The Latest Skirmish in the Bike Lane Battles

Monday, April 12, 2010

Street space is one of the most valuable commodities in New York City, and the volume knob has been turned up since City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan started adding hundreds of miles of bike lanes to city streets.

The latest firefight is over space on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, with cyclists, the DOT, and the community board lined up on one side, and motorists and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz on the other.

Markowitz has long been leery of moving fast in re-organizing city streets, opposing, for example, banning all car traffic in Prospect Park, and bridge tolls on the East River Bridges.

To learn more about his philosophy of transportation, WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the third-term borough president, Brooklyn’s chief cheerleader. You’ll find out why he thinks Commissioner Sadik-Khan is a zealot, how he feels about turning over parking spots to pedestrians, why he’s for a gas tax -- and why he welcomes the hipster-yuppie class to his borough.

Listen to the WNYC segment here:

Listen to the full interview here, or read it below:

Andrea Bernstein: The things that you’ve said over the years, and the positions that you’ve taken, show an identification with “Joe Brooklyn Driver.” A sense that if you are living in Brooklyn and you are a working person and you have a car, life can be tough. Do you think that is fair?

Marty Markowitz: Well, I’m not going to say it’s unfair. The world of Brooklyn is not dominated by those that deem it, that everyone has to be on bicycles and those that own cars should be isolated. And there is a segment of those who are avid bicyclists that believe that car owners are evil, and therefore the philosophy of the city of New York should do and be whatever one can do to help minimize car owners, cars and to try to rid the world of automobiles and to ensure that everyone is on a bicycle. There are people that really want to do that.

My job as borough president is to balance the needs of this entire borough. The majority of Brooklyn lives on the southern side of Prospect Park, not the northern side. And very often, many people in Brooklyn need their vehicle either for their livelihood or their personal pleasure. And I for one want to continue to do my part to make Brooklyn, and New York, a resident-friendly place as much as possible. So it’s a balance that you have to find. And that’s why I have supported bicycle lanes, throughout the borough. The Greenway is a good example -– that I’m one of the leading advocates for. And will continue to press for that. The bicycle lane on Ninth Street that’s around the corner from where I lived, I fully supported, not one peep from me, because it made sense, because it leads into Prospect Park. But where I feel bicycle lanes would have an adverse affect my job is to speak up for it.

Those that wanted to close Prospect Park inside to traffic twenty four hours a day -– I represent the whole borough, and not just one community. And that would be a hardship for many owners of cars that need the pathway, need to drive to get to and from work. There has to be a balance, and that’s the balance that I seek to find.

AB: The first time I heard you talking about these issues was in fact at a press conference in Grand Army Plaza. I’m trying to figure out when it was –- it all blends together -– but I think it was sometime in the earlier part of the last decade, when there was a decision to restrict the car use in the park. And you were quite clear at that press conference that you didn’t want there to be an adverse impact on Ditmas Park and those neighborhoods on the east side of the park. And I’m wondering what you’ve heard from people since then. Has restricting the use of cars in fact made life tougher for those people?



MM: In fact, it’s made life tougher for the residents of Windsor Terrace, on Prospect Park Southwest when the car restrictions of Prospect Park kick in during the warmer months and the traffic is backed up all the way from Bartel-Pritchard square and beyond all the way down to Parkside Avenue and believe me, the people that live on Prospect Park Southwest and the immediate area in that Windsor Terrace area suffer, as well as the motorists that have to -– where their commute home takes much longer because the park drives are closed. Like I said, there has to be a balance. There has to be a balance.

And that’s why I don’t oppose -– and by the way, I use Prospect Park myself all the time. I love the fact during the year on weekends that the park is closed to traffic. I support that. But during the week, where it would be a hardship for the residents in the surrounding areas as well as motorists, I have opposed it. When they attempted to take away driving during the entire 24-hour period. I think it’s a balance we have to try to find. I’ve always been fortunate to represent the east side and the west side. Most of my years of service I’ve represented the east side of the park. It wasn’t until my last senate district that I represented both sides, both east and west and I understand both sides very, very well.

I must tell you a phenomenon. A lot of people that advocate reducing the carbon footprint own a car or two themselves. Even our commissioner of DOT, who you very well know is probably the biggest advocate of doing everything possible to eliminate automobiles. Even she, when she goes to meetings, she’s not on a bicycle. She’s in a chauffeur-driven car. Interesting, isn’t it? All I’m trying to say –

AB: How do you get to meetings?

MM: I don’t’ make any bones about it. I go to meetings by automobile. And many of the people that advocate to stop traffic, close traffic, own cars as well. Own cars as well. But you see they’re not being inconvenienced because a lot of them don’t need to use Prospect Park for the automobile because they live on the west side of the park. And there’s no reason to use it, whereas people that live on the east side very often have occasion to use it.

I also think that in terms of the park itself, during the winter months, having traffic going through there I think in many ways helps in offering additional eyes out there, in terms of being able to report any potential trouble they see as they drive through. So I think we have found the right balance in terms of Prospect Park, but your real interest is Prospect Park West, which is why I think you’re here today.

AB: Well, it’s definitely what piqued my interest in this subject, let me ask you one more thing, before I asked you about that. I think the last time we discussed these issues, I was hosting The Brian Lehrer show, and you were on, and Tom Suozzi was on and Kate Slevin was on and Rosie Perez called in. Do you remember that? And it was about the bridge tolls, and whether there should be bridge tolls. And you thought as borough president of Brooklyn that you were really representing your constituency by opposing that. And I’m wondering, given now how very severely Brooklynites are going to be affected by this new round of MTA cuts, whether you feel like that was the right thing.

