RIOC Welcomes You to Roosevelt Island Lighthouse Park 2023

RIOC Welcomes You to Roosevelt Island Lighthouse Park 2023

Three years ago this month, RIOC seeded plans for Lighthouse Park 2023 during a public meeting at the Good Shepherd Community Center. Roosevelt Islanders dug in, voting on potential uses and offering new suggestions. But those seeds rotted in the ground when the state agency that never gets it wrong switched gears, ousting President/CEO Susan Rosenthal and promoting Shelton J. Haynes.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

On a cold winter evening, January 8th, 2020, RIOC organized a meeting with Roosevelt Islanders. The state agency had acquired a chunk of abandoned parking lot east of Coler Hospital. Adjacent to Lighthouse Park, RIOC would expand the greenspace south and sought community consensus on how it should be used.

This is January 8th, 2020. You probably won’t see anything like it again. RIOC shared design ideas (background right) with Roosevelt Islanders, seeking their active input. Under Governor Kathy Hochul and RIOC CEO Shelton Haynes, they never do anything like that anymore.

It sounds a little like make-believe with RIOC so bunkered now that the idea of working with the community is a prop Haynes uses to keep his board sleeping.

But there was a time when community leadership coalesced around common goals. Things were not perfect. Residents still wanted more say in how their money got spent, but a decent amount of mutual respect kept relations civil and complimentary.

But Roll Forward to Lighthouse Park 2023

Nearly two years later, at RIOC’s final board meeting in 2021, Haynes mumbled something about parking filling some of the space instead. Keeping in line with the lack of transparency during the Hochul/Haynes administration, he did not disclose that a $4.5 million parking garage plan was already under consideration.

But as the human shield clustered around the hyper-sensitive CEO tightened, little more was heard or likely will be. Defying the intent of state law and Governor Hochul’s alleged guidelines, RIOC will not answer questions about operations.

That, according to a statement published elsewhere, is because they want to “control the narrative.”

Recently recruited AVP for Communications and Government Affairs, Akeem Jamal added that, if anyone wants information, they must make a freedom of information law request. RIOC’s FOIL process is notoriously corrupt for political purposes.

So, we went off on our own inspection…

Another January, Another Park Extension

The Lighthouse Park extension today looks nothing like the cheerful community greenspace Rosenthal’s team envisioned. Outside a small, muddy parking lot, a parking permit holders-only sign leans toward an abandoned, rusted safety call box. A few feet away, a traffic barrier sits upside down atop a metal pole.

Lighthouse Park 2023
The lone tree is all that remains of the promised extension. Parked cars, debris and a dumpster indicate RIOC’s current intentions.

In the area where Team RIOC went missing in November, visitors stroll through mounds of debris, mud and waste in Lighthouse Park 2023.

The Hochul/Haynes team believes this is the best way to welcome Roosevelt Island visitors.

And if anyone needs a public restroom badly enough that they’d use the johns next to this mess, there’s another surprise.

Only the door on the left is unlocked. The ADA required handicapped toilet is locked.

The surprise is an assumed message: “If you visit here, leave your physically challenged relatives and friends at home.” The door on the right, marked for wheelchair use, is locked and has been for months.

Contrasting sharply is the original park. The restoration of the lighthouse was finished a year ago, and The Girl Puzzle is in place. Newly planted trees add to the park’s graceful, sloping lawn. But a lack of promotion leaves the area mostly empty except during barbeque weekends.

RIOC invested millions in improving Lighthouse Park but then did nothing to encourage visitors. No signs appear anywhere on the Island, and there is nothing on the buses, kiosks or other RIOC property.

What’s Next?

Since Team Hochul/Haynes hides planning, Roosevelt Islanders must guess about what to expect, aware that community values are useless in this climate.

But a parking garage is a good bet. Revenue is always a need with bloated staff rosters and sky-high salaries sucking it in. Patronage dumps need fuel.

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