Lost: From Survey to Sanctuary, RIOC Is Now Lost in the Woods


It was inevitable. RIOC is now lost, unaccountable and hidden. Push an unqualified, inexperienced leader into a position far beyond his skills, give him the leeway to scrape away talent, replacing it with butt-kissers and backscratchers, and this is what you get – an expensive state agency off the rails and missing in inaction.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Is RIOC Now Lost in the Woods?

Take a look at the last week for the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC). Technically, it’s still functioning and open for business, but reality tells a different tale.

Maybe it’s the avalanche of new lawsuits aimed straight at President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes. Or, maybe, the accumulation of incompetents surrounding him. But a week filled with bumbling and inaction suggests an empty suit sitting in a bunkered hideaway. Here’s why.

The Roosevelt Island Traffic Survey That Wasn’t

This gem does double duty in proving that RIOC is now lost in the woods. Or swamp. Or what have you…

First, it wasn’t a traffic survey but, instead, a collection of data about mass transit options. And poorly designed at that.

One local mom saw a major flaw right away. The survey skipped over the needs of children. RIOC asked about destinations, but the multiple choice did not include school. As she pointed out, a majority of Roosevelt Island kids go to school off-Island.

And she did the right thing. She pointed the flaw out to Haynes in an email, but she got no response. And the survey was not corrected. That makes it invalid, but RIOC will likely use it anyway. As in, “We got input from the community.”

Yet RIOC never acknowledged nor responded to her email. Out to lunch? Out of gas? Who knows with this crowd?

But it gets worse.

On her way home on Wednesday evening, Roosevelt Islander Janet Falk saw a poster on the Tram. She raised her phone and captured the QR code for the survey. But guess what? The poster and the survey were not for the traffic study but for the expired Blackwell Park Project.

That’s grossly incompetent, yet the failures get even worse.

“The physical survey will be made available by staff at the red bus and tram between Monday, 2/13, and Saturday, 2/18 until end of operation,” RIOC’s advisory said.

Sure, it was confusing, but that’s not a problem because it was also completely untrue. Not a single sighting of anyone at any location with a physical survey has been reported.

But RIOC never sent any advisory or correction of any kind. If that’s not enough proof that RIOC is now lost, what is?

Then, there’s this.

The Sanctuary Event and Its Fallout

We found out about this debacle because Roosevelt Islander Nikki M. Mascali Roarty posted about it on Facebook. When a New York Fashion Week runway event turned the West Promenade into an unguarded parking lot, both she and her dog were nearly hit.

There are countless reasons why cars should never be allowed on the Promenade for Sanctuary events. But both the event space and RIOC’s Public Safety Department ignored a longstanding agreement about protecting residents and visitors.

This also marred a high-profile event as socially conscious as it was fashionable.

Yet both the Sanctuary and RIOC faked it. As far as they were concerned, it never happened.

“I’ve STILL not heard back — at all! — from PSD, and RIOC never even responded to my email about the incident,” Roarity said more than a week later.

RIOC is now lost. That’s clear. In uncharted waters with underpowered leadership, they can’t even bring themselves to answer emails.

And one last thing. Monday evening, I heard a story that may shed some light on this situation.

A resident ran into Aida Morales, Haynes’s chief of staff earlier that day, but when she tried starting a conversation, Morales cut her off. She’d get fired, she said, if caught talking with her.

The resident is not related in any way to The Daily or any other media organization. She’s just another innocent victim of Shelton J. Haynes and his protector, Governor Kathy Hochul.

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