MM: Not only was it the right thing then, it’s the right thing now. It’s an onerous tax that would be placed on the backs of Brooklynites that need to use the East River bridges for their livelihood and for many other reasons. It is a discriminatory tax if they ever impose tolls on our bridges and I think it’s a baloney argument because when times were even better they wanted to impose tolls and now they’re using the economic situation.

So I’ll continue to oppose it as will the borough presidents of Queens, and Staten Island, perhaps the Bronx -– Manhattan, I know it doesn’t mean anything to Scott Stringer, it means nothing to him, but for the rest of us, we understand our constituents, and we understand this will be an additional burden and an additional cost. We have come up, Andrea, I’m responsible, I have come up with suggestions or recommendations that I believe would meet the needs, of the funding needs of the MTA.

Scott Stringer’s idea, you’re a policy wonk, and I respect him enormously. He went on Channel 5 last week, and he had a great idea, they put him on Channel 5 and what was his idea? Let’s restore the commuter tax. Well thank you! Thank you to everyone who believes that, so do I. But the truth of the matters is that the state legislature for years has not moved on it, and it doesn’t appear likely that they will, unfortunately. So therefore we have to come up with other ways of funding mass transit and there are ways. And we’ve recommended them and I think those are more serious ways and rational ways.

I for one, as a motorist, as well, ask for an increase in the automobile tax on the gasoline tax. A dedicated percentage of that money only for mass transit, in the total counties of the MTA service district. And I think that way –- that way it’s fair and balanced for those of us that use automobiles I believe that we have a responsibility to make sure that our mass transit system is working effectively and for everyone. Because -– God forbid -– we all know the mass transit system is the lifeblood of the economy of New York City.

AB: Why is a gas tax preferable to you than a bridge toll?

MM: Because it’s shared. Whereas the toll bridges is directed to Brooklyn. Those of those crossings are Brooklyn. So therefore we get it more than anybody else. But if you have a modest gasoline tax increase dedicated only to mass transit we share that burden in all of the counties that make up the MTA district. That to me is a regional approach, and a proper approach. Also, we’ve asked for a car surcharge, that only New York City pays now, to extend that to all the counties of the MTA.

We supported Comptroller Billy Thompson’s idea about weight, in other words, skewing the license fees, heavier vehicles, bigger vehicles, you pay more than energy efficient hybrids, as an example. I think that’s fair, and that’s a no-brainer to me. The idea you heard recently about cracking down on fare-beaters is a good one.

The city has come up with an idea now, they’re going to have this mass transit bus system, on certain streets in New York, and they’re going to leave it as an honor system. Honor system. They’re going to let everybody board the bus, honor system. I don’t understand what -– you know what, I know that 99 percent of the people are honest, but there is a group of people that will beat the system even more then we’re getting beat today. So anyway, those are some of our ideas.

AB: That’s the Bus Rapid Transit system. Brooklyn’s going to get one. Do you support that one that Brooklyn’s getting?

MM: The commissioner has a right to try. I told her that I thought another street would be appropriate. I think she chose Nostrand Avenue. I think Nostrand Avenue is one of the most congested streets that we have and I thought that she should think about Rogers Avenue, which is one block away, where there’s less congestion, and I think it would have worked better and that’s what they decided to use on a trial basis. I’m not fighting it, I’m open to it, but I am just concerned that the system is set up in a way that it is easy for those that want to use the bus not to pay a thing and we lose even more money for the MTA.

AB: So let’s talk about Prospect Park West. This is something that the community board was in favor of --

MM: I think they made a mistake in their vote.

AB: -- And DOT. They have these statistics that seventy percent of people are speeding at some point. Fifteen percent of people are going over forty miles per hour. It’s a pretty fast road if you look at the through roads through Park Slope so they came up with this plan. Why do you think it’s such a bad idea?

MM: Unlike a lot of them, I lived there. Eight and half years. I don’t live there now, but I did. I know the traffic trends there. I heard the traffic, I saw the traffic. I looked out my window, I lived there. And for those that want to use bicycles, there is the use of the park for bicycles. If you want to go from Grand Army Plaza to Bartel-Pritchard Square, all you have to do is go into the park and use the drive.

AB: What if you want to go the other way?

MM: If you want to go the other way, I must tell you, the sidewalks are enormous. They are. Enormous. There is almost zero usage of pedestrians on Flatbush Avenue. Zero. There’s hardly any pedestrians that walk up and down Flatbush Avenue on the park, there’s no question about it. The sidewalks are wide enough for bicycle use and they pose no threat to the few people that walk up the street and I just believe we have the condition for those that want to use bicycles to be able to enjoy the park. When I walk around as I see many bicyclists use the park in the morning.

Let me just say, my opposition to Prospect Park West, I’m not the only one who’s voice is out there. None other than Iris Weinshall, who was the former DOT commissioner, right before Ms. Sadik-Khan, vehemently opposes the two-way bicycle lanes on Prospect Park West. And you should speak to her. It would be an interesting interview for you, because she believes as I believe, that it will cause a great inconvenience for the residents of Prospect Park West, the traffic jam-ups, will be in my opinion, horrendous, especially in the warmer months, starting in mid April and through September, mid to late September.

It will be acutely challenging on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during those warmer months and I must tell you I don’t live there any more. For me personally, it will not impact my life one bit. But I am concerned with the people that live in Park Slope. I am concerned for the people that live on Prospect Park West. I support efforts at traffic mitigation. I have fought hard to get traffic lights installed at various intersections on Prospect Park West to help slow the traffic down.

There have been very few accidents on Prospect Park West, you can call up the city of New York, the police department, very few.

AB: Fifty-seven, the DOT said.

MM: You know what I don’t know what is that one year or ten years, I don’t know what it is.

