rush hour can be admittedly tricky — the diverse island is a genuine gem, a small town sitting peacefully beside the biggest of apples.”

Rarely has an arguable claim been so abundantly embraced by so many cliches.

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