Thursday, October 5, 2023

FDR Park Cancels Saturday October 7 LatinXtravaganza Festival Due To Rain Forecast - RIOC Reschedules Fall For Arts Festival From Saturday To Sunday October 8

The LatinXtravaganza Family Festival scheduled for Saturday October 7 at the FDR Four Freedoms Park has been cancelled due to forecast of rain.

According to the FDR Four Freedoms Park:

Saturday's LatinXtravaganza Festival at FDR Four Freedoms State Park is cancelled due to the high probability of rain.

Out of an abundance of caution and safety concerns for you and all the attendees, as well as our vendors and performers, Four Freedoms Park Conservancy has cancelled Saturday’s festival at the park. Thank you for your understanding and we hope to see you in 2024!

Also, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) has rescheduled the Saturday October 7 Fall For Arts Festival to Sunday October 8. 

According to RIOC:

Dear Roosevelt Island Community:

We have decided to move Fall for Arts one more time from Saturday (10/7) to this Sunday (10/8) given the rainy Saturday forecast.

Fall for Arts will now run from 10AM to 5PM Sunday, October 8th on Meditation Lawn and feature food, activities, and incredible artists at work. If you are one of the artists selected for this year’s event but cannot make it on Sunday 10/8, please reach out to RIVAA Gallery at as soon as possible to let festival organizers know.

Hopefully, this will be the last time we have to move the event due to weather. We look forward to seeing everyone this Sunday!


Wednesday, October 4, 2023

All Are Welcome To Roosevelt Island Health And Resource Fair Hosted by Carter Burden Network Roosevelt Island Older Adult Center Thursday October 5 - Get Valuable Info From More Than 20 Vendors On Insurance, Home Care, Social Services, Legal Aid & More

The Carter Burden Roosevelt Island Older Adult Center is hosting a Free Health And Resource Fair Thursday from 10:00 AM to 1 PM at the Good Shepherd Plaza. 

All Are Welcome.

Click here for more info
on the Carter Burden Network Roosevelt Island Older Adult Care Center.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

UPDATE 10/5 - DUE TO RAIN FORECAST, THE EVENT IS CANCELLED - Sponsored Post - You're Invited To LatinXtravaganza At FDR Four Freedoms Park October 7 - A Free, Fun, Family Festival Celebrating Diversity Of Latino Experience In America With Mural Unveiling On Grand Staircase, Music, Dance, Food, Children's Story Time, Face Painting, Domino Tournament & More Wonderful Activities

UPDATE 10/5:

10/3 Story begins.

On the occasion of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15, the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy will host a “LatinXtravaganza” family festival curated by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Brooklynite Xochitl Gonzalez at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park on Roosevelt Island, October 7 from 11:00 am to 4 pm. 

A newly commissioned mural by Mata Ruda entitled “Esta Tierra Es Nuestra Tierra” (“This Land is Our Land”), celebrating the diversity of Latino experience in America and featuring Latino New Yorkers representing FDR’s Four Freedoms, will be unveiled. The “LatinXtravaganza” family festival is FREE with registration.

The Festival will include wonderful activities, including a Latino Banned Book Library from Lush and a pop-up bookstore from Cafe con Libros. It will also feature Children's Story Time by Alyssa Reynoso-Morris, a musical performance from Bomba y Plena, dance lessons with Ballet Hispánico and Salsa Salsa Dance School, a domino tournament organized by NYC Dominoes, live mariachi music, poetry readings, food trucks, face painting, a set from DJ Christian Mártir and a composting exhibit by iDig2Learn.

“When I first contacted Xochitl about the idea of curating a public art installation and event at FDR Four Freedoms State Park, she seized the opportunity. By transforming a presidential monument designed completely in white granite by the great American modernist Louis Kahn, she recognized that her words, sentences and paragraphs that are her craft could be put to influential public purpose,” said Howard Axel, Chief Executive Office of Four Freedoms Park Conservancy. “Working together, Mata Ruda and Xochitl created an important, temporary intervention, just 1,500ft from the United Nations, that reminds every visitor to the park of a more accurate and inclusive history.”