AB: 2005-2007

MM: Okay so that’s a two-year period of time, I’d have to look at those numbers myself, but considering the thousands of people that use that, and what type of accidents they’re talking about, and if you compare that to other areas of Brooklyn, where traffic numbers are similar, I don’t think you would find this to be inordinately high, at all.

I understand those that want to use bicycles, you know, and when Ninth Street bicycle lanes went on, I supported them, no problem, because I think it was the right place to put it and I support bicycle lanes, where appropriate, where it makes sense for the residents of the community and works for those that chose to be on their bicycles.

AB: On those summer events, there are that people who drive, but, there is huge pedestrian traffic, there is huge bicycle traffic. Is there an issue of the greater good here, who would benefit the most and looking from ten thousand feet up?

MM: I would challenge your assertion that there is huge bicycle use. I would challenge you on it. As someone who lived across the street from it I would challenge you. There is modest bicycle use. Modest. At best. But that’s not the point. There has to be a balance. And that’s why I supported Ninth Street. I think the two-way bicycle lanes will cause a great inconvenience to the residents of Prospect Park West and I don’t want to be blamed, because they’re going to move ahead with this as you know, I don’t want to be blamed, and that’s why I took this interview with you. I don’t want to be blamed. On the other hand, I hope that the commissioner and the department is right. If they’re right, and in fact it causes no bottlenecks, no inconvenience, and if it works, I’ll be the first to say I was wrong. I would.

AB: You don’t seem to much care for Janette Sadik-Khan. You’ve called her a zealot, why?

MM: She is a zealot. I can tell you this much -- I respect her professionalism. She personally is a very nice woman. I think she’s a professional -- I know she’s a professional. We just disagree in certain instances where I’m acutely aware that she wants to make it hard for those that choose to own their automobiles. She wants to make it difficult, their life difficult. I really believe that.
Bernstein: Why, why would she want to do that?

MM: Well, I think because she would like to see more people stop car usage and get on their bicycles. Or walk.

AB: Is that an unworthy goal?

MM: Within reason it is a worthy goal. If I personally walk more than I currently walk and use the bicycle more than I currently use it just for pleasure I probably would be in much better shape, for sure. However, I represent everyone. Not just a segment of the population. And I have to balance out those that feel that everyone should be on bicycles and those that feel that they need their automobile and that they shouldn’t be stigmatized. So it has to be a balance and as long as I’m Borough President – I can’t speak for the next one, but as long as I’m Borough President I’ll continue to advocate those things that I believe make it work for Brooklyn.

AB: You got a letter from a constituent – a note. It said: “All this bike-lane nonsense is really just a symptom of the real problem. The city’s becoming increasingly more and more tailored to these transplanted leisure class hipster-yuppie flakes in Park Slope and Williamsburg who don’t work real jobs, drive up the rents with their parents’ suburb-remittance money, and spend their days lolling around the city on bicycles and on foot without a care in the world. They demand the city be changed to conform to their leisure-class lifestyles. Meanwhile, for those of us who actually work real jobs and have to commute to pay our bills, often by car, these hare-brained bike lane ideas turn out to be nothing but hassles.” Does that represent a Brooklyn that you recognize?

MM: She’s entitled to her opinion. I don’t believe that at all. Because I consider myself, I mean I’m a little older, but I say thank god for those younger people that have made Brooklyn their home, they’ve re-energized our borough, they’ve started new industries here, the creative industry, arts, all of which defines Brooklyn today and I hope for all the years to come. I think they’ve added enormously to the quality of life in our borough, so I don’t agree with that.

She’s entitled--You should see -– if you think that’s bad maybe some future time I should show you the emails I got over Atlantic Yards. How you think that is -– I’ll show you ones that will have your ears red. I gotta tell you something, email is great, but it’s unbelievable what it brings out. She’s entitled to her opinion. I listen to opinions across the board from so many people in our borough. Maybe when I’m completed in this position I’ll write a book. I don’t know if anyone will buy it but even if I read it myself I’ll enjoy it.

What can I say? It doesn’t represent the Brooklyn that I know. The folks that she’s referring to are hard-working people and thank God they’ve made Brooklyn their home, that’s all I can say.

AB: Your press secretary has written he hates all bike lanes. That doesn’t represent your view?

MM: Who? What? Who?

AB: Mark Zustovich.

MM. He hates all bike, bicycles? Well, if he wrote that, he’s not speaking for this borough president. He has a right on his own to say or do anything he wishes, but I am sure he would not have said that speaking for me. Because I happen to believe bicycle lanes are a good thing, I have used bicycle lanes like I have said when I have those few days of leisure when I can get on a bicycle and I do own a bicycle I feel there are a good thing to have, where appropriate.

AB: Do you think there’s a culture clash going on here between old Brooklyn and new Brooklyn?

MM: I don’t know if there’s a culture clash. It’s not a culture clash. I mean, you’re looking at me, here’s a culture clash. Is it a culture clash to try and find a balance? Must I be either all for or all against? All I’m trying to do is find a balance. And I think most people feel the way I do. There are people that would like to see all of Brooklyn’s roads turned into bicycle roads and there are those that would like to ban bicycle lanes everywhere and I come down that we can co-exist. And I will continue my best to make sure that co-existence exists, because I’m in favor of that, but where I think it’s inappropriate my job is to speak out.

Now, I can’t stop this plan. They’re moving ahead with it, they’re moving ahead. And I’m only hoping that I’m wrong. But just in case I’m right, I want the folks on Prospect Park West and immediate area to know that this was not something I supported.

AB: Do you think it’s ever a good idea to give up a parking spot for a bicyclist or a pedestrian area?

