In journalism, unlike blogging, the story should not be about the writer. Newspapers are abandoning that ideal, right and left, and my brief encounter with RIOC leaves me no choice. In the end, it was comical but disappointing as well in what it told me about Shelton J. Haynes’s RIOC.
by David Stone
The Roosevelt Island Daily News
The comedy part had me thinking about myself as a much reduced Abby Hoffman confronting Nixon’s Whitehouse, feeling frustrated only to discover later that he was driving the powers inside crazy. I’ll explain.
My Brief Encounter With RIOC and Especially Akeem Jamal
Because I start work early, before most people get up, I finish early too. On a good day, I go out for a walk then, but as a reporter, that often also includes a look around. That was true on Monday.
Around 3:00, I took a seat on a bench alongside the Rivercross Lawn, facing Blackwell House, the bunkered domain of RIOC President/CEO Seldom Seen Shelton J. Haynes.
It was cloudier and cooler than expected, but there was something making me curious. A week ago, I watched Communications AVP Akeem Jamal leave Blackwell House, jump into his sports car and drive off around this time. Was he leaving early every day, maybe beating rush hour traffic home to Yonkers?
Of course, he doesn’t come to Roosevelt Island every workday, but when he does, does he cheat the company by quitting early?
Public Safety Arrives
After just a few minutes, PSD Chief Kevin Brown and Assistant Chief Anthony Amoroso came strolling past Blackwell House. They were laughing. That’s not unusual as they’re good buddies.
But then, they saw me across the street, and their smiles turned into frowns. Nobody mistakes me for PSD’s best friend, and so, that was not a surprise either. Their exaggerated stares, almost like double takes, did though.
Once past Blackwell House, they disappeared under the covered sidewalk at Roosevelt Landings.
Then, the bizarre roll out of RIOC paranoia started.
The Return of Amoroso and Brown
Soon, the pair reemerged with Brown on his cellphone. They stopped just inside Blackwell Plaza, positioning themselves where they could keep an eye on me. Sorry for the low quality photo, but I didn’t want to get closer, just leave them to their mission.
But who was really being paranoid? Was it just my ego, thinking my being in the vicinity rattled their cage? In reality, I’m not a threat, just a reporter trying to create an honest picture of the ever-changing architecture of life on Roosevelt Island.
Then, it escalated.
A PSO dedicated to guarding Haynes and the Blackwell House bunker suddenly appeared on the porch facing Main Street. And me. She did a quick spin around, like she came out just to catch a breath and get dizzy for a moment. Then, she went back inside.
This was amusing/interesting, but it didn’t prove anything either.
Akeem Jamal Punctuates the Brief Encounter Story
Because my friend Steve happened by and we started chatting, I didn’t see Akeem Jamal walking directly across the street. No crosswalk for him. But when I did see him, I stood up and offered my hand.
We shook, but jarringly, he then pretended he didn’t know who I was.
This was as ridiculous as it was revealing unless you believe that he routinely marches across Main Street and confronts whoever sits on the Rivercross Lawn benches.
In case you’ve never met him, Jamal is a well-dressed and amiable young man whose personal presence is strong. Short and muscular, he doesn’t physically give ground.
“I’m Dave Stone, the Roosevelt Island Daily,” I said.
“Nice to put a face on the name,” he replied, using the same words he used when we met at the Halloween Parade in October.
Getting Off on the Right Foot
I complimented him – or tried to – on how well he handled himself in heading up recent community meetings. He’s a strong, clear speaker, and he takes time to great people and introduce himself. It’s a great contrast after Seldom Seen Shelton.
He quickly blew me off though, complaining that “the bloggers” had not treated him well since he arrived at RIOC.
“You know, like I told Shelton long ago, you’d get much better coverage if you answered questions from the media. When he shut things off, he pretty much guaranteed a steady flow of critical reports because RIOC never gets to tell its side of the story.”
What he responded was pretty shocking, RIOC-wise.
“I’m not Shelton Haynes,” he said, proving he had some pride left.
No one still working at RIOC ever said anything like that. “The boss” is thin-skinned and quick to anger. And a string of firings and lawsuits detail how abruptly he fires even the most capable staff if they fail, as one ex-manger says it, to “kiss the ring.”
Nobody stands up to Haynes and walks away undamaged. Period. That’s his reputation inside.
With cojones still intact, Jamal suggested meeting in his Blackwell House office, which I took as a peace gesture.
But I thought it was also necessary to bring him up to speed, Shelton-wise, as an humanitarian gesture.
“You know, several people told me that Haynes said he’d fire them on the spot if they were caught talking to me…”
A cloud passed, but it wasn’t in the sky.
Recovering, Jamal agreed that if I sent him an email, he’d answer with a meeting time.
I did that. Twice.
I’m still waiting.
And once again, nobody gains anything.