Citi Bike set to roll in May; Some say No to Petrosino site

BY ALAN KRAWITZ  |  First announced back in September 2011, Citi Bike, New York City’s first large-scale, bike-sharing system, is set to hit the streets next month. With 5,500 bikes and nearly 300 stations across parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, it will be North America’s largest bike-share program.

The program will provide anyone 16 years and older with access 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, to rental bikes with a variety of rental options from daily and weekly to yearly. Riders basically unlock a bike at one station, ride and then return the bike at any other station in the system.

To start, rates will run from $10 daily and $25 weekly to $95 for annual membership. The pricing is geared to keep most trips short, ranging from 30 to 45 minutes, with overtime fees for rides that exceed certain time limits. The idea is to keep many bikes available with little wait time at docks.

The program, marketed as a convenient and inexpensive solution for quick trips around the city, is being operated by NYC Bike Share, which has said it will eventually expand the program to more than 10,000 bikes at 600 stations around the city.

Further, the city says the program is not being funded by taxpayer money but rather via sponsorship agreements with both Citi Bank and MasterCard. The administration claims the entire program’s operations will be covered by the sponsorships and, once the system launches, revenue generated by users. The city also says it expects the program to turn a profit, which will be split between the city and NYC Bike Share.

NYC Bike Share is a subsidiary of Alta Bicycle Share, which operates successful bike-share programs internationally, as well as in Washington, D.C., Boston, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, among others.

The city’s Department of Transportation says it conducted an extensive public input process within the past year, including community planning workshops and hundreds of meetings with business leaders and residents on the siting of neighborhood bike docks. But not everyone is in agreement on placement of the docking stations.

Georgette Fleischer, founder of Friends of Petrosino Square, is leading the opposition to a proposed 43-dock bike-share station that would take up a “No Parking Anytime” lane on Cleveland Place, just north of Kenmare St.

Fleischer, in an e-mail, said that the Petrosino Square location, at the intersection of Spring, Kenmare and Lafayette Sts., is one of four locations that Community Board 2 and local elected officials identified in resolutions and letters to D.O.T. this past year as being the most dangerous.

“The community, Fire Department, and local business owners have all pleaded with D.O.T. to re-site the bike-share station,” Fleischer said. “There have been dozens of appearances in protest at C.B. 2’s full board on March 21, e-mailed letters, and calls to C.B. 2 and elected officials, including Margaret Chin’s office, Senator Squadron’s office and Borough President Stringer’s office.”

Fleischer also noted several recent traffic fatalities half a mile to the east and west. Those fatalities included Dashane Santana, who was struck by an SUV on Jan. 13, 2012, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, as well as Jessica Dworkin, who was riding a kick scooter when she was killed by a truck on Aug. 27, 2012, on Sixth Ave. at Houston St.

“We have suggested that D.O.T. instead place the station in the current parking spots on the east side of Lafayette just north of Spring St.,” she said, adding that the street is wider there.

She also said that site “would not interfere with local business deliveries, an N.Y.U. bus stop or wheelchair access, and it would be only steps from the original D.O.T. siting in our art installation space in the north triangle of Petrosino Park.”

Calls to D.O.T. seeking comment on the Petrosino Square dock were not returned by press time.

But Caroline Samponaro, a senior director for Transportation Alternatives, said that recent press reports have mischaracterized the Petrosino Square issue.

“Regarding the Petrosino Square question, you can see that it’s not in Petrosino Square. It’s across the street,” Samponaro said. “That’s a great location for a station and it grew from input from residents and businesses.”

She added that her experience has been that demand for stations far exceeds any concerns.

“Poll data of public opinion and the fact that every community board supports the plan confirms majority support,” Samponaro said.

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, admitted that some in the community refer to him as a “NIMBY” (not in my backyard). But, he said, he is not opposed to the idea of the bike-share but has issues with some of the proposed locations and, in particular, with Petrosino Square.

Sweeney called Cleveland Place the “bottleneck for northbound traffic coming off the Brooklyn Bridge and also for northbound traffic off the Williamsburg Bridge.”

He added that even D.O.T. has acknowledged how busy the area is since there are “No Parking Anytime” signs there.

“If you can’t park a car there due to the restrictions, how are you going to put a bike dock there?” Sweeney asked. “D.O.T. is thumbing their nose at the community.”