MM: I’d have to look at the area that we’re talking about, but I don’t think we should be involved in taking away parking spaces. You know the amazing thing is that the neighborhoods that are toughest to park in, happen to be areas like Park Slope. In Brooklyn. Some of the toughest neighborhoods to park in, so here we’re talking about a beautiful community that I was pleased to live in for about ten, eleven years, and I would say finding parking is an excruciating experience. Which means, someone owns those cars. I got a hunch it’s the folks living in Park Slope. I know that everybody wants their cake and eat it too. I understand that. That’s why I think you get a lot of bad reaction if you attempt to take away parking from residents of Park Slope. I don’t want to see that happen. They enjoy their cars and guess what, they should. They should. We should be making New York as resident-friendly as we can. Because a lot of those people in Park Slope could live anywhere in America, and at a certain point, when their life becomes too inconvenienced, the way they vote is with their feet, and I don’t want them to leave, ever.

AB: Thank you, Marty. Anything else you want to add? Thanks a lot.

Update: Markowitz sends in this clarification of his position about bike riding and sidewalks.

Like our DOT Commissioner, whose professionalism I respect, I too support cycling in this city and have not only supported bike lanes like the ones on 9th Street in Park Slope and Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, but have also been a major proponent of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a 14-mile on-and-off street bike lane that connects Greenpoint to Sunset Park. Without my office’s support and advocacy the Greenway would not be happening. What I am opposed to is bike lanes on Prospect Park West, which will both take away needed parking for residents and park-goers and interrupt access of pedestrians to the park during peak usage in summer and on weekends. There are better options to explore that would meet everyone’s needs—such as adding traffic lights to calm traffic, and adding another bike lane to the park itself. By the way, as borough president I advocate for bikers, and also for those who do not live near public transportation, those who cannot bike for various reasons, and yes, those families and residents who chose to own a car in this borough.

Also, to clear up an apparently ambiguous statement from my original WNYC interview, I in no way advocate for cyclists to break the law and ride illegally on the city's sidewalks. My comment about utilizing excess sidewalk space on Prospect Park West and Flatbush Avenue off Prospect Park stems from the fact that, given low usage and wide widths, these sidewalks can potentially safely accommodate the creation of new off street bike lanes. I think that such a proposal should be explored since it would avoid removing a lane from Prospect Park West."

— Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz


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Comments [59]

Prospect Park West Bike Lane Underway (and Why the

[...] June 3, 2010 by brooklynbrood Hooray! They are finally building the bike lane on Prospect Park West.  I’m not sure why  something that will make streets safer, and reduce pollution is controversial, but apparently the Brooklyn Paper and Marty Markowitz are doing their best to make it appear controversial. [...]

Jun. 03 2010 06:04 PM
Transportation Nation - Painting Gets Underway on

[...] it will be a month until work is complete.  Here are some photo’s from this morning. (And here’s the Marty Markowitz interview from earlier this spring.) Cars were moved away from the lane next to the curb -- where the bike [...]

Jun. 03 2010 01:47 PM
WNYC - WNYC News Blog » Brownstoner: PPW Bik

[...] Brownstoner Blog has photos of striping beginning for the Prospect Park bike lane. You may remember we covered this controversy back in April. Live near PPW? We’d like your photos….send them to [...]

Jun. 02 2010 11:38 AM
Transportation Nation - LaHood: Bring on the Bike

[...] When he was appointed US DOT Commissioner, Ray LaHood was a bit of a cipher outside of Washington.  What was known:  he was a Republican Congressman from rural Illinois, a friend of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel,  and a recreational biker.   So it’s been a bit of a surprise to some — even in the President’s circle of advisers — that LaHood has become such an advocate of sustainable development, biking, and transit.   His blog entry for today argues that bike infrastructure is a good thing, even for the ninety percent of Americans who don’t regularly bike.    Maybe he should debate this with Marty Markowitz? [...]

Apr. 26 2010 04:46 PM
Men Like It Here, and So Do Young Optimists - City

[...] an open letter to Marty Markowitz, the borough president, on Sheepshead Bites that builds off his strongly worded remarks last week about the Department of Transportation chief, suggests that the general direction of [...]

Apr. 20 2010 01:22 PM
J. Mork

"Highway agencies increasingly are embracing high-speed "open-road tolling" in which drivers don't have to slow down or stop at a tollbooth or gates, and often no cash is involved. Instead, overhead antennae "read" windshield-mounted transponders in the cars beneath and charge drivers' pre-paid accounts. Overhead cameras capture license plates, and drivers without transponders get a bill in the mail."

I'm a Brooklynite and I pay a (about to rise again) subway fare to get to work. The discrimination here seems to be against transit riders so that drivers can drive for free into one of the most congested areas in the world.

Apr. 19 2010 09:26 AM

Enforcement the laws on motorists and cyclists.

No double parking.

Got it motorists!?

No riding on the sidewalk or the wrong way.

Got it cyclists!?

A bicyclist should bike like they are a a motorcyle or a car.

Stay in the middle of a lane for visibility.

Keep distance and don't weave into and out of traffic.

Drivers needs to not act as though cyclist don't exist.

And please don't honk because you can't drive 100mph to a red light.

I have an air horn for your jerks.

But really it can startle cyclists.

Don't tailgate us either.

Go around us or learn to be patient.

Cyclists get a good horn while also respect pedestrians. The horn is for a those smart phone and ipod addicts who are determined to cross when they should not.

And for your own sake wear a helmet.

Even if you are a super rider, who rides safely you will lost to an suv driver on their cell.

It is simple physics!

Driver don't text or talk on your cell.
It makes you a worse driver even more than if you were drinking as far as the delays in your reactions and your ability to focus.

