There’s gonna be a showdown.
The Department of Transportation’s first community meeting to find sites for Citi Bike docks north of 130th Street was a quiet, respectful affair on Monday night at City College — but threatened to become anything but when the Transportation Committee co-chairwoman of the notoriously pro-car Community Board 9 said the city will have to pry away parking spots from residents’ cold, dead hands.
“If parking spots come up and they take the spots, people are going to fight them because they already feel enough parking spaces have been taken from the community,” the board executive, Carolyn Thompson, told Streetsblog, without specifying where curbside had allegedly been reclaimed for public use. “So that would be problematic, because there’s such a scare amount of parking spots, people are going to scream and shout.” [It should be noted that Citi Bike reimburses the city for street parking.]
Streetsblog readers will remember Thompson as one of the primary foes of the Amsterdam Avenue redesign, a road diet that was held up for two years and was only pushed through after 26-year-old Erica Imbasciani was killed by a drugged driver in March. Thompson said that her repeated remarks in opposition to the road diet (“I don’t care what they’re saying, it slows traffic down”) were taken out of context, but reiterated her opposition to the street safety changes. She has also disputed census figures that show a small minority of district residents own cars. She has been consistently reappointed by street safety advocate Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, despite their disagreement over the road diet plan.
But even if Thompson is opposed to using the curbside for Citi Bike docks, the bike share expansion is still happening, from Harlem to the south Bronx. And with that guarantee in mind, a small handful of Community Board 9 residents gathered to help DOT find the best locations. It’s the beginning of a process that will involve the city agency collecting data at visioning sessions like these, and then creating a draft plan to bring to community boards, before installing the docks.
Parking spot anxiety or not, attendees at the table where Thompson and Community Board 9 Chairman Barry Weinberg sat still dotted the map with plenty of blue stickers indicating where they want Citi Bike docks. For his part, Weinberg told Streetsblog that trading parking spots for bike share docks would be “a give and take” and that he was concerned with making sure the docks were placed “appropriately.”
From the very beginning of bike share’s life in New York to its current expansion, Citi Bike has managed to remain a somehow controversial subject for community boards. Where parking will be the fight in Harlem, executives in Bushwick’s Community Board 4 suggested the neighborhood wasn’t safe enough to welcome bike share’s expansion. Through it all, Citi Bike has managed to grow into a reliable piece of New York’s transportation system with tens of thousands of rides every day, including a record 90,000-plus day last month.
The Citi Bike docks are slated to be installed around Community Board 9 in the spring.
The DOT will be holding visioning sessions in Bronx Community Board 1 on Wednesday, Oct. 23 and in Manhattan Community Board 10 on Monday, Oct. 28. Details on the Streetsblog calendar.