Future East Harlem Bike Lanes Hit A Speed Bump

Sunday, November 27, 2011

After voting in favor of a pair of protected bike lanes along First and Second Avenues, from 96th Street to 125th Street, East Harlem's Community Board 11 voted last week to rescind that support.

Matthew Washington, CB11′s chair, sounded exasperated when asked about the turn of events. Washington supports the lanes, and he said the board voted overwhelmingly in favor of the lanes just two months ago.

“For members to vote one way in September, and then vote, to pull that vote away two months later,” he said, “to me says the members weren’t paying attention to what they were doing.”

He said the official position of the community board is now “neutral” — at least for now.

City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has rallied at City Hall in support of expanding the city’s bike lane network, represents the neighborhood. She called the recent CB11 vote “a temporary setback” and said she wasn’t concerned.

“What I believe occurred was that there were two people with self-interest that completely misled and created a lot of confusion at the prior board meeting. This issue had been voted on,” she said, “and at this last board meeting, the issue was brought back up on open business at 9:30 at night, people were tired, it had been a long meeting, a lot of information that was misrepresented was thrown out there, I think it created some level of confusion among some board members.”

The two people in question, Frank Brija and Erik Mayor, are two local business owners who also sit on the community board.  They said that the DOT had not done enough outreach to local businesses and produced a petition against the lanes. Brija, who owns Patsy’s Pizzeria was quoted in DNA Info as saying: “All we do is complain about traffic, all we do is complain about asthma. Now the DOT is going to create more traffic.”

“I just don’t even understand how people are constructing these ideas,” Washington said in a phone interview. “They’re saying traffic on First Avenue is not moving and going to get worse — but traffic can’t really get worse than not moving.”

Another concern for local businesses is parking. The website for Patsy’s Pizzeria states: “Plenty of on street parking is available around the neighborhood, so drive on in!”

Brija did not return a call seeking comment.

Melissa Mark-Viverito said she wants businesses and residents to understand that the lanes can expand, not narrow, the appeal of the neighborhood. “Somehow the idea that the only people who go to businesses are people that drive,” she said. “Having protected bike lanes, and creating a safe space for bikers to come, we actually may be encouraging people from outside our community to come and venture and go to the businesses, go to the restaurants, to avail themselves of the services that are key here.”

The DOT had initially planned to install the Second Avenue lane in the spring of 2012. Viverito said that schedule was still doable — provided it re-passes the community board. And she’s optimistic. “I feel very confident that this will pass overwhelmingly,” she said.  Washington agreed. “There’s still opportunity for the board to work out some of the kinks, some of the issues that people feel are relevant and move forward.”

The DOT said in a statement that the agency “will return to the board soon to review the presentation and explain how we plan to address merchant concerns.”  And Washington said that representatives from the DOT will be at the next transportation committee meeting, scheduled to take place at the CB11 office on December 6.

“But I think we’re going to have to relocate it,” he said, “because I anticipate we will have large attendance at this meeting.”


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Comments [3]

EastHarlemAdvocate from East Harlem NYC

It's obvious that none of you live near 1st or 2nd avenue in East Harlem. If you did, then you wouldn't even argue with the fact that we suffer from terrible air quality due to highly congested streets, 2nd ave subway construction, FDR drive tire rubber particles in the air and commercial diesel trucks in droves storming up first avenue. East Harlem is recognized to have the highest Asthma rate in the nation!!! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to prove that removing a traffic lane on 2nd avenue will create more traffic in an already congested avenue. Anything that will exacerbate an already painful health crisis should be voided and not even considered unless you are a tyrant and forcing this "eminent domain" style of bike lane implementation. But let me get this right, you much rather provide safer biking conditions for a few bikers while affecting the lives of over 150,000 people that live in East Harlem!?!?!? How the hell does this make any sense?
Why don't you go visit the Asthma Center in East Harlem and tell them that next week they should start getting used to breathing through a straw! You will KILL US WITH THIS STUPID IDEA!!! Ride your bike up the esplanade, or through Central Park or up Madison Avenue that doesn't have commercial traffic but you dont need to REMOVE TRAFFIC LANES to create bike lanes.

Dec. 03 2011 11:08 AM
maddy58 from India

nice post friend

Cycle saddle

Nov. 29 2011 02:42 AM

So while tons of people who are from the area and live in the area WANT bikes and WANT bike lanes, two people who are business owners who, frankly, sound like they are completely brain dead about the benefits, are able to stall this?!?

Finally something good that can come to that section of Harlem that is not a dollar store, a street vendor selling fake or look-a-like products, not a hair or nail salon, and not a large new apartment building that those in the area can't afford, and it's being held back.

Sad. Very sad.

Nov. 28 2011 05:14 PM

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