Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
Brooklyn Bike Lane Case Continues on August 3
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 01:47 PM
No rulings today in the Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit, but there was one significant development: New York City said it would be willing to drop its statute of limitations defense if it will expedite proceedings.
The city also said that NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan had filed her own affidavit (pdf) -- and that it contradicts the one Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz submitted earlier this week. Markowitz said that the commissioner had told him the lane was a trial project -- a characterization Sadik-Khan has denied.
Opponents of the bike lane have been vociferously making the argument that the bike lane was a "trial project," which would mean there would be no statute of limitations on its lawsuit. To prove their point, plaintiffs subpoenaed city officials, including Sadik-Khan, and asked for reams of emails.
Speaking today after the court hearing at Kings County Supreme Court, city attorneys said that they'd drop the argument that the plaintiffs had missed the deadline to file to avoid jumping down that rabbit hole.
The city had been arguing that the group suing the city, Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes/Seniors for Safety, had brought suit too late. (Typically, under Article 78 proceedings --the state law that deals with suing state and city government entities-- there's a four-month statute of limitations. The bike lane was installed in July of 2010, and NBBL filed suit eight months later.)
However, attorneys said this move was under consideration, not a done deal. Justice Bert Bunyan could theoretically rule at any time on the city's request to boot the suit because it wasn't filed within that 120-day window of opportunity.
Although the judge did hear from attorneys in the case this morning, (11 people total approached the bench as part of the lawsuit) none of the conversation in the courtroom was audible and nothing was on-mic.
Jim Walden, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, characterized today's proceedings as "important" and that the city offered to drop the statute of limitations defense because the judge might allow discovery. The city has said throughout that it was prepared to defend the lane based on the merits of the case -- that the DOT was within its purview to install the lane, which was requested by the community board and has had the desired "traffic calming" effect of reducing automobile speeding and crashes along Prospect Park West.
The next court date in the case is August 3rd, when the judge will hear arguments about NBBL's subpoenas. The city had asked the judge to quash the subpoenas -- a move that could become moot if the statute of limitations defense is taken off the table.