Lastly Marty get on a bike. You need to.

Apr. 17 2010 05:51 PM

Thank you Marty Markowitz. Finally there is someone who understands the effect a bridge toll would have on Brooklyn residents. In addition to the discriminatory tax burden it would only serve to increase congestion thereby increasing pollution from the idling cars. Bravo!! Keep up the good work!

Apr. 15 2010 02:35 PM

Cars have many ways around the park - just look at a map. They never need to use the park, ever.

Apr. 15 2010 11:49 AM
John Petro: The Bike Lane Wars

[...] an interview with WNYC on Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz explained his opposition to a new bike lane [...]

Apr. 14 2010 09:41 PM
John Petro: The Bike Lane Wars | FuN LivINg Lifest

[...] an interview with WNYC on Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz explained his opposition to a new bike lane [...]

Apr. 14 2010 09:18 PM
Rich from Ohio

Yes, Joe Brooklyn, you are right. And this is coming from a biker artist from Ohio. A lot of Brooklyn bikers come from outside NYC (almost half of all New Yorkers). I have great respect for bikes and bikers, but we should respect drivers as much as other bikers. At the same time, I urge more New York natives to bike, and stop bitching about bikers and (people from Ohio).

Apr. 14 2010 08:46 PM
John Petro: The Bike Lane Wars « Read NEWS

[...] an interview with WNYC on Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz explained his opposition to a new bike lane [...]

Apr. 14 2010 08:37 PM
John Petro: The Bike Lane Wars | Best Breaking New

[...] an interview with WNYC on Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz explained his opposition to a new bike lane [...]

Apr. 14 2010 07:50 PM
John Petro: The Bike Lane Wars | Blog All Over The

[...] an interview with WNYC on Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz explained his opposition to a new bike lane [...]

Apr. 14 2010 06:45 PM
J. Mork

"'The drivers follow rules,'
Both he and she aver,
'So nobody is scared
A car’ll hit him or her.'"

Really? It's a curious planet you live on, Mr. Freilich. I have hardly ever seen a car operate without violating the law. Usually it's the speed limit or yield-to-peds-in-the-crosswalk.

Apr. 14 2010 03:55 PM
Streetsblog New York City » Shocking Video:

[...] who showed up last night was a Park Slope resident. Some of the bikeway supporters hailed from the "Marty Markowitz side of the park" in central Brooklyn. The older gentleman who appears halfway through the video, who gave his name [...]

Apr. 13 2010 04:38 PM
WNYC - WNYC News Blog » Sadik-Khan weighs in

[...] to respond to Marty Markowitz’s comment that she’s a ‘zealot,’ before our story aired, her spokesman merely reiterated her commitment to safety on Prospect Park West. But today, [...]

Apr. 13 2010 03:19 PM
Transportation Nation - Brooklyn Borough President

[...] Bernstein, WNYC, April 13) Lot’s of response to the interview which aired on WNYC with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, on his opposition to a bike [...]

Apr. 13 2010 03:07 PM
WNYC - WNYC News Blog » Markowitz Clarifies

[...] of ripples from our Marty Markowitz interview yesterday. Commenters to our original post alternately cheer the BP’s stance and mock his recommendation to ride on the sidewalks. [...]

Apr. 13 2010 02:52 PM
Flowers, Bikes and Other Signs of Spring - City Ro

[...] Janette Sadik-Khan. The borough president described the transportation commissioner as a “zealot” on WNYC on Monday in response to questions about a new two-way protected bike lane on [...]

Apr. 13 2010 02:15 PM
Leon Freilich


The motorist and the cyclist

Are in a noisy fray

Now that a double bike lane

Is sought for the parkside way.

"They'll eat up parking spots,"

The first group is complaining,

"And already far too few

Are obviously remaining."

"They don't get it at all,"

Rejoins the second pack:

"The city needs to encourage

An anti-auto tack."

The lowly pedestrian

Is shut out from the talks

As if nobody cares

About the guy who walks.

"The drivers follow rules,"

Both he and she aver,

"So nobody is scared

A car'll hit him or her.

"But cyclists take the position

The street belongs to them,

So spurring two-way riding

Will add to walker mayhem."

What chance has the walking stiff

Against the forces of green

In moving about the world

Without some kind of machine?

Apr. 13 2010 01:28 PM

I'm not sure why owning a car means one is necessarily hypocritical for also wanting more room for other transportation modes. Where is the logic here? It's Marty's kind of absolute thinking that gets us nowhere in terms of improving the environment and our community.

Apr. 13 2010 12:48 PM
Chris Mcnally

Marty and Adele Cohen, There is a garage on 11th st and one on 12th st, between PPW and 8th ave and they have monthly parking. Stop driving around the block over and over. and quit whining that the city is not providing you free parking outside your door on the public street.

It's one damn lane on the short super highway called PPW. It really should be cut down to one line. If ever a street were in need of traffic calming, it's PPW.

Apr. 12 2010 04:18 PM
Streetsblog New York City » Memo to Marty: Let’s G

[...] Andrea Bernstein interview with Marty Markowitz (transcript here) is a must-read if you want to get inside the head of the Brooklyn Beep and see the borough through [...]

Apr. 12 2010 04:06 PM
chris c.

Dear Mr. Borough President,

I was shocked that you recommended cyclists ride on the sidewalk during your interview with WNYC. Riding on the sidewalk is illegal and you should know that.

I also understand you do have to balance all the borough's needs, and there are many who own and use cars in the borough of Brooklyn-- myself being one of them. However, safety should also be a concern of yours, and you claim that on Prospect Park West you, Marty Markowitz, do not see cyclists riding on that thoroughfare. No one in their right mind would ride on PPW with how fast (illegally fast, that is) motorists race down that street. If there were safer routes for cyclists, I posit that you would see many more of them on PPW. PPW is just not safe for a cyclist, but it is legal for one to ride on it. Please think of how you can balance the needs of motorists with the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. People are getting tired of speeding cars and unsafe streets.

