Roosevelt Island News

RIOC’s out of sight switch seeks benefit for pal Hudson-Related

In a last minute move, RIOC seeks a benefit for Hudson-Related, disregarding public wishes, at its December board meeting. The state agency wants the real estate giant off the hook for building promised restrooms at Firefighter’s Field. But there’s plenty of disturbing action going with it.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

First up: a fantasy filled budget…

At a committee meeting held in preparation for the full board, CFO John O’Reilly said that Albany approved the unrealistic budget RIOC sent up the river in September.

Cherry Trees in the public space.
RIOC’s plan for running a shadow helix bike ramp requires killing off trees and burying neglected public space. Among several spurious claims, the state agency says these obviously healthy crab apples are too sick for saving. The only sick thing amounts to demolishing still more trees here, this time for a bike ramp of little value to the majority of residents.

Whatever mirage state and local teams paint, the budget itself looks like something cooked up in Wonderland while magicians sprinkled fairy dust all around.

RIOC’s board will approve it, as they always do, and the net effect is putting off reality for a couple of seasons. The risks are concerning but not apparently to the board of enablers…. er, directors.

(The board meets on ZOOM tonight at 5:30. It’s public, and you can watch it here.)

Cancelling needed restrooms for unclear reasons…

Here’s the resolution RIOC seeks benefiting Hudson-Related. It appears on the agenda without prior notice, and it has not been discussed with residents.

“WHEREAS, pursuant to the Lease, Tenant was obligated to construct a comfort station in a location chosen by RIOC is Firefighter’s Field, with Tenant’s contribution to the cost of such construction capped at $1,000,000, and RIOC being obligated for all costs in excess of that amount; and

“WHEREAS, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, RIOC has determined that the funds thatwould have been used to construct the comfort station would be better directed to other construction projects on Roosevelt Island that would benefit the health and safety of the residents of Roosevelt Island…”

First, Hudson-Related never started work on the restrooms, although they signed the deal two years ago. Were they waiting for more pliable management?

And second, RIOC’s secretive inner circle never identifies any other projects “benefiting the health and safety of the residents…”

That’s pure fudge, and it would never fly past a board made up of responsible and engaged directors.

And if it’s clean, why push it through without prior discussion? Why not allow residents some input? Lack of such facilities has long been a concern, and what “project” is more important?

Firefighter’s field attracts plenty of activity in normal times. So, where do the biologically needy go? Of course, RIOC has no answer.

RIOC seeks Hudson-Related benefits, but it’s not clear why.

RIOC wants to take out some more trees and replace them with bicycles from Queens…

It gets worse…

The next resolution asks approval that “RIOC is hereby authorized to place the Bike Ramp within the Helix ramp, substantially as set forth in the Memorandum from Prince R. Shah to RIOC Board of Directors / Shelton J. Haynes, dated December 9, 2020…”

That resolution is a doozy.

First, fewer than 10% of New Yorkers ride bikes, according to recent statistics, but that isn’t even daily ridership. It’s as little as once a week. That includes weekend riders, but RIOC still believes this warrants destroying a half-dozen trees and a small, but neglected park.

At the same time, it makes our promenades even less usable by anyone other than bike riders.

And RIOC’s administration twists facts like amateur pretzels because that’s the only way this makes sense.

A clumsily constructed rationale for the costly bike ramp sets the stage…

“The increasing popularity of the Roosevelt Island outdoor spaces, including Four Freedoms Park and awareness of sustainable transportation methods, virtually guarantees an increasing presence of bicycles on the Island.”

But the writer offers no evidence of “increasing popularity,” although the whole project rests on this premise. In addition, the proposal gives no indication of how RIOC will manage this supposed “increasing presence of bicycles…”

It’s clear that Public Safety either cannot or will not prevent bikes of all types from dominating the promenades, which many now consider unsafe for pedestrians. Certainly, children can’t play freely anymore, and where are all those bikes going to park? Racks are already full.

If RIOC has answers, they aren’t anywhere in the documents. But that may be less of a concern because there’s no genuine reason for anticipating any great increase in bikes. The likely truth is, RIOC’s got money to blow, and this happy biking fantasy fits in with Hudson-Related’s vision for Roosevelt Island.

Read the awkwardly sketched memo here, but this explanation for tearing out more trees is typical of the whole mess:

“Existing crab apple trees within the void will be lost. An arborist study was conducted to determine the health of these trees. All six trees suffer from exposed roots and various levels of trunk and tree rot. Due to their age, transplanting of these trees is not recommended as their survival is not guaranteed.”

As with the rest of this mess, no “arborist study” is in evidence, and you can check out these allegedly sick trees yourself. They’ve blossomed every year for decades, including the last year, with no signs of illness or decline.

Miscellany, just for laughs… if you’re into dark humor…

Of course, while RIOC seeks many Hudson-Related benefits, one area is free of them, but it’s not free of the taint of stupid.

At the last Audit Committee meeting, VP O’Reilly noted that charging stations had been installed in Motorgate, benefiting those of us parking out electric vehicles there. He mentioned earning $49 the first day, and board member Michael Shinozaki chuckled about earning for a change.

A few weeks later, RIOC released a glowing statement from acting president/CEO Shelton Haynes about the marvel of these charging stations no one who lives here is likely to use.

But as so often is the case with RIOC, what’s missing from the picture?

RIOC spent $70,545 connecting the charging stations to the Motorgate garage.

The dark humor?

That’s approximately the amount the state agency refused spending on holiday decorations and a tree lighting, this year.

Now, that’s dark, but here’s the kicker.

That benefited Hudson-Related because it let them off the hook for a matching amount.


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