The claws are back in.
The head of the scandal-scarred state agency that runs Roosevelt Island has backed off an extraordinary threat to evict the operator of a beloved group of cat sanctuaries in a kitty conflict over rent.
The about-face comes after The Post reported that the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. for the first time sent a lease to the Wildlife Freedom Foundation demanding it pay $400 monthly rent for use of its three cat havens on its property.
RIOC’s vice president and legal counsel Gretchen Robinson initially told WFF President Rosanna Ceruzzi in a recent email that if she didn’t agree to pay the rent “we will move forward with the closure of the cat sanctuaries at all current locations… and [RIOC] will also cause the removal and relocation of the animals on its own.”
But RIOC Acting President and CEO Shelton Haynes was purring a more friendly tune on Monday, a source familiar with the controversy said.
“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 said in a response letter to Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, who represents Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side.
“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.”
Most important, Haynes said, “In the interim RIOC will take no action to close the WFF-operated sanctuaries.”
In a letter sent to RIOC last week, Seawright urged Haynes not to charge WFF rent during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ceruzzi told The Post Sunday that RIOC’s demand for rent “came out of the blue” after serving as WFF’s licensed animal rescuer on the island for ten years.
In June, RIOC president and CEO Susan Rosenthal was fired after a probe by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office for allegedly making “racially and sexually offensive” remarks.