Apr. 12 2010 02:06 PM
Larry Littlefield

I would use the proposed bike lane three or four days a week to commute to work. In the evening, I take the park home, but that doesn't work northbound.

Going all the way around the park and up that hill would be a burden -- I have a nine mile ride as it is, and I'm 48 not a "young hipster." And 8th Avenue is unsafe. My children were afraid to ride on it, and it narrows at the top.

At one time, there was a two-track trolley line in a private right of way along the park, and only two lanes for motor vehicles. We're asking for one lane back. After all, there are only two northbound on 8th Avenue.

They trolley was replaced with a bus, that ran on two different avenues. The bus gradually became so infrequent that it because useless. Not it will be eliminated. There is plenty of room for additional parking in the former bus stops.

As the transit system re-collapses due to all the debts, advanced revenues, and deferred costs of the past 16 years, people had better be able to ride bicycles safely.

Apr. 12 2010 01:40 PM

In the clip I heard this morning, Mr. Markowitz stated that not very many people used their bikes to get to the Celebrate Brooklyn events. I could not believe what I was hearing! I went to one of the events last year (full confession: I am a Manhattan resident, though I do work in Brooklyn) and as I got out of the subway at 7th Avenue and 9th Street I remember being astounded at the number of bikes parked absolutely everywhere, locked to just anything that wasn't moving. At the time, I thought to myself that I was witnessing a revolution in transportation usage. BTW - I have been a Manhattan resident for 33 years and have always biked: sometimes recreationally, sometimes to commute, and sometimes for errands, and I currently commute by bike a few times a week from the East Village to Brooklyn Heights. The recent proliferation of bike lanes is one of the best things to have happened to the City in my time here, including the lanes in Brooklyn which I have used extensively (Bedford Ave to Sheepshead Bay, all through Greenpoint and W'burg, Downtown to W'burg, South Brooklyn, etc.). While I don't have a say in the matter, if this attitude of Mr. Markowitz is indicative of how out-of-touch with the needs in his borough he is, then the residents of Brooklyn should vote him out.

Apr. 12 2010 12:33 PM

Markowitz is the textbook example of a car-centric politico who is mired in outmoded thinking. A city is a limited resource that has to be shared. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders share that resource far better than do cars drivers.

Apr. 12 2010 12:07 PM
Transportation Nation - The Bike Lanes Wars, in Br

[...] can be used to drive people out of their cars and onto bikes, transit, or into carpools. But as Andrea Bernstein’s interview with Borough President Markowitz shows, sparks fly when social goals rub motorists the wrong [...]

Apr. 12 2010 11:57 AM

From the interview ----

AB: What if you want to go the other way?

MM: If you want to go the other way, I must tell you, the sidewalks are enormous. They are. Enormous.


Marty, shame on you. Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is illegal, and you know that. That's not a solution to the problem.

Apr. 12 2010 11:54 AM

Joe Brooklyn: Bicyclists ride in the vehicle lanes because they have just as much legal right to as you. If you don't like it, I guess it's because you think you're better than them.

I work full time in Park Slope, and driving these streets is the main component of my work. The particular stretch of road spoken of is light in traffic at most times of day. And at all times the average speed is definitely above the limit. I have a hard time controlling my own driving speed due to the wide road, limited vehicles, and downhill grade. For safety reasons I don't understand how adding a bike lane and controlling traffic speed is negative in any way. And since vehicles are allowed in the park already, how is this stigmatizing drivers by allowing cyclists another SMALL share of safe roadway that has plenty of room to share? It isn't stigmatizing anyone. Measures to improve biking accessibility and safety make sense for this entire city.

And sidewalks as an alternative for cyclists?? Come on, that's about as unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists as anything you can come up with. Even if it's a huge sidewalk. Roadspace for vehicles (cars, motorcycles, bicycles) is the only safe place for them.

Apr. 12 2010 11:44 AM

I live in Park Slope and use ALL MY VEHICLES. I take the subway to commute but own a car and also ride my bike for short errands.

I'm in agreement with most on this page except for "Joe Brooklyn," who should perhaps see a shrink. I'm a native New Yorker, born and raised, never been to Ohio, but ride a bike cause it's fun and good exercise.

I also drive for bigger shopping trips (Costco, Ikea) and trips to other boroughs or out of town. PPW and 8th Ave. are important arteries and are the only fast-moving places to drive. But that doesn't mean their lanes are more important for cars than for bikes. It is dangerous for bikes on PPW (cause the cars treat it as a speedway, myself included) and the sidewalks aren't great -- PPW is used more than Marty says, and Flatbush next to the park is indeed underused and available but the pavement is cracked and not really safe.

I think we can all co-exist just fine.


Apr. 12 2010 11:44 AM
April from Brooklyn

I live in Bedford Stuyvesant and my children go to school in Park Slope. I travel on PPW almost seven days a week. I am not a against bike lanes however It is unfair for people who live in Manhattan especially to assume that it is unnecessary to have a car in NYC. Brooklyn's transportation system is not the best. In order to get from Bed Stuy to Parkslope by train I'd have to take at least two trains and ditto for buses. When you have children and need to get them to various activities across brooklyn you can not put them on a bike and get them to where you need to go.

Moreover, I drive on many streets with Bike lanes and bicyclists do not always ride in the lanes or obey the traffic laws. Many bicyclists are more of a hazzard to pedestrians than cars.

