“It’s like someone picked up all of RIOC’s marbles and went home…”

“It’s like someone picked up all of RIOC’s marbles and went home…”

RIOC’s marbles, such as they were, became fewer over the last several years as the state hid from view, but this was different. It’s Friday, early afternoon, and if it weren’t for the red buses, RIOC had been missing for days.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Missing RIOC’s Marbles

It’s damp and chilly as I walk up Main Street past the Rivercross Lawn where the plastic shields have come off some of the canvases set up for Fall for Arts. No one’s tending to them. The material is soaked.

But alongside the lawn, there’s a piece of the bigger story hovering like the persistent bad weather over Roosevelt Island.

The New York State Official Shelton J. Haynes Parking Area, October 6th, 2023.

None of the reserved parking spaces for RIOC’s chief executive or his friends are filled. Haynes himself is on medical leave, but President/Assistant Vice President Akeem Jamal is not there either. And neither is chief of staff Aida Morales.

Jamal and Morales were last seen denying board members access to Sportspark, early in the week. On orders from Haynes, they say.

New York City’s best deli is right here on Roosevelt Island.

Chief Operating Officer Mary Cunneen, who rumors have it is in charge of RIOC in Haynes’s absence, has been equally invisible. Haynes hasn’t been seen on the Island since sometime in August, but Chief Counsel Gretchen Robinson reported him on “extended medical leave” without saying when it started or would end.

In September, Robinson and Haynes sued their New York State overseers, claiming racial discrimination. Their employment status is now unknown; so, their absences are not entirely unexpected.

But what about Jamal, Cunneen and Morales? Is anyone in charge?

Along the West Promenade, in an area clearly marked, “NO Motorized Vehicles,” one sits in plain view. It stays for hours, its crew chatting amiably inside the dry cabin.

As I walk along, an e-bike with a food delivery bag races by. But no PSOs; so, no rules.

This matters because RIOC’s Passive Safety Department (PSD) has selectively enforced the mandate against some complexes but not others. How they make the distinction is unknown, and RIOC has provided no answers.

Actually, RIOC does not return phone calls are respond to email about it.

Among the Missing: Public Safety Officers

It occurs to me, walking by, that I haven’t seen even one of the claimed 50 PSD officers on the street all week, but I’ve made multiple trips most days.

One evening, I saw two of them hustle out of their headquarters, jump into a marked car and drive off. Another time, after dark, I watched as two bicyclists going the wrong way on a one-way street passed a PSD vehicle.

There must’ve been an officer inside because someone’s gotta drive, but whoever he or she was, they did nothing, cruising on to a parking place across from Starbucks.

The bicycle patrols Chief Kevin Brown promised, twice now, fluttered briefly in the summer with a single officer on a bike, but that ended too. Both times, he said all they needed was a little training and certification. Both times, the patrols failed to hit the streets or promenades.

Between the Rivercross Lawn and the subway, a row of cars have flyers stuck under their windshield wipers, announcing no parking on Sunday. Fall for Arts will take place that day. It’s an operation RIOC palmed off on RIVAA without compensating them with a dime.

If no RIVAA, no Fall for Arts because Haynes fired the experienced organizers.

But although only a couple of the cars have parking permits on their dashboards, only one got a ticket.

Yet, the red buses keep running, mostly on schedule, the only sure sign that RIOC is still here.

There’s a countersign, though, that suggests “maybe not.”

That is, on a positive note, RIOC News did not publish in September. That’s notable because Haynes has said it’s his primary method of communicating with Roosevelt Islanders. But he’s silent now, and while curious, nobody misses his windy communiques.

In the last, overcrowded issue, RIOC promised an “Island-Wide Anti-Littering Campaign.” It would also “focus on educating people about our unique AVAC system, including best practices on how to help maintain it for future generations.”

Didn’t happen.


It really did look like someone picked up RIOC’s marbles and went home with them stuffed in a pocket.

A failure on every public official’s part to say anything about concerns for Tram safety after a poorly explained 6-hour breakdown extends into a second week. An inspection of the system’s design, determining what failed and how it should be addressed, is a no-brainer.

But not one elected or appointed official called for one. They’re missing too, but maybe, they can’t find anyone to talk to.

And RIOC, well, the marbles thing…

Yet, their subcontractor, POMA, keeps ferrying passengers across the East River. As if nothing happened and residents should shut up and mind their own businesses as they always do.

But what struck me, in the end, is how little difference it made with all the executives out and PSD doing little or nothing. RIOC’s been rudderless so long, you can’t tell when it really is rudderless.

Roosevelt Islanders do take pretty good care of each – until RIOC and its Albany overseers show up and “help.”

Leave a Reply