“In the absence of our own official monuments, murals have allowed us to assert and celebrate our histories, origin stories and heroes,” said Xochitl Gonzalez, cultural critic, producer, screenwriter, and New York Times bestselling author of Olga Dies Dreaming.

“Not as they are seen from the outside, but from within. It felt, given this context, the most appropriate medium to reflect the multitude of voices in our community, and when I encountered Mata Ruda’s work, I knew that we would be in caring, passionate hands.”

“It is really important to figure out how these versions of history – the white granite presentation of history and the rich, under-celebrated history embodied by the Nueva Yorquinos on our mural – can exist side by side. This public work seeks to reclaim our space through a generative, additive, annotative process rather than one of subtraction and erasure,” Gonzalez added.

The Mural

“Despite our history in this country that can be counted now in centuries, this myth of Latino ‘otherness’ perpetuates. This unique opportunity to visually transform part of the New York City landscape with a celebration of us felt like a small, but meaningful restorative act towards correcting the erasure of nuestra voices,” said Gonzalez.

The mural features Latino New Yorkers, embodying FDR’s Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

  • Dr. Marta Moreno Vega: Freedom of religion – As a writer, educator, cultural leader and Yoruba priestess, she has done unquantifiable work to destigmatize and contextualize Santeria and other Afro- diasporic faiths.
  • Lorena Borjas: Freedom from fear – She protected countless transgender women from being trafficked, of falling ill, or being deported.
  • Candido Arcángel: Freedom from want – For 14 years, the Brooklyn bodega owner turned his basement into a makeshift homeless shelter for men who had fallen on hard times.
  • Olga Garriga: Freedom of speech – From our past, a Brooklynite turned freedom-fighter, jailed for speaking in defense of Puerto Rican liberation under the gag laws of the late 1940s.

The last figure on the mural is a dreamer who represents an “every man” who refuses to be relegated to the margins. “I decided to work with a variety of brown earth tones against the blue shadow. Conceptually, my thinking is that these tones will contrast with the white granite steps – challenging the classical, “Western” architecture of the site,” said artist Mata Ruda. “With the title “Esta Tierra Es Nuestra Tierra,” the earth tones so closely weave with the concepts of the piece and resemble clay, dirt, soil and adobe. It also ties in with the medium I work with to paint the pieces – adobe powder, plaster, and wood stain.”

This special program marks the launch of an ongoing series, Art4Freedoms. This new Four Freedoms Park Conservancy project invites artists and social justice leaders to re-envision FDR’s Four Freedoms for a new generation. Click here for more information on Four Freedoms Park Conservancy. 

NYS Natural Heritage Trust and generous individual donors provide funding to Four Freedoms Park Conservancy for public programs. In partnership with the New York State Office of ParksRecreations and Historic Preservation.

Click here to register for the free LatinXtravaganza Saturday October 7 at the FDR Four Freedoms Park.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Who's In Charge Of Dysfunctional Roosevelt Island Operating Corp? RIOC President Shelton Haynes Tells RIOC Board Directors Not To Communicate With Staff And Staff Not To Talk With RIOC Board Directors

As reported September 16, Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Shelton Haynes and General Counsel Gretchen Robinson:

... filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in the Southern District Of NY against members of NY State Governor Kathy Hochul's Executive Chamber as well as the Commissioner, General Counsel and Deputy Counsel of the NY State Division of Homes and Community Renewal.

Though not named as defendants in the lawsuit, Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson claim in their lawsuit that NY State Senator Liz Krueger, NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and Roosevelt Island Daily publisher David Stone contributed to a "racist backlash" against them.

The lawsuit also claims that Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson were excluded from the appointment process of 3 new RIOC Board Members in an attempt to undermine their authority and "ability to discharge their job functions." Haynes and Robinson claim the 3 new RIOC board members are antagonistic to them.