Apr. 12 2010 11:43 AM
Joseph Horne

Prospect Park West, until about 1950, had Trolleys running both ways on the two lanes closest to the Park. So, there is a certain symmetry to this proposal.

Apr. 12 2010 11:42 AM

joe brooklyn sez "get off my lawn!".

what a bunch of pseudo-nativist nonsense. i know plenty of brooklyn natives who own in park slope who cycle to white collar jobs in manhattan.

welcome to the 21st century, joe. the rest of the borough/city shouldn't pay for your free parking privileges. you want that? move to the suburbs.

Apr. 12 2010 11:41 AM
Carol Danilowicz

There seems to be an assumption that no one in NYC ever has to carry anything, that we're all, constantly empty-handed. We don't need to carry heavy bags w/ whatever we need for the day, we don't need to shop for heavy items or we don't have young children who often require lots of "stuff" that can't easily be carried (not to mention people who have physical disabilities that make the subway difficult) - it's great to have access to public transit and cycling lanes. I'm all for it. But sometimes people need to be able to use a car. There is a fine line between being environmentally responsible and being judgmental - the "bike or public transit only" folks are crossing that line.

Apr. 12 2010 11:35 AM

I live in Gowanus, the bottom of the slope. Bicycling is my main means of transport, then walking, then subway, then car. Yes, I do own a car which I use to leave the city and a infrequent full car to Williamsburg or Coney Island. I wish the city was car free, faster and more reliable mass transit was available and everyone had the ability to ride a bike and walk. Since this is not the case people should be aware of the risks to the planet that car use entails, be that environmental, social and physical, and act accordingly.

Apr. 12 2010 11:32 AM

I don't see the big deal here. There are several thoroughfares to take cars South on that side of the park (4,5,6, and 7th Avenues). What's one lane of traffic over a ten block stretch?

Apr. 12 2010 11:29 AM

I have lived for over 20 years in NYC as both a bike rider and car driver. The recent move to improve cycling in NYC has not only improved the quality of life for cyclists but also those of drivers. Look at the improvements in on the west side highway, in downtown Manhattan. Its easier to park and drive in those improved areas.

Apr. 12 2010 11:28 AM

I was there yesterday and after running through the park, myself and my friend decided to go through the park to get to 12th street on our bikes because I find it so dangerous to ride on PPW; I've almost been hit several times.
The man who lives on PPW is not honest because the lanes may fill up widthways at each light but then there is always a
big gap when they've roared through the lights and you will see empty blocks.
They do not need three lanes.
Also, Marty, not everyone is trying to get from one end of the park (or of PPW)to the other. Why should cyclists have to find park entrances that are out of their way and waste time going into the park when they are just going from point A to B?

Apr. 12 2010 11:28 AM

I don't live in Park Slope now, though I used to. I'm in Lefferts Garden now. Parking would never be my main consideration for where I live. That is probably the stupidest comment I've ever heard. In the Slope there is usually only one day of alternate side parking. Where I live now it is two days, so I have to move the car more. But its cheaper, that's why I moved. That is why most of people live where they live. Price and amenities those are the drivers for housing choice.

Apr. 12 2010 11:28 AM

Last I checked, bike riding is illegal on NYC sidewalks. What's up with this elephant in the room?

Apr. 12 2010 11:27 AM

My wife and I just moved out of Park Slope to Burlington VT. I was always afraid to bike in Brooklyn and one of the big draws for us to move to Burlington is that it was a very bike friendly city.

Apr. 12 2010 11:26 AM
Magnus Westergren

I never knew political leaders in NYC in this day and age were as myopic and reactionary as Mr Markowitz. Is he confused, bicycling on the sidewalk is illegal, and for a good reason, bikes travel at very high speeds and are very dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists alike. Cars SHOULD be stigmatized, they pollute and take up an incredible amount of space, bicycles do not. Bicycles are silent, and healthy for users thus the effort ought to be to make bicycling more and more convenient.

(and if we want them to replace the car as a commuter vehicle speed matters) whereas pedestrians are very slow.

Apr. 12 2010 11:24 AM

I think that the idea is a great idea! I live in the area bike almost everyday that area. Bike lanes in general are not respected by cars and are very dangerous. In many large cities in Europe there are dedicated lanes for bicycles on the sidewalks... there are many wide sidewalks in this city that would be ideal for this. Cars would not be so squeezed and more people would bike if it was safer.

Apr. 12 2010 11:20 AM

First, Joe Brooklyn needs to understand that bicycles are SUPPOSED to use car lanes.

Second, saying that people who ride bikes are snobby hipster artists who come from Ohio is, honestly, a rather dumb argument for not having bike lanes. What about the people from Ohio who have cars? Do they drive in a snobby fashion too? (for full disclosure, I am from Queens and now live in Prospect Heights-- we view people from Park Slope, like Joe, as snobs).

Finally, there are not nearly enough cars on Prospect Park West to justify three lanes of traffic. If they can close lanes to cars in Manhattan without problems they certainly can do so on Prospect Park West.

Apr. 12 2010 11:19 AM

Riding a bike along PPW in the street is unnerving and probably dangerous. The sidewalk along there is dense with people, you can't have a bike lane on the sidewalk there. Build the bike lane and the moving cars will adjust. As for parking, there should be more off-street parking (garages).

Apr. 12 2010 11:19 AM

As a commuter who goes almost exclusively by MTA and on foot, I do NOT want to see any more bike-friendly areas until bike RIDERS take their status as a moving vehicle seriously. I am tired of dodging bikes on the side walks (and this includes parents training their kids how to ride, and food-delivery runners), biking riding against traffic and bikes disregarding traffic control such as red lights and stop signs.

