Friday, April 30, 2021

Roosevelt Island Residents Ask Why RIOC Is So Privileged They Will Not Abide By Parking Rules That Apply To Everyone Else In The Community - RIOC Says False Parking Narrative Circulating Through Community And Attacks Media

As reported April 21:

During the April 20 Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Public Safety Committee virtual Zoom meeting last evening, RIRA President Rossana Ceruzzi asked Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department Chief Kevin Brown about the newly reserved parking spots across from 475 Main Street and the Rivercross Lawn that had previously been public parking spots.

PSD Chief Kevin Brown answered that the spots will be reserved for Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Shelton Haynes and his guests. As previously reported, Mr Haynes will soon be moving his offices "temporarily" to Blackwell House....

Reactions from community members included:

  • The arrogance of this new RIOC leader is astounding. He can park and so can his visitors... Listen if Tish James or the Governor come, they will park wherever the want. No one else 'merits' a free parking space. This type of behavior defies the very values this community was build on. Does anyone in that office know our history? Parking spaces are just another indication of the much greater problem! 
  • RIOC treats us like we are a guest in our own home. This is just straight up rude.
  • I am curious though, if the spaces are for RIOC employees, why wouldn't they park on the garage roof top like all other employees and business owners who work on Roosevelt Island?
  • That is a shame. Blackwell House always used to be a "community" space for resident gatherings, celebrations, etc. RIOC really knows how to take the "community" feel out of a community. (And now they are taking parking spaces away from residents too).

In response to my inquiry seeking comment on the removal of public parking spots, RIOC Public Information Officer Amy Smith replied and her answer below was included in the April 21 story:

RIOC remains committed to being a good neighbor and community partner through thoughtful attention to island life. As to not interfere with the flow of traffic, prevent the possibility of vehicles inadvertently parking illegally, or create unwanted disruptions to surrounding businesses, an area on Main Street has been designated to accommodate visitor, vendor, and Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) vehicles pertinent to RIOC business operations. 

During the April 22 RIOC Board of Directors Meeting Public Session, Roosevelt Island residents expressed their disapproval of removing the 4 public parking spots to be reserved for use by RIOC, asking for example:

Please share with the community why parking spaces have been reserved for RIOC President and his guests. In other words, what makes this job so extraordinary that he and his visitors will not abide by the parking rules that apply to all other businesses and employees  and their visitors?

Mr Haynes replied there was a false narrative being reported to the community. Mr Haynes added to what Chief Brown said during the April 20 RIRA Public Safety Committee meeting by saying that the parking spots were reserved for RIOC employees, vendors and visitors during the hours of 7:30 - 4:30 and then open to the public. 

Nothing Mr. Haynes said contradicted the reporting of what Chief Kevin Brown said during the RIRA Public Safety Committee meeting. There was no false narrative in the reporting. RIRA President Rossana Ceruzzi, Vice President Erin Feely-Nahem and Common Council Member Frank Farance, who all attended the PSC meeting, confirm the reporting of what Public Safety Chief Kevin Brown said.

Also, note that Mr Haynes did not answer the question of Roosevelt Island residents asking why RIOC employees, vendors, visitors and guests receive special parking privileges that nobody else receives. 

Mr Haynes, please tell community members why can't RIOC use public parking spaces, the Motorgate Garage or use public transportation as everyone else does instead of privileged reserved parking spots? Maybe the docile RIOC Board can answer that question too?

Here's portion of the RIOC Board Public Session discussion of the reserved parking spots including RIOC Board members David Kraut and Jeffrey Escobar accepting Mr Haynes version of events without asking questions or challenging the need for RIOC special parking privileges not available to the public and attacking local Roosevelt Island media.

Following the April 22 RIOC Board meeting, I sent the following email to PSD Chief Kevin Brown and Deputy Chief Anthony Amoroso: 

During the April 20 RIRA Public Safety Committee virtual zoom meeting, in response to a question from RIRA President Rossana Ceruzzi asking about the 4 newly reserved parking spots between 475 Main Street and the Riverwalk Commons you responded that the reserved parking spots were for RIOC President Shelton Haynes and guests for his new temporary office space at Blackwell House.

Please confirm that is an accurate reporting of what you said.

Here is the Roosevelt Islander story published on April 21. including a statement from RIOC about the matter. Tell me if anything is not accurate or fairly reported about what you said.

During last night's RIOC Board meeting, in response to community criticism,  RIOC President Shelton Haynes said the reserved parking story was inaccurate and reported with a false narrative.

If my reporting of what you said is not accurate, please tell me what you did say.

Receiving no response, I resent the email yesterday noting that the original email incorrectly said Riverwalk Commons instead of Rivercross Lawn..

Shortly thereafter, RIOC sent out this advisory:

It has come to our attention that there is a narrative circulating through the community that the parking spots on Main Street, which have been designated for use by vehicles pertinent to the operations of Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), were reserved for our President and CEO, and his guests. This narrative is false. To be clear and in an effort to maintain transparency, RIOC is reiterating that these four parking spots are designated for use by contracted vendors, visitors, and RIOC vehicles germane to efficient operations of Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. These parking spots are reserved only during RIOC business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  

Again, there is no false narrative circulating through the community about the parking spots being reserved for RIOC. Whoever wrote this statement on behalf of RIOC is misrepresenting what was reported and not answering why RIOC receives special parking privileges not available to the public.

Chief Brown's name is not associated with this statement because he knows what he said and will not lie. 

It is interesting to note that the RIOC Communications Team, supported by Mr Haynes, will not allow Chief Brown to answer questions from the Roosevelt Island media. Up to a few months ago, Chief Brown and before him, Chief Jack McManus provided very valuable information to the Roosevelt Island community through local media. But no more.

