Careless reporting, posted elsewhere on social media, claims that RIOC “rescinded” the new, unaffordable Sportspark member fees. That’s not true, and closer reading shows that this may be just a stall, That’s because the ever-bumbling but seldom-seen RIOC CEO Shelton Haynes overspent on the restoration and has big new salaries to cover.
by David Stone
Suspended, Not Rescinded
You don’t have to look very hard to see the evasiveness and lack of real retraction to see that Haynes and Hochul have not really changed anything much. Or been honest and open.
As for “advocacy efforts of the Island community,” that’s the rebirth of RIOCspeak. There was no advocacy; there was anger, even outrage over unaffordable rates thrown casually at Roosevelt Islanders.
But the Haynes/Hochul administration stood firm until Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and Senator Liz Kreuger got after Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskis in Albany. They along with Manhattan Borough President and Congressman Jerry Nadler signed on to a public letter of protest from Julie Menin.
HCR allegedly has oversight over RIOC and Haynes, but that has been lackadaisical at best.
In real-time, Haynes and his Blackwell House brain trust did what they always do: they blew off residents’ concerns.
Claiming himself aligned with “advocacy efforts,” Haynes mislead with gusto. If he was aligned, he’d have consulted with community members before going off on this path. Instead, he had his eyes set on converting Sportspark from a community center to an Equinox-style profit center.
Except as is so often the case with Haynes, he didn’t know what the hell he was doing.
Behind the Scenes
Later developments shed light on Haynes’s abrupt decision to fire CFO John O’Reilly in August. O’Reilly oversaw the Sportspark restoration along with contractor LiRo. It was ready and should have reopened by October 2022.
But Haynes had other plans, and O’Reilly was in the way.
Instead of opening the facility according to a promised timeframe, Haynes began hiring and privately altering the plans for Sportspark. On the way to an Equinox-like facility, he invested more and hired a pair of highly-paid executives in November. Each enthusiastically smooched Haynes’s butt on arrival.
That’s one big reason why Haynes cannot simply rescind the outrageous fees. He still must pay these guys at an annual cost of around three-hundred grand, and he’s already in for about $150,000 without collecting a dime in fees.
$12 Million Invested, Plus…
Another reason Haynes has not rescinded the outrageous fees is that he overspent heavily on the restoration. $12 million on just that, but there’s also all the salaries, utility fees and insurance associated with the two-year closing.
And waiting in the wings is a likely huge payout from a wrongful death lawsuit charging the Haynes/Hochul administration with gross negligence in a Sportspark drowning.
Hochul and Haynes can never rescind the rates because they can’t afford it. They’ve already committed to huge costs and must recover them somehow.
The most likely move? After the temporary suspension lasts long enough to cool tempers, Haynes and Hochul will cough up some altered fees that are less onerous for residents but rely heavily on drawing passengers across the East River.
But that too will fail, as have almost all of Hanyes’s brainstorms, because creating a mock Equinox – with many competitive shortcomings – simply isn’t attractive enough to fit the need.
Guess who pays for it, though? When all that wasted cash could have done so much in improving the general welfare along Main Street.
And don’t forget to thank RIOC’s spineless board for sheepishly nodding “Yes, Yes and Yes” to all of this as it swelled in fantasy.