Bikes should regulated more forcefully including issuance of riding licenses and revoking the right to ride for repeated offenses.

Apr. 12 2010 11:19 AM

Car owners needn't be 'stigmatized,' but car ownership should reflect its REAL COST. As traffic increases, quality of life decreases. And the restrictions on side riding should be uniform--no bikes on sidewalks (I'm an avid cyclist.)

Apr. 12 2010 11:18 AM

markowitz has again jumped the shark. he helped usher in the unnecessary interruption of a bike lane in williamsburg, and now it seems he's playing to car owners over those of pedestrians and cyclists. that he hasn't ushered better management of cyclists and pedestrians against car drivers in prospect park shows his bias, and everyone suffers.

public transportation is failing people all over the city, particularly brooklyn. with MTA scheduled rate increases promised, people need alternatives. cars are not an alternative. brooklyn has an issue, in that it has more cars than any other borough. that's simply not sustainable.

to suggest that cyclists ride sidewalks is insane and illegal. nothing new from sell out to deep-pocketed developers and car owners, marty markowitz.

having a car is not a right--it's a privilege, and we only have so much capacity. to grant cyclists no lanes, versus three for cars is ridiculous. get over yourselves, car owners.

Apr. 12 2010 11:16 AM

Marty is right that there are few pedestrians on Flatbush along the park. Having said that I saw a cop ticket someone for riding on the sidewalk. In addition, whenever I drive down PPW I drive like a demon just to keep up. Having said that, Sasdik-Kahn is the best thing that has happened to this City in years. You need someone pushing this, otherwise we sit in complacency.

Apr. 12 2010 11:16 AM

These bike lanes need to be balanced because in fact very few people use them. My observation is .2 % of the population use bicycles. Really it’s a joke in fact.
I agree that the current administration is acting the wishes of the vast majority of residences of this city.

Apr. 12 2010 11:12 AM
Adele Cohen

I don't always agree with Marty Markowitz, but he is right on the mark here.

This parking and bike lane issue does not only affect Park Slope. I represented the 46th Assembly District for 9 years. In that period no one ever complained about not being able to ride a bike, but we received multiple complaints about parking and parking tickets.

Some of these bike lanes here is Southern Brooklyn are in totally absurd places such as the one on Cropsey Avenue that directly affects the operation of the car repair businesses there.

I firmly believe that the Mayor's poor showing in the recent election was among other reasons a result of the City's punitive attitude toward the driver's of motor vehicles.

I, who have great emotional ties to this neighborhood and City am threatening to move should I get one more parking ticket or spend another long evening driving around looking for parking.

Adele Cohen, former Assemblywoman

Apr. 12 2010 11:09 AM
Binky of Brooklyn

Marty says he represents the entire borough but he specifically mentions the negative effect (his opinion) on Windsor Terrace, the area where he is now a 1st time home owner! I bet if someone were to plan to build an Atlantic Yards type project at that side of the park he'd be the 1st to try to stop it! I think it's time for MM to find a new gig -- we need some fresh blood in that office. Are there term limits for borough pres??

Apr. 12 2010 10:16 AM
J. Mork

The main problem with cars in Brooklyn is that there isn't enough room for everyone to have one.

If you give away the space to use and store them for free, of course there will be too many and the car-owning minority will suffer because of it, as does the car-free majority.

So while the Borough President builds his straw men of those who would "rid the world of automobiles," others like me just want to truly return the balance that Mr. Markowitz seeks by stopping the over-accommodation of cars, perhaps by charging for their use commensurately with the benefits they confer to their owners.

Apr. 12 2010 10:05 AM
Joe Brooklyn

The problem with all the bicyclists in Park Slope is not giving them lanes, but their snobby attitude that they are better than car drivers for whatever reasons they think. They drive in the car lanes because they think that their form of transportation is superior. The other exasperating thing about the bicyclists is that they are not actual Brooklynites, but have come here from the midwest, mostly Ohio. As a person who was born, raised, and educated in Brooklyn, and now a resident of Park Slope, I find the attitudes of these new residents offensive. They have a superior air and profess to be true Brooklynites because Brooklyn is now the hip place to live and, above all, these people strive to be hip. They adopt an attitude and affect that they are superior because they are artists and not working Joes (like native Brookynites), they are environmentalists, and they eat only organic food. I'm all for treating the environment with respect and eating healthy, but can't they just do it quietly -- go about their lives without acting superior to anyone who doesn't live like them. Their snobby attitude reflects itself in their bicycle riding and they lack respect for native Brooklynites possibly because, being traditional working people, they are not hipsters. As a native Brooklynite, I feel as though my borough has been invaded by smugness.

Apr. 12 2010 09:10 AM
Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines

[...] Markowitz on PPW Bike Lane: Parking Must Be Preserved to Prevent Exodus From Brooklyn (WNYC) [...]

Apr. 12 2010 09:01 AM
Paul Anderson

Marty you need to hang up your six guns and go away! You obviously only support car owners and all the well heeled interests of that industry. Cycling has increased dramatically in NYC since the introduction of more bike friendly lanes and laws. According to the DOT cycling has increased 26% over past years figures.
You obviously only support the rich people able to afford the ownership of vehicles. Cars pollute the air, kill more people than bike travel or walking and suck resources out of budgets more than other means of transportation. This is New York City not some suburban or rural area where they unfortunately don't have the capability or the political will to provide cheaper and more efficient forms of transportation for residents. We don't need the volume of motorized traffic, especially in Prospect Park that we have now. You speak of the voters walking with their feet? We voters who want better access to safer means of passage for cyclists and pedestrians will also vote with our feet and pedals and boot you out of office at last.

Apr. 12 2010 08:51 AM

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