Overcoming executive staff objections, embattled President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes made Prince Shah Director of Capital Projects at RIOC. The promotion tightens a circle of protection.
by David Stone
“He’s not qualified,” was the instant reaction from an insider. “Another ‘yes’ guy.”
Our source did not mince words about the new Director of Capital Projects.
“He is a cheat. Shelton basically used him as a spy.”
Prince Shah On the Record
Amanda Matthews gave Shah a shout at The Girl Puzzle ribbon cutting in December. He got praise for his helpfulness in guiding the project. But that was a small accomplishment that required nothing more than following a process set up after Matthews won the award,
His key roles in the dreadful Palace of Versailles Bike Ramp Project and the associated bike lanes are far more suggestive.
“Prince was responsible for the design. The cost is 100% more than it should have been,” said one RIOC insider.
It’s also a ridiculous bundle of errors. It was approved by RIOC’s
dinosaurs Board, a group overly influenced by anything presented in PowerPoint.
About the Helix Bike Ramp
Carrying a breathtaking price tag of $3 million, the Helix Bike Ramp would surely cost more because… well, because that was always the case before John O’Reilly became CFO and tightened procedures. And Haynes recently sacked O’Reilly without ever fully explaining the termination of the state agency’s MVP.
But at any expense, Prince Shah’s ramp design had two gross errors. One was cosmetic but important. Spiraling the bike ramp inside the existing helix requires ripping out a field of crabapple trees.
Shah trotted out an alleged tree expert who said the trees were sick and dying. But a quick look while they bloomed again this spring showed no hint of disease. Not among the thriving trees anyway.
More blockheaded is an obvious safety concern.
Worrisome as the current arrangement is – bikes and cars sharing the helix – there is no place where vehicles cross in front of each other. But Shah’s new design requires cyclists to intersect two lanes of car and truck traffic in the handoff from the bridge to the helix. That’s in both directions.
That’s right. Drivers crossing the slippery surfaces of the bridge, dodging potholes, must look out for bikes crossing directly in front of them immediately upon leaving the bridge. “Duh” hardly covers it.
The Bike Lanes Are Even Worse
If it wasn’t their own money, Roosevelt Island taxpayers could laugh at the ineptitude. It starts with ridiculous overestimations of future bike traffic while ignoring easy, less expensive alternatives.
“The bike lane is a no-go. Once you get to Southtown and under the bridge it gets too narrow,” an insider told us. “It looks good conceptually but it’s not viable. A waste of money…”
That was generous because it’s also too narrow from the Fire Station north.
Imagine this, a bike lane costing over a million bucks that allows riders to enjoy a quarter-mile or so of designed lanes. Plus speed bumps and crosswalks for pedestrians and wheelchair users.
Mercifully, both projects have at least temporarily been shelved. We’ll keep our crabapple grove and not waste hundreds of thousands on an impractical bike lane.
Have faith, though, Haynes administration fans, as long as Governor Hochul leaves this group rooted in Blackwell House, there are abundant chances for more of the same.