Anger over bike sites in high gear at C.B. 2 forum
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | More than 400 people — many of them indignant and fuming — turned out for a Community Board 2 forum last Thursday night on bike-share and, specifically, the siting of the new bike-share docking stations.
C.B. 2 Chairperson David Gruber opened the remarks by saying he was disappointed that, despite his invitations, the Department of Transportation had declined to send a representative to the meeting. He said people were caught off guard by the bike-share docks, which he slammed as “barricades.”
The board received more than 100 phone calls and e-mails about bike-share in the past couple of weeks, he said, “70 percent of them negative comments” about the new docking stations. But many people, while critical of the bike docks, aren’t against the whole bike-share program, he stressed.
“I think what people are upset about is the sheer volume, the size…,” Gruber said, as people in the audience shouted out, “Yes! Yes!” in agreement and applauded.
“It was done really in the most heavy-handed way possible,” he said to more applause.
Holding up a “Y.I.M.B.Y. – Yes In My Backyard” sign outside before the meeting, Ian Dutton, a former C.B. 2 member and bike-share advocate, maintained, “New York City’s streets were originally paved for bicycles.”
Stu Waldman of Bedford St. was one of the few who spoke in favor of the bike-share stations and the whole program.
“There’s no bike rack in front of my house — but I would love one to be put there,” he stated, “because then there wouldn’t be cars and trucks there. Our streets aren’t pristine now. Having bikes is a lot better than cars.”
Bike-share is “very effective in Paris,” added his wife, Livvie Mann.
But Deborah Stone of 175 W. 13th St. — which has a big bike-share station in front of it — retorted, “I don’t care what they do in Paris! I live in New York City!” sparking among the night’s biggest cheers.
One bike-share advocate — only about a handful spoke during the forum — explained that the docks are “modular” and easily movable.
As if one, many in the audience called out, “So move it!”
Her voice rising in fury, Marna Lawrence, a Nolita quality-of-life activist, blurted out, “Why did they decide to experiment with Downtown Manhattan?” as the audience roared its agreement.
“It’s unconscionable that they think they can get away with this — it’s not O.K.,” said Jerry Banu, president of the Perry St. Block Association.
Architect Stas Zakrzewski said, “They installed a 40-bike rack right outside our building at Renwick and Spring Sts. There’s no access to our building. I think it’s very interesting — whenever there is someone applying for a liquor license, there are signs up all over the neighborhood. Why don’t they do that for this? It’s too large — it needs to be well thought-out.”
Carlo Giurdanella of Bella Tile on E. 11th St. between First Avenue and Avenue A complained that one of the new bike docks had taken away his loading zone.
Former Councilmember Carol Greitzer said her daughter is a doctor living in London who rides the bike-share there everyday, but that the stations there are smaller, for only 10 to 20 bikes per location.
Singer/songwriter Jamie Bendell, a 175 W. 13th St. resident, protested, “These areas between the bike racks and the sidewalks will become new garbage pits. Will they ask our doormen to clean them?”
Standing in the back of the auditorium, Charlie McCorkell, owner of Bicycle Habitat on Lafayette St., commented disapprovingly, “Most people agree the greater good is bike-share, but nobody is willing to give up anything for it.”
“These are all rich white people,” a young man standing next to him remarked of all the naysayers.
Sean Sweeney, the director of the Soho Alliance, likened the placing of a bike rack on the spot where public art has been shown in tiny Petrosino Square to the Taliban’s infamously blowing up an enormous ancient Buddha cliff carving.
“D.O.T. [the Department of Transportation] should be called the Department of Taliban,” he spewed angrily.
Glen Gaylinn, who owns Dog Wash on MacDougal St., said the new bike station on the block already stinks because dogs have been peeing on the curb next to it and the pee is seeping under it.
“It smells horrible,” he said, “rotting urine, uric acid.”
“You have depreciated my property value,” said Dorothy Sluska of Barrow St. “People spend a lot of money to live in the West Village.”
Sugar Barry of 10th St. said two potted plants on the street “that we paid for” just disappeared when the bike-station on her block was put in.
Attorney Jeffrey Barr of 99 Bank St. has filed two lawsuits — one against the city and the other against Citibank, the bike-share’s sponsor — on behalf of his 100-unit building.
The purpose of the litigation, he said, is simple: “We just want you to go there, see it with your own eyes, see how ridiculous it is, and move it.”
The city has so far responded by removing the part of the bike station that was right in front of the Bank St. building’s entrance. Barr has said he may soon be representing more buildings in lawsuits over bike docks. The suits argue that the bike-share will cause people to ride on the sidewalk — because Bank St. is cobblestoned — and also cause the cyclists to cluster under the building’s awning when it rains, among other things.
But Steve Vaccaro, an attorney who represents cyclists and pedestrians who have been in accidents and who is a cycling advocate, said that the Citi Bikes will have wide, so-called “balloon” tires and so will offer a “comfy ride” over the cobblestones.
As for the awning complaint, he said dismissively, “If one more person stands under the awning when it rains — please, this is New York.”
“Bringing in new street fixtures, there are going to be issues about what fits, where things fit,” he said. “Every square foot and every square inch of Manhattan is claimed by at least one person.
“At this point, bike-share is starting in two or three weeks. Let’s put the bike stations in and see what works and what doesn’t work,” Vaccaro said. “D.O.T. has shown a willingness to adjust — they’ve adjusted the 99 Bank St. station.
“This is part of the city’s transportation structure,” he said. “This is no gimmick or a passing fad — no more than a building can say, ‘We don’t want this bus station or this subway station on our street,’ or ‘We don’t want parking on our street.’
“One building cannot dictate the details of a citywide transportation system. If every building said, ‘We love bike-share but not on our block,’ you’d have no bike-share.”