According to Frank Farance, who attended the RIRA Public Safety Committee meeting: 

I watched the presentation at the RIOC Board meeting, including David Kraut's criticism of Rick's reporting in the Roosevelt Islander blog.

First, Rick accurately reported what was said: Kevin reported Shelton would be having meetings at Blackwell House, and Shelton would need the spots for himself and visitors (meeting attendees).

Second, David Kraut should know better: David Kraut was not there at the PSC meeting, he has no authority on reporting what happened at that meeting.  Surely if the roles were reversed where I were saying something false and David and Mike Shinozaki were first-hand witnesses, David and Mike would be complaining loudly in public.  So why not the same standard when the roles are reversed?

Third, as one executive to another, I can completely understand that your messaging in the board meeting might be different.  And I'll give Kevin the benefit of the doubt that he attempted to present it honestly and correctly in the RIRA PSC meeting, but there might have been a word or two imperfect - an honest mistake.  And I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you, as CEO, discovered you needed some clarification and precision on what a staff member said.  Really, that's no problem and all of us understand that - and please don't punish Kevin or Anthony as they do good work for the community.

Meanwhile, I've been doing my own investigation and reporting on the reserved parking situation, and I see Rick has got a story coming up, so I will provide my findings to Rick (whether they agree with Rick or not).  Myself, as the Island's authority on the parking here, there are 50 spaces from the school to Rivercross and that covers about 6300 residents, i.e., half the Island's population.  Meanwhile, there are on average 50-60 spaces PER BLOCK over the bridge in LIC with a population of about 300 per block, i.e., 1 spot per 5-6 people in LIC compared 1 spot per 125 people on Roosevelt Island.  Thus, parking is scarce, and losing 4 spots (about 10% of our street parking) is significant.

And that doesn't even get into the question that residents and elected officials might have on the propriety of RIOC consuming yet another space that is unavailable to Island organizations - RIOC has consumed the community center, the youth center, Blackwell house, etc., i.e., RIOC has lots of available space already.  So why does the RIOC President need a fancy office in Blackwell House?  Does this mean that the public purpose of Blackwell House - which spent so much money from multiple sources on renovation - is no longer accessible to the public because the RIOC CEO's offices are there?  Regarding those visiting contractors, why is 680 Main (with large facilities, infrastructure, renovations, and immediate parking) or 591 Main or Sportspark (with all its infrastructure and renovations) no longer viable for meetings with contractors?  I think the public needs to understand why the RIOC CEO office is moved to the fancy Blackwell House (yet RIOC complaints about loss of money in the pandemic) and why that location is necessary for contractor's visits and the President's parking spot?  Maybe there are reasonable answers to those questions, and conveying your rationale to the community would be helpful ... which means talking Rick, David, and RIRA.

Ya know, the New York Post doesn't like de Blasio, yet their reporters aren't excluded, right?

Fourth, there are many good things going on right with RIOC, RIRA, and the community: the collaborations with Public Purpose Funds, the Bike Safety efforts, ongoing efforts with Public Safety, RIOC/PSD's collaboration at the Food Panty, and such as a welcome resurgence for RIOC-RIRA collaboration - last collaborations were 2008-2010 (RIOC Pres: Shane, RIRA Pres: myself) and 2013-2014 (RIOC Pres: Indelicato, RIRA PSC Chair: Feely-Nahem).  Shelton, you and your team are doing good work with the community now, and I **consistently defend you** and talk about your successful efforts, and many of us have a desire to support your fresh approaches.  Full stop ... no "but's" or qualifications to that statement.

Several of us are concerned about retaliation from RIOC when expressing differences:

  • Rick gets cut out of regular communications that he used to get from RIOC, e.g., public safety blotter, access to RIOC staff
  • Rossana is rudely dis-invited and humiliated by Erica's crew, as reported by several people
  • And so on.
Do you think the Island feels like they can disagree with RIOC without retaliation or excommunication?  Of course not, and that's Erica who sets that tone.  Why does it make sense to exclude the RIRA President from a Grand Opening?  How does that help RIOC?  The Island community has a long memory on this kind of RIOC tactic, you can search for "RIOC bunker mode" and you'll find two-decades-plus reporting on this, for most RIOC presidents going back to Jerry Blue in the 1990s.  It never works, and for whatever disagreement RIOC was trying to deny or cover up, the long-lasting memory of the community is: RIOC's bunker mode, cover-up, and ex-communication.  Regardless of what Erica says, it is in YOUR (Shelton's) best interest to communicate consistently and transparently, even with those who write critically (e.g., David Stone).   I urge you to rethink this, prohibit retaliation, and take charge of your communications for the benefit of the corporation and its constituents.

Fourth, I don't believe Rick is perfect, I don't agree with him many times, but he does his Professional Best, he is a Good and Honest Reporter, and he will gladly make corrections and do it promptly.  Rick is the Authority on Roosevelt Island as City, State, and Federal officials and major news organizations see Rick's work as authoritative.  Rick has consistently published about a dozen articles a week for over a decade.

Again, why is it in RIOC's interests to ex-communicate the Island's trusted news and information source?  How does that help RIOC?

Shelton: Rossana, Erin, I, and others wish you success as RIOC President, and we wish success to RIOC, too.
Candidates running to represent Roosevelt Island in the NYC Council want to know why RIOC gets special parking privileges not available to the public too.

 Stay tuned. 

UPDATE 8PM - Roosevelt Island Daily

 and Frank Farance

share these images of Mr Haynes RIOC reserved parking space signage.