The Other Side of the Monday Night Sanctuary Event


Last week, we told readers about a Sanctuary event that had local residents steaming. Cars blocked the West Promenade, endangering anyone out walking, some with their dogs. According to RIOC’s promises, it should never have happened. But here’s what it was and why it did.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

After a woman walking her dog posted on Facebook about nearly being hit by a car outside The Sanctuary last Monday, we reported on the incident. Our focus was on RIOC Public Safety‘s failure to do its job of protecting residents and visitors from gross hazards.

That’s nothing new, and it’s still part of the story. But with some insight from Roosevelt Islander Jonn Nubian, we pieced together a broader perspective. Nubian is the executive editor at YRB, a magazine focused on fashion and style.

“It was a New York Fashion Week show with an afterparty at the Graduate Hotel,” he told us.

“The models were transported from hair/makeup via shuttle to the venue. The event was supposed to start at 5:00 but ran late.

“A few models were from Roosevelt Island and even an Octagon resident. It was over by 7:30 with everyone scrambling to make it to the afterparty at the Panorama Room.

“No sight of RIOC.”

Opening night at The Sanctuary, September 2019. With RIOC PSD engaged, traffic was thoughtfully managed, and the event went off without a hitch. But Roosevelt Island is under new management now. And rudderless.

But There’s a Bright Side of the Sanctuary Event

The Sanctuary event featured the fashions of Milan-based designer Elie Balleh. Balleh is known for a comprehensive collection of luxurious designs and outfits with feathers, pearls, mink furs and Swarovski crystals.

But there is more.

“Elie Balleh- partnered up with Aveyron Academy. They focus on autistic students ages twelve and up. A few walked the runway at the show at the Sanctuary. He also is encouraging other companies to hire individuals on the autism spectrum.”

That’s all admirable, making it disturbing that local failures shined a bad light on it.

What Went Wrong?

The immediate culprit is RIOC’s lackadaisical Public Safety Department. They haven’t maintained an earlier agreement with The Sanctuary over how traffic to and from events should be managed.

RIOC is a rudderless ship under Governor Kathy Hochul and President/CEO Seldom Seen Shelton J. Haynes, and it’s unclear if they even knew the event and its accompanying hazards happened at all.

If they did, they took no action. That’s no surprise for an ultra-passive group that appears afraid of enforcing e-bike rules and traffic safety in general.

But it’s also a failure of Sanctuary owner Frank Raffaele. In three years of operating, Raffaele has made a lot of friends on Roosevelt Island and earned community respect after a rough start. Letting something like this get out of control and endanger residents is not his style.

We can’t count on RIOC as long as Hochul and Haynes are in charge, but in the future, we hope that The Sanctuary will take the high road and keep the local community in mind.

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