According to the Haynes/Robinson lawsuit:

This is a case about how the Executive Chamber for the Office of the Governor of New York (the “Chamber”) and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (“RIOC”) have unfairly subjected Shelton J. Haynes and Gretchen K. Robinson (“Robinson,” and together with Haynes, the “Plaintiffs”), two African American executives, to continuous and pervasive discrimination by, including but not limited to, subjecting Haynes and Robinson to frequent unwarranted investigations by the New York State Inspector General (“NYSIG”) as well as ordering an independent investigation by an outside counsel – something not done for other, more serious allegations – based entirely on specious allegations of wrongdoing. The Chamber did so while simultaneously thwarting Haynes’s and Robinson’s efforts to fight back against the discrimination and defend themselves and RIOC against a multitude of defamatory statements made by a local blogger and a group of disgruntled former employees....

On September 18, I sent an email inquiry to Mr Haynes, Ms Robinson and the RIOC Directors asking for comment on the lawsuit and who was currently in charge of RIOC.

There was no response. 

I followed up on September 27 to Mr Haynes, Ms Robinson and the RIOC Directors with a second email inquiry asking:

It has been almost 2 weeks since RIOC President Shelton Haynes and General Counsel Gretchen Robinson filed a racial discrimination lawsuit on September 12 in the Southern District of NY against members of Governor Hochul’s Executive Chamber as well as the Commissioner and certain staffers of NY State Division of Homes and Community Renewal.

Also, it has been almost 2 weeks since Ms Robinson announced at the September 14 RIOC Board meeting that Mr Haynes was on a "leave of absence.

To date, RIOC has made no announcement to the Roosevelt Island community regarding who is in charge of RIOC. Is there an Acting RIOC President?

I am following up on the September 18 email below seeking comment from you on the Haynes/Robinson lawsuit.


1- What is the reason for Mr Haynes extended leave and who is now in charge of Rioc as the President/CEO?

2- Will the Rioc Board allow Mr Haynes and Ms Robertson to remain in their current positions following the filing of their lawsuit?

3- Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson allege in the lawsuit that one white RIOC Board member told the lead attorney investigating Mr Haynes that " they need to end this f****** racist witch hunt now" and "Shelton Haynes is the best executive of RIOC so far" Will the RIOC Director who said this confirm the accuracy of the statement and identify themselves to the public?

4 - Do any of the RIOC Directors have a comment to the Roosevelt Island community on this matter?

5 - Will Mr Haynes and/or Ms Robinson comment on this matter.

These questions are of great concern to the Roosevelt Island community and are in preparation for an upcoming Roosevelt Islander Online article....

Recently appointed RIOC Board Member Ben Fhala replied on September 27:

Dear Rick and our fellow community members,

On August 31st, Shelton Haynes informed the oversight board of his temporary leave, set to conclude on October 4th, with a request for privacy on the matter. As Gretchen conveyed this in a board meeting, I won't delve further into the details than she did.

Since then, our Chair, HCR, hasn't officially updated us on the interim leadership, but my understanding is that Gretchen Robinson is assuming the role. Regrettably, no formal communication has been disseminated to staff nor Resident board members regarding this transition.

The lawsuit has cast a shadow over our communications and reduced interactions among board members. New Resident board members like myself have not received guidance from the Chair nor her delegates on this matter.

Despite this cloud, we remain dedicated to RIOC and our community's welfare. Unfortunately, the dysfunction in RIOC's communications has led us to seek external help to address community needs.

Recently, I learned of a disabled community member unable to commute to work due to non-functional ramps on 3 out of 4 of the currently working red buses. This is distressing, yet I find it challenging to engage with RIOCs leadership. Unofficially, I understand that the executive team has instructed staff to "ignore" communications from new Resident board members, a directive officially confirmed on 08/31 by Aida Morales.

I'm grateful to have been seated on the board alongside Lydia Tang and Dr. Melamed, who have consistently maintained open communication channels and have been strong advocates for the community and our stakeholders.

Nonetheless, we, the newly seated resident board members, are committed to overseeing RIOC's operations and eagerly anticipate joining committee work. In the interim, we will address issues one by one by engaging with stakeholders in the community and within RIOC.

