Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Judge Dismisses Claim Against Prospect Park Bike Lane
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The fight over the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane came to an end when a judge dismissed claims that the city failed to go through proper channels when it installed the two-way protected path.
It is the first time a court has ruled on whether the city has legal authority to install bike lanes at a rapid clip.
The suit — which had prominent backers include former city transportation commissioner Iris Weinshall, and her husband, Senator Charles Schumer, who live along Prospect Park West — alleged the city manipulated data, and hadn’t properly consulted the community when it built the lane.
“This decision results in a hands-down victory for communities across the city. The plaintiffs have been dead wrong in their unsupported claims about the bike path and DOT’s practices,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a statement emailed by the city.
But the decision ended up hinging whether the plaintiffs had filed their suit in a timely manner, and Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Bert Bunyan ruled resoundingly they did not.
The opponents "presented no evidence that DOT viewed the bikeway as a pilot or temporary project," according to the ruling.
The judge did say the city had failed to properly answer a Freedom of Information request filed by opponents of the suit, and ordered the city to do so. He did not rule on whether the city manipulated data, because the complaint was dismissed on timeliness issues.
The bike lane has proven popular in the community, with polls showing around two-thirds of Brooklynites want to keep as it. But a vocal and influential group has spoken out against it, galvanizing a portion of New York City residents and some editorial pages who are unhappy with the rapid change of city streets.
The city said the lane has dramatically reduced speeding and now funnels cyclists onto the streets, instead of the sidewalks.
Plaintiffs have not said whether they will appeal.
"Although we respectfully disagree with the Court’s determination on the statute of limitations, we will need time to review his comprehensive analysis before deciding on our options," attorney Jim Walden said in a statement.
Don Matteson, who lives on Prospect Park West, said he's generally a supporter of bike lanes -- and liked this one, when it was "on paper" -- but he said the lane causes traffic disruptions. He also said the community was consulted too late in the process.
"That was all after-the-fact," he said, "After it had been all decided and they were all ready to implement it."
Richard Johnson, a neighbor, said he's noticed changes in the way people drive.
"I am not a biker, but I think the bike lane is excellent," Johnson said. "This place was much too fast, much too speedy without it, and the traffic is slowed down. It's improved."
With Fred Mogul