Because it was so rare, RIOC’s Blackwell Park Pitch was worth a D+ where only Fs have prevailed for several years. The best thing about the event was the crowd, tiny as it was, but it was also the worst thing. RIOC failed at drawing a representative group, although it’s unlikely that made any difference to them.
by David Stone
The Roosevelt Island Daily News
The state agency that never gets it wrong rolled out yard after yard of plastic tape meant for decorating every available surface, sticking giant Dear Leader posters all over Main Street. The first words, all in bold, “President & CEO Shelton J. Haynes Announced…” emphasized the primary message.
This, along with other amateurish diversions published lately, was about boosting the reputation of Dear Leader Seldom Seen Shelton. Or Shelton the Disconnected, if you prefer.
Haynes faithfully lived up to his accumulated reputation, though. He never showed up at the meeting. But facts be told, the meeting was a farce, “window dressing,” as one Roosevelt Islander put it.
The Blackwell Park pitch was bungled from the beginning and carried on in the same fashion through the time-limited Friday night session.
The Blackwell Park Pitch
Even from the first meeting alert, RIOC botched the meeting’s prospects. If the sycophants following directions from Governor Kathy Hochul’s Albany Executive Chamber wanted involvement, they’d have announced it well ahead of time. They’d also have scheduled at an appropriate time, not simply one convenient for RIOC’s staff.
As reported earlier, no conscientious state agency parks a meaningful meeting during the Jewish Sabbath when a significant minority of residents can’t attend. But take heart, RIOC isn’t really interested in what residents have to say anyway.
This was about “controlling the narrative.” That is, “We hosted a community event and invited Roosevelt Islanders’ input.” As long as they could get a few people to show up, it was a marketing win for RIOC.
While only 26 showed up for the Blackwell Park pitch, there’s a hardy core of Roosevelt Islanders who almost always do. Frank Farance, Paul Krikler, Rick O’Conor, Judy Berdy – came with ideas, insight and a passion for pitching in.
But there’s a problem here, and it’s not just the tiny attendance, it’s that the contributors, with one exception, are all older. None have school-age children, and while their ideas are valued, they are not aligned with today’s park users.
It’s no surprise that Susana Del Campo Perea, the only speaker with school-age kids made the most significant remarks. While others worried about the construction’s effects on the schools depending on it, she pointed out that no one consulted the kids themselves.
RIOC never sought coordination with local schools – none attended the meeting – nor with the most impacted of all, the park’s users – fhe kids.
While RIOC’s lead presenter, Prince Shah, boosted of a large number of contributors participating in a survey, the raw count amounted to less than 3% of Roosevelt Island’s population.
In yet another Death-By-Powerpoint display, Shah gobbled up valuable, limited time with useless graphics and irrelevant observations.
Did we really need ten minutes on the local floodplain? Or the timed distances between public toilets? Really?
But a scheme was in place. As RIOC announced at the get-go, the Blackwell Park pitch was limited to a strict one hour. This, it was claimed, made it more productive, but the real goal was controlling participation and getting the staff home early.
To be fair, RIOC started late, apparently hoping for more attendees, and ran about ten minutes over the self-imposed limit.
Another rule bolstered that muzzling of complaints: “No off-topic” comments.”
Public Safety Chief Kevin Brown and his assistant, Anthony Armaroso, along with a few officers leaned against the wall as if this intrepid crowd of two dozen posed a threat of off-topic questions.
Somebody might ask, “Where the hell is Shelton?” for example.
Give RIOC credit for finally doing something, even if it was window-dressing and not enough to bring Seldom Seen Shelton out of hiding. But don’t be misled. Multiple glaring issues worthy of well-organized community meetings withered outside the door.
- Why is Sportspark still closed and what will be the new charges for use?
- Why is RIOC now doing the unthinkable, charging for parking in spaces designated for disabled drivers without any prior notice?
- Who was negligent and how were they dealt with after the Youth Center got caught operating without a license for over two years? When will it reopen?
- Why won’t PSD do anything about reckless e-bike riders racing through crosswalks without any interference from visible officers?
- Why is RIOC mum on the threat of a “disastrous collapse” of the east seawall even as new construction further unsettles the area?
All these neglected issues make the Blackwall Park pitch something less than it seemed: a distraction from real troubles of deep concern to Roosevelt Islanders.
You emphasize our need for significant local governance here on our Island. How can we achieve this?
There’s the million-dollar question, William. It’s really fairly simple. All that’s needed is an agreement by RIOC to honor democratic values like voting and other forms of public control. The Governor controls that behind the scenes and would have to approve. But as the evolution of RIOC has rolled out, it’s clear that they will not do that, primarily because RIOC is a patronage dump and the governor needs it for fulfilling loyalty requests. A second, more difficult reason is that there is likely a reasonable amount of money skimming going on, and it would be threatened if honest government prevailed.
Some local noise might get some concessions, though.
So, no one has a plan? I’m thinking of a local, residents’ only group to lobby RIOC on issues of local concern.
For as long as Shelton Haynes is in office, RIOC will not interact with residents openly. What residents need to do is make enough noise that it embarrasses Haynes and Hochul and gets them to open up. The biggest obstacle is a lack of local leadership.