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Run, Shelton, Run! Why Is RIOC Running Away From the Tram?


In a cloud of bureaucratic dust, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is running away from the Tram as fast as their little feet can carry them. What’s up with that? The usual, of course, dashing away from responsibility like it’s a pack of hornets.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Lace Up Those Shoes, Team RIOC

Even before RIOC spilled its dodgy word salad after hours* yesterday, something was not right with RIOC and the Tram.

*Isn’t it cute how Team RIOC always releases bad news after they’ve gone home, emptying out their scattered offices before any complaints come in? Sorta precious…

With all the other transportation issues fumbling around, you may not have noticed that the state agency that always gets it right never released an advisory about OMNY readers finally installed at the Tram.

We kept watching for it, but all we ever got was a Roosevelt Islander video in which President/CYA Shelton J. (Mumbles) Haynes stood humbly behind as MTA CEO, Janno Lieber, took the lead.

Of course, Haynes thanked all the elected officials helping him keep his job, regardless of the results. And he thanked “Team RIOC” for all their efforts, although – except for best bro Akeem Jamal – none were there.

Nobody, not Haynes nor Lieber, mentioned Roosevelt Islanders, even as they’re forced to cover mounting Tram deficits and were most disadvantaged by the absence of OMNY.

It was all about the MTA and faster service, and there’s the problem: Poor Shelton could not preen his feathers. So, why make a big deal of it?

Why Is RIOC Running Away?

In spite of various, routine promises, RIOC withholds any preferential consideration at the Tram for Roosevelt Islanders. Older adults, disabled, pregnant women, the Shah of Iran, Eddie Murphy – none get a seat if the tourists get there first.

Residents are always sidelined. That’s RIOC’s legacy on all this because Team Hochul/Haynes had the bright idea of “branding and marketing Roosevelt Island.”

That brought tourists streaming across on the Tram while rents and apartment prices soared. Good for real estate and the Graduate Hotel, not so much for the community where longstanding values were kicked to the gutter.

Accountability Lite

“Take a look at that bull and cover your ass advisory,” one well-informed observer wrote after reading RIOC’s Statement on Tram Priority Service. “I am sure there is a exception related to emergency work being down and RI being a unique location with only one subway track available.”

Another was less sanguine: “They’ve just sent this out with a straight face,” a resident wrote. “Shameful & Shameless! They’ve outdone themselves on rationalizing cruelty to the residents & the folks who work here.”

The Statement on Tram Priority Service advisory tumbled out Monday evening. It contained no signature of other attribution. That is, no “Team RIOC” or “Team Gobbledygook.”

No one at The Daily is an attorney. Actually, we don’t even like most of them, but we know a straw man when we see one. For example, the Statement went to great lengths in explaining that RIOC can’t offer reduced fares for residents, although no one asked for them.

What Roosevelt Islanders want is some elbow room and service we can count on. Oops! RIOC didn’t address that.

But Running Away from Whom Exactly?

You can’t accuse RIOC of lacking creativity in pursuit of escaping responsibility.

In case you missed this subtle point, the Statement of Tram Priority Service deftly evaded a critical point: Who exactly is going to sue RIOC for favoring residents? The Frumps from Meadowville, Indiana, who had to wait ten extra minutes and had to stand during their joy ride over the East River?

The legal fact is, until someone sues you, it just doesn’t matter. And nobody but nobody is suing RIOC – except in those lawsuits generated by Team RIOC’s alleged misconduct and abuse. At least four are currently making their way through the courts.

None involve the Tram.

It’s like the 15 MPH speed limit on Roosevelt Island. Until someone enforces it, it’s like playing with marbles. Just something to think about between paydays.


Team Whoever Wrote This said, “Finally, and perhaps most importantly, RIOC is a New York State public benefit corporation tasked with operating and maintaining Roosevelt Island, yes for residents, but also for all New Yorkers and any visitors alike.”

The last part is simply a lie. There is no such commandment in RIOC’s enabling legislation.

But it sure clears the air over where RIOC’s executives stand on the issues. Hint: None of them live on Roosevelt Island and never have…

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