UPDATED: New Blackwell Park Survey Is Both Stupid and Insensitive


A new and virtually useless Blackwell Park Survey hit inboxes late Friday. It drowns in a pool of misinformation and the usual self-praise. The announcement, preceded by a scrambled word salad, again reflects RIOC‘s chronic disconnect in a pool of insensitivity. UPDATE BELOW.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Update January 25th, 2023.

“Some people think the survey is window dressing and the plans will not be changed,” a well-connected and respected resident emailed. To be honest, my first reaction was, “Well, duh…”

Anyone looking at the “advisory” in which the survey was embedded could easily see that this was a cover-your-ass pitch with all the usual EADD contamination RIOC is known for.

When Governor Hochul pushed in an inexperienced, underqualified rookie on a protect-seldom-seen-Shelton mission, it was obvious. Haynes needed protection because he consistently bumbled everything he touched.

But sending in a boy to do a man’s work…? Well, we’ve known how that works out since childhood.

Hochul’s blunder should embarrass her, but it probably doesn’t.

But the ineptitude is flavored with cultural apathy that’s unforgivable.

The Hochul/Haynes brain trust rushed this out the door because someone with clout forced it. After all, they had nurtured a spurious “You spread. We listen.” ethos for months at RIOC.

But brains don’t always accompany commitment. And this lead to their announcing an equally rushed public meeting during the Jewish Sabbath. That’s bad as well as dopey.

But where are we with this now?

Confronted with justified complaints, the state agency that never makes a mistake seems to have frozen. The announced deadline for filling out their alleged survey is tomorrow – January 26th – but no update or change has been announced. Nor for the insensitive public meeting.

And adding to the puzzle, for this instance, RIOC dropped the standard practice of repeating “advisories” ad nauseum. This leaves everything hanging in place.

What’s going on RIOC? Have you got the chutzpah to fix your errors? Or are you waiting for your Albany handlers to tell you what to do?


“Perhaps you could find out why RIOC / Shelton / NGFY Akeem are in such a hurry to survey us immediately this week AND schedule a meeting THIS Friday night at 6 pm — thereby excluding many Sabbath observers,” one Roosevelt Islander reacted.

The Blackwell Park Survey, such as it is, suddenly rolled into email inboxes at day’s end on Friday. And you’ve got less than a week to fill it out. Then, “After your feedback is compiled,” giving itself 24 hours, RIOC hosts a community meeting the next evening.

That will be a “discussion about the vision for Phase II of Blackwell Park.” All wrapped up fast, just like that.

“As RIOC moves forward with Phase II of Blackwell Park, your input is valued as it will provide the framework and direction for the Masterplan of the Blackwell Park project.” That’s why the state agency that never gets it wrong is giving this one whole week of consideration.

The Blackwell Park Survey

It’s hard to take seriously an alleged survey that sets aside space for stroking the ego of RIOC’s sensitive President/CEO Seldom Seen Shelton J. Haynes.

“As President & CEO Shelton J. Haynes recently announced, your input is at the forefront of the design phase.”

And if Roosevelt Islanders’ “input” is so valuable, why wasn’t it sought earlier as this project is old enough to have whiskers? And why such a tight deadline and an announcement dumped on Friday afternoon when it gets the least attention?

Not to worry, though. RIOC’s Communications AVP, Akeem Jamal, sets these advisories on auto-repeat ad nauseum. You’ll see this again. And again…

The survey itself is a brief Q&A with a half-dozen or so questions, most of which ask about how long you’ve been living here, plus how and how often you use the park. That’s flawed because for those of us who never use the park can’t check off “None.”

Limited in Scope

The questions allowing for your valuable input are prearranged with choices. These demonstrate how much of this plan is already done.

And the whole rigamarole is tainted by immediate evidence that the person composing it hasn’t been here much or at all. “Blackwell Park, located at the intersection of West Road and Main Street…” the advisory begins.

There is not and never has been a “West Road” on Roosevelt Island. That comes from Google Maps for visitors and is a mistake. All the buildings along that stretch have Main Street addresses, but RIOC appears not to know that.

About the Insensitivity

Even before the Blackwell Park Survey, Seldom Seen Shelton J. Haynes had repeatedly been accused of racism, including in current lawsuits. Bias against Jews has also been cited. Critics say he circled himself with loyalists after firing Caucasian executives who didn’t, in the words of one, “kiss the ring.”

Haynes has not to our knowledge ever rejected these claims. But given all that, you’d expect some thoughtful consideration.

Instead, Team Hochul/Haynes schedules a significant public meeting during the Jewish Sabbath when many cannot attend without departing from their faith.

While this seems as stupid as it is insensitive, maybe RIOC’s just thumbing its nose at the community, confident that Haynes will be protected by Governor Hochul, no better how awful things get.

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