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The Curious (Legal) Case of the Bike Share Bollard on Bank Street

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - 03:26 PM

WNYC

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. 

 

Bikeshare Lawsuit 99 Bank street New York City Citibike by transponation

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Comments [12]

lee kendra

As all the nonsense city, state and federal projets, I predict this will not work and will cost a ton of money to Us the taxpayer of New York. Did any of you leaving comments check the pricing? I am in awe.

May. 01 2013 10:33 PM
Laura from NYC

These people are just ridiculous - bike racks block their building, but gigantic cars parked bumper-to-bumper do not? Whatever. I can't wait for the bikes to arrive!

May. 01 2013 05:28 PM
Ben from New York

I am a bike rider and I support the bike share. However, they should only be placed on the sidewalk, not on the street. The placement in the street exposes cyclists who are docking/undocking the bike to traffic from behind. People will get hit by cars unless the racks are moved onto the sidewalks and/or reversed to not face into the street.

May. 01 2013 02:11 PM
Addicted

Is this really bad precedent though? You got DOT basically saying "hey, you want to whine and moan now, after we gave you a whole year's worth of warning with tons of community meetings and outreach? Okay, we will reduce the length of the bike dock by 10%. But you can have a huge ugly black rock instead".

May. 01 2013 11:44 AM
boof

DOT ROCKS!!!

May. 01 2013 11:39 AM
DG from Brooklyn

Come on. There are something like 200 stations already installed, each containing anywhere from 20 to 40 or even 50 docks. So there are probably something on the order of 5000+ docks out there with more to come. so far the city has removed... four. STOP THE PRESSES!

Isn't one of the benefits of the system that it can be tweaked and changed as needed? These people are lucky a subway entrance wasn't dug in front of their apartment building; it would have been there for the rest of time!

May. 01 2013 10:22 AM
Gary from Park Slope

As far as I know, a bike rack in the street is not street furniture. Street furniture refers to items on the sidewalk like bus shelters, phone booths, benches, newspaper boxes. The bike share rack in the street blocked the entrance to the building less than parked cars did before.

May. 01 2013 10:12 AM
Dave from west village

Placing the big rock means that while some of the bike slots will go, the building will not get its free parking back. Sorry to be cynical, but I think the reason the suit was filed in the first place was because some local owners felt entitled to park there.
Even though the city DoT blinked on this one, at least it stood up to the proposition that noone has an entitlement to free parking in the public street.

May. 01 2013 09:51 AM

Occasionally, I travel to Montreal, home of Bixi BikeShare. I ALWAYS choose my hotel based on its proximity to a Metro Station, high-frequency bus stop, and Bixi station. This gives me amazing transportation options.

You can bet that apartment listings in NYC will be advertising proximity to a CitiBike station. They would be silly not to.

May. 01 2013 09:26 AM
Jacob

@ddartley,
Only a small piece of the bikeshare station was actually removed. This is one of the wonders of having a system that can be adjusted on the fly in response to changes in the city, etc.

May. 01 2013 08:54 AM
ddartley from Manhattan

The big rock is a mystery, but I do NOT like the fact that the bike station got removed. Bad precedent. File a stupid lawsuit, and even if it gets tossed, the city will bend to your attempt at bullying?

And yet, of course, we can't be sure from this article that it even was the city who did the removal OR the placing of the rock... Strange indeed...

May. 01 2013 03:45 AM
jooltman from Park Slope

What's it called in court? Bad precedent! Action in West Village and not Fort Greene = Suspect. Complaining about...and more extremely filing lawsuits about this program before it has even launched? Ridiculous!

Apr. 30 2013 08:30 PM

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