Sweeney explained that moving the dock up a few feet would be much better. He said the agency only listens to the “spandex Nazis,” and is being led around by bicycle activists.

However, Ian Dutton, a former C.B. 2 member and Soho resident who now lives in Brooklyn, supports the Petrosino dock site.

“Some concerns were that the bike dock, which has a narrower footprint than a parked delivery truck, would be a traffic obstruction, slowing vehicles and making fire access challenging,” Dutton noted.

But he asserted of the plan’s opponents, “There is little logic in their arguments. The reality is that no one will notice a difference compared to the current situation with cars and trucks parked right where the bike rack will soon bloom.”

David Gruber, C.B. 2 chairperson, admitted there are issues with some of the locations.

“We want D.O.T. to recognize problems with certain streets and pedestrian safety,” he said. “We want D.O.T. to recognize those concerns and make minor adjustments as to placements of some of the docks.”

Gruber called placement of a dock on Cleveland Place “troublesome to many people.” But, he said, “It should be a simple matter to relocate that dock nearby but also in a more appropriate location.”

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23 Responses to Citi Bike set to roll in May; Some say No to Petrosino site

  1. lets put one right in the middle of the FDR drive.

    • Let's put one right in the middle of the street in front of Bloomie's house on the Upper East Side or DOT Czarina Sadik-Khan's home in Greenwich Village.

      Oh, wait. These two – literal – limousine liberals, chauffeured around in town cars paid by us taxpayers – would never think of putting this corporate eyesore in front of their homes! No way!

      These two phonies are the real NIMBYS: Do as I say, not as I do!

      • Street Walker 2

        Sean, you know as well as anyone that the first phase of the system isn't going above 59th St, so "Bloomie's house" wouldn't be getting one anyway.

        Maybe instead of always saying what you are against you should start saying what you are for. Other than the status quo, that is.

      • Street Walker 2

        Czarina? If you have a problem with this why resort to insults? And you wonder why DOT isn't exactly running to return your calls? Civility would be a far better approach

  2. There is nothing wrong with moving this dock station to Lafayette Street just north of Spring. It would be much better if it was located there.

    • Street Walker 2

      That is, by definition, NIMBYism. You don't want it near your home, so put it near someone else's!

      • You are making false assumptions. Actually, Tim lives near both locations but is on top of neither. His comments makes sense. What's not to like about moving a dock to a location just one block away that is wider, not congested, safer and closer to the subway? Wouldn't users of the dock would be grateful they don't have to keep looking out for turning vehicles or to stand in the middle of a traffic bottleneck.

        StreetWalker 2, if you are really Ian Dutton, ask yourself if your vendetta with the head of the SoHo Alliance is getting in your way of seeing the common sense of this proposed transfer.

  3. If this article is typical of what is now to come from the Villager's new owners, I am out of here. It is BIASED reporting, from my point of view, and I DARE you to leave my comment whole, and not to "moderate" it, whatever that means.

  4. i'm all in favor of the bikes but this is a terrible location for them.

  5. Georgette Fleischer

    Thanks to the Villager for covering an issue of serious concern, to Sean Sweeney for speaking up for his neighbors around Petrosino Square, and to CB2 Chair David Gruber for supporting the community’s request for a slight adjustment to the siting of the Petrosino bike dock in the interests of public safety.

    A couple of correctives:

    The current siting on Cleveland Place north of Kenmare Street is indeed on Petrosino Square, which refers to the entire triangle around Petrosino Park, so Transportation Alternatives Director Caroline Samponaro’s remarks suggest she may be unfamiliar with the area. Regarding input from residents and businesses, I personally attended DOT’s Community Planning Workshop at CB2 on February 6, 2012, along with a local business owner. We both requested that the siting for Petrosino Square be moved to a safer nearby location. DOT ignored our request. While it is true that CB2 voted in favor of the Citi Bike program, it did not vote in favor of this particular location. Since the community and FDNY have raised the alarm over the danger of this particular siting, members of CB2 and our local electeds have asked DOT to consider our proposed slight adjustment. To date, DOT has not responded to our appeals.

