David Stone
Although WFF sanctuaries are identified as "cat sanctuaries," the nonprofit has always cared for a wide variety of vulnerable animals.
Although WFF sanctuaries are identified as "cat sanctuaries," the nonprofit has always cared for a wide variety of vulnerable animals.
© David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily

Anchored in the cold, bunkered corners of the legal department at 591 Main, a fierce initiative sought an avenue for closing Roosevelt Island's highly regarded WFF animal sanctuaries. "But RIOC Acting President and CEO Shelton Haynes was purring a more friendly tune on Monday," claimed an article in the New York Post.

As with many things RIOC, the story is more convoluted than it appears. 

“The RIOC is in the process of re-evaluating the terms and conditions of the payment structure for the Wildlife Freedom Foundation as well as the timing by which payments begin,” Haynes is quoted saying in response to a letter from State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright.

The ambiguity is striking and does not address reasons for attacking WFF in the first place, a move widely suspected taken as revenge against the nonprofit for leading an environmental protest.

Seawright frequently acts as point person for Governor Andrew Cuomo, the official who in reality runs RIOC, appointing all board members and approving all senior staff as well as their activities. 

Often, Cuomo's actions, like firing Susan Rosenthal in June, violate the spirit of the law establishing RIOC as a public benefit corporation run by an independent board comprised mainly of local residents. Seawright, as well as a passive board and compliant executive team, shield the governor.

Be that as it may, the Post further quotes Haynes, “RIOC will continue to work with WFF in the effort to reach an agreement as it pertains to the operation and use of RIOC state-owned land. In the interim RIOC will take no action to close the WFF-operated sanctuaries.”

Because RIOC currently ghosts the Roosevelt Island Daily, a form of press censorship, we cannot independently confirm this information, but we expect to get WFF executive director Rossana Ceruzzi's insight later today.

Cuomo has used the Post in the past to leak information not shared with other sources, like the still unexplained firing of Susan Rosenthal, because the conservative news source appears willing to act as an unquestioning mouthpiece.

Despite claims to the contrary, the Roosevelt Island Daily/News originally broke this story, leading the Post to follow up, and it appears that Seawright challenger Lou Puliafito's strong support for the sanctuaries lured the incumbent to action.