Thank you,

Ben Fhala Resident Board Member

Mr Fhala added on September 28:

I have a small correction to make. Lydia Tang and I recently took the red bus to conduct a brief tour of Sportspark with the intention of saying hello to the communications team and the HR team located there. Unfortunately, we were greeted by Aida Morales, who once again reminded us that we are not permitted to engage with staff members without prior approval from Shelton Haynes. Akeem Jamal joined to let us know that he needs to get approval from Shelton prior to speaking with us as well. The HR team on site were forbidden to come out and say hello.

The primary responsibility of the board is to provide the vision and guidance necessary for the authority to fulfill its mission and meet its ethical and legal obligations. It is essential for board members to have a deep understanding of the authority's purpose and operations. However, it seems that direct communication with team members or participation in committees is not the preferred method, but rather through newsletter updates.

Regarding the correction, I'd like to note that both buses we took had active and working ramps. I will need to follow up with the disabled member to determine if the issue persists and if it is isolated to a specific bus or schedule. Unfortunately, I currently lack a direct point of contact within the team for operational updates and questions.

There was no response from Mr Haynes, Ms Robinson or other RIOC Board members.

On September 28, I asked NY State Senator Liz Krueger if she has::

...any comment on the current situation at RIOC where Board Directors she recommended are not allowed to provide oversight of RIOC by communicating with RIOC staff?


NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright:

Do you have any comment on the current situation at RIOC where Board Directors are not allowed to provide oversight of RIOC by communicating with RIOC staff? Do you know who is in charge of RIOC at this time?

Have not received a reply yet from Ms Krueger or Seawright.

As reported September 18:

... During the September 14 Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors meeting Public Session, several residents spoke up sharing their concerns, ideas and solutions with the RIOC Board. Unfortunately, every time newly appointed Board Member Ben Fhala tried to respond to a question or concern from a resident, RIOC General Counsel Gretchen Robinson and Board Chair Diana Lopez did their utmost to try and shut him up, but Mr Fhala persisted.

Here's what happened.

Also, as Mr Fhala was trying to respond to the concerns of a late night health care worker describing having to sleep overnight because of no subway or tram service, Ms Robinson said he was speaking: 

... as a resident of the Island and not a member of the board.

Mr Fhala responded he was speaking as a board member....


It's interesting to note that Ms Lopez, who is the RIOC Board Chair designee of the NY State Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR) Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas, is one of the defendants in the racial discrimination lawsuit brought by Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson.

Also, during the September 14 RIOC Board meeting, RIOC Board members Ben Fhala and Lydia Tang expressed frustration at not being allowed to speak with RIOC staff about issues that the Board is supposed to provide oversight on.

Mr Fhala asked to postpone ratifying an agenda item contract until he could talk with staff members about the item. He explained that since he was not allowed to speak with staff, the Board meeting was the only opportunity to have his questions answered.

Ms Lopez and Ms Robinson objected to postponing the agenda item. Ms Lopez said that RIOC Board members should focus on policy and strategy and defer to RIOC staff on day to day management issues.

Mr Fhala's request to speak with RIOC staff about contract ratification issues is not at all unusual and it has been a common occurrence at almost all RIOC Board Meetings for Directors to ask questions of RIOC staff about proposed contracts as well as other items they are responsible for. Also, RIOC Directors speaking with RIOC staff about day to day management issues has been a common practice for many years until Mr Haynes became RIOC President.

Here's what happened.

Paul Krikler is one of the Roosevelt Island residents who spoke at the RIOC Board September 14 Public Session. Mr. Krikler shares this message he sent to the RIOC Board:

Dear RIOC Board:

We have been through four weeks now of the F Train Rehab Project. During this time the community on Roosevelt Island has come together to help us all deal with the impact of this necessary work on our transit.

It's been very heartening to see the involvement and active engagement from the new Resident Board members, particularly Ben Fhala. It's good to see resident Board members working with the community at a time like this, including participating in public meetings.

Praise where it's due.

Read the full Haynes/Robinson lawsuit here.

Stay tuned for updates.