Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
UPDATE 6:05 p.m. ET: Instead of a bike rack, a massive barricade of rock now sits in front of a tony apartment building in the West Village--a building that filed the first lawsuit against NYC's new bike share program. But it's not clear who put the rock there or why.
The stone slab stretches the width of a car at a right angle to the curb near building's entrance, placed in a way that could protect the bikes from being hit by parking cars. It doesn't block the entrance as the bikes had been doing, which pleases the residents though it also befuddles them, according to their lawyer.
This rock-for-rack swap is the latest development following the only court filing to date against New York's bike share, some litigious letter writing, and a bike share station modification in the dead of night.
The city is installing 330 docking stations around Manhattan and Brooklyn as part of the Citi Bike program set to launch at the end of May. As the stations go in, neighbors complain (or cheer, or shrug, it is New York after all).
In the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, for instance, some neighbors (but certainly not all, and probably not even most) didn't want one of the long gray bike share docking stations to replace their favorite parking spaces or interfere with their hedge trimming. They held a town hall meeting to gripe about it and asked the DOT to move several stations. The DOT said it would consider modifications but has not confirmed any action.
In the West Village, by contrast, there was no town hall meeting, just a court filing. And swift action.
Last Thursday, 99 Bank Street petitioned the NY State Supreme Court in protest of the placement of the the bike share docking station (legal filing below in full). The filing was an order to show cause, a first step that could lead to a formal case. The New York city Law Department says a judge rejected the petition Friday. And nothing more has been filed.
That might have settled the matter, but the portion of the dock that was blocking the entrance was removed anyway -- about four bikes -- overnight Tuesday.
Jeffrey Barr, the lawyer for 99 Bank Street, said "One of the board members heard something and she thought it was vandalism, and she went out and she saw, at two in the morning, [workers] removed the section of the bike share station that was blocking the front door. But later this afternoon, at about two, a truck from the bike share program came and deposited an enormous rock."
He said it was not known who the workers were at 2 a.m. and couldn't be sure who it was in the afternoon either.
"As we've done with other stations," Nicole Garcia of the DOT said, "we made adjustments from the initial installation [at 99 Bank St] to meet specifications in the original site plan." The NYC Department of Transportation frequently does street repair work, including bike share dock installations, in the middle of the night to minimize the impact on traffic.
So that explains the late night removal. But about the giant rock, she had no comment despite several email exchanges with WNYC about other aspects of the Bank Street case in which she was asked about the stone.
The court filing says, "the placement of the bike share station in front of the main entrance of 99 Bank street is a direct violation of the Rules of the City of New York." Which, according to the lawsuit, prohibit "street furniture" from being "placed in front at the curb directly opposite a building entrance or cellar door." The rock could arguably be said to block the entrance as well.
Gabriel Taussig of the NYC Law Department responds: "Bike Share station sites were chosen after an extensive and thorough selection process. We are confident the process was completely proper and that the Court will agree with us."
Roughly half of the 330 docking stations have been placed, including in the densely-packed Financial District and brownstone neighborhoods in Brooklyn like Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, and DUMBO. The stations have yet to be installed in the area with the highest traffic volume and most crowded sidewalks: Midtown. (See map of stations here.)
Here's the full lawsuit.