As a unique community within Manhattan, Roosevelt Island has welcomed Shelton Haynes, now the CEO of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. In recognition of the community’s solitary and diverse past, Mr. Haynes has focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion during his time in office. This process requires the investment of time and resources into building relationships with all employees within the company, much as the island has become its own community, with its tramway, train transit, and eminently walkable street layouts creating a unique environment that sets it apart from the rest of New York City.
With a history that included several hospitals, development plans, and gentrification, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation has seen many changes to the island’s culture. Shelton Haynes recognizes the medical roots of the island’s early 1900s history in his inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the corporation’s workforce. This population has been widely overlooked or has been required to downplay their disability to ensure they can maintain employment. But passing as something else is a concept that has been introduced previously for many of the ancestors of those working at the corporation.
As Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation’s first black COO and only its second black CEO in almost four decades, Haynes understands the need for equity and inclusion, minority groups represent his executive team for over half of its makeup, and four women are on that team. He understands there is strong potential by including individuals who have been discriminated against in the past in his team. “I let people write their futures and carve their paths here at RIOC. You can be and go on to achieve just about anything, within reason; there are boundless opportunities for unlimited growth,” Haynes stated in a recent interview.
Begun as a public benefit corporation created in 1994 by the State of New York, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation was developed to develop, design, operate and maintain the island. Since Shelton Haynes joined the corporation, the island’s progress has been propelled to new levels, including individuals of all nations, abilities, and races, whether residents, tourists, or visitors from the city. Part of that process meant bringing the agency up to 21st-century standards through substantial restructuring across all the corporation’s departments. This process emphasized a robust work culture that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion for all, a better quality of life for residents through improvements and new initiatives, and improved operational efficiency, including automated and streamlined workflows and technology.
Among Shelton Haynes’ accomplishments is the strong growth of the Roosevelt Island Youth Center, providing free after-school programs for children. Additional investments in infrastructure, quality of life, and destination tourism have all been successful due to the hard work of Mr. Haynes and his diverse team. But Mr. Haynes also sees great potential for the future and knows that his hard work still needs to be completed. With the potential from his solid executive team and the benefits of promoting from within, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, once started to revitalize a somewhat abandoned medical location, will provide substantial benefits for its surrounding community long into the future. In a recent interview, Mr. Haynes stated, “Incredible things are in store for Roosevelt Island; the opportunities are endless. The sky’s the limit. Stay tuned for what’s to come because I promise you won’t want to miss it.”