Lighthouse Park: RIOC Negligence Digs In, the New Normal


Around Lighthouse Park, the new normal theme is neglect, a failure to promote or encourage visitors after grabbing credit in the past. Not a single sign – on a bus, on a post – directs anyone to the home of The Girl Puzzle. Amanda Matthews’s masterpiece lacks visitors, and few know much of anything about the historical, restored Lighthouse.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

When RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes hired a new Communications AVP last summer, hopes rose that a new day was rising, one where the state agency would hone in on Roosevelt Island’s treasures.

Later we learned that Haynes had brought in an unqualified sidekick who, at a pay rate doubling his predecessors, knew little about communications or Roosevelt Island. Instead of a new day, we got a new normal, one now settled in all around Lighthouse Park.

Even as you approach, the signs of neglect are everywhere. Once iconic red Z-brick walkways are falling apart without any signs of routine maintenance.

The New Normal Set Firmly in Lighthouse Park

One of Akeem Jamal’s main assignments, when he was hired over six months ago, was upgrading RIOC’s website. But little has changed. Internationally acclaimed, The Girl Puzzle does not even take a bow. And the recently restored Lighthouse…

It gets a sparse, one-page mention accompanied by a photo from at least ten years ago. “Lighthouse Park is now a lovely fishing and barbecue destination,” it says.

That’s accompanied by a bogus story about its history.

Yet, it fits the general pattern.

What visitors arriving along the West Promenade see…

Last autumn’s rotting leaves sink in the mud along the West Promenade while erosion gouges chunks out of the bordering lawn.

Nature and nurture play hands in incremental improvements.

Historian Judith Berdy worked with RIOC’s landscaping crew, planting a long row of weeping cherry trees in front of Coler Rehabilitation Center. In future years, they will take shape and change the tone here.

But not yet, not for years.

As spring turns a corner out of winter, the park’s natural beauty takes shape, but as you can see, nobody’s there. Why would they be?

On the other end, a well-kept and well-promoted FDR Four Freedoms State Park attracts a stream of visitors in all seasons.

April 16th, 2022 in FDR Four Freedoms State Park. The difference is radical.

A troubling aspect of the new normal in Lighthouse Park is that, when visitors take the trouble to go looking for The Girl Puzzle or The Lighthouse, they’re treated to a sometimes astounding level of neglect.

The Lighthouse Park extension promised in 2019 never evolved. Visitors along the East Promenade are treated to this pile of debris among randomly parked cars and trucks. RIOC under Haynes, not surprisingly, has no plans for the area anymore.

See the car on the left? A visitor with handicapped plates reached the outer limits of Lighthouse Park. Unable to park or enter, they weaved their way back through the rubble and left.

While on a sunny, warm spring day, the sites inside Lighthouse Park hosted only a couple of visitors.

Abandonment. Negligence. That’s the new normal today for Roosevelt Island and Lighthouse Park.

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  1. Island maintenance be damned. They wait until it becomes a hazard before doing anything. Saving all that $$$ for their exorbitant salaries.

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