    It was Ian Dutton who approached Friends of Petrosino Square during the expansion and renovation of the park to request bike parking, which we welcomed with open arms: we have spaces for 16 bicycles on the east side of Petrosino Park, and more bicycle parking right around the corner on Kenmare. Now that Dutton lives in Brooklyn, he may have lost touch with the extreme traffic conditions where we live, which have deteriorated appreciably even over the past couple of years, particularly from enormous trucks, some longer than the entire block of Kenmare between Cleveland Place and Lafayette, which obstruct the flow of traffic on their pass-through routes to the Williamsburg Bridge or Holland Tunnel. Dutton casts aspersions at the “logic” of those of us who live here, while himself consulting a crystal ball in order to claim that “no one will notice a difference” with the addition not only of 43 bike docks in a No Parking Anytime lane but also 43 bikes pulling in and out of traffic already in acute crisis.

    Could we ask the Villager to continue its calls to DOT for comment on the Petrosino bike dock, and in particular our request that a slight adjustment be made to the location?

    Georgette Fleischer
    Founder, Friends of Petrosino Square

  6. Jonathan Ellis

    Bikes are the future of NYC but the proposed bike dock location will create a traffic nightmare. A high volume of traffic
    through what would be a narrow space is called what? …… Bottleneck, right?
    I second the idea of locating the dock on Lafayette just North of Spring.
    Jonathan Ellis

  7. I can't wait for this. I don't own a car and would love to use a bike like this!!!

  8. To: Timothy, Streetwalker, Georgette Fleischer:
    Please: Don't feed the troll.
    Streetwalker2 is a pitiable individual, a lost soul trying to confuse, harangue and divide people even in his choice of user names.

    He is Ian Dutton, quoted in the article above, a noted loser who was vanquished from his own local political club in disgrace for trying to take it over in a failed coup, a schemer who never had a significant victory while he served on CB2, and an unabashed publicity seeker, who indeed lives in Brooklyn.

    He couldn't get anything of value accomplished while he lived in Manhattan, now this Brooklyn NIMBY wants things for CB2 that his local CB ignore. Can you blame them?

  9. I was just made aware that one of the locations will be on the west side of MacDougall, north of Father Fagan Park. That will not only be depriving the neighborhood of some much needed on street parking, but more importantly, will bring hustle and bustle and noise, 24/7 to a narrow, quiet, residential street. The original sites proposed were on Hudson, which makes much more sense: it's both wide and commercial. To whom can we protest this?

  10. This long-awaited bike share program will never get off the ground if they have to litigate every individual location. Why not let it be built and see if it is actually a problem once it's in operation?

    • The Real Hold Up

      The holdup was because they went into contract with a company that could not deliver: the technology did not work. I would say the problems with people's protests is because their claims of reaching out and listening to the communities just weren't true. Nowadays it seems that DOT's only legitimate community is the bicyclist community.

  11. Lora Tenenbaum

    The DOT does not seem to really listen to legitimate community or Fire Department concerns about safety. The siting of one of the largest bike docks in the City at the corner of Cleveland Place and Kenmare Street underscores the truism that surveys and reaching out to the public are meaningless if the process is flawed. 

    Deliberate our not, the DOT’s process was clearly flawed, despite their claims of openness.   Just look at the website seeking recommendation for and votes about bike share dock locations.   Unlike most sites (such as this one at the Villager) there were no “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” icons.  There were only “ thumbs up” icons.    A DOT spokesperson explained later that an objector could go to the tiny-print comments link at the bottom of the web page and write a comment to the DOT Commissioner.  The DOT had to know this does not give equal voice.   Anyone in the world with access to a computer and knowledge about the website had opportunity to recommend and vote, but in practicality, that means the bicycling community. Who would be more likely to find that site…a 30-something biking enthusiast in Australia who routinely surfs the web and enjoyed his tourism to Petrosino Square a couple of years ago or an elderly person living right there on Cleveland Place who doesn’t bike and has neither access to nor knowledge of how to use a computer? The population the DOT queried was statistically flawed and the results extremely skewed.

    I participated at the public hearings that the DOT held at CB2. I truly believed then that they really wanted to hear from the community.  We were given maps displaying the proposals received via the website.  We got to comment on them and to propose alternatives.  The proposition for the Petrosino Square neighborhood was the northern tip of the park…the section set aside for temporary sculpture installations.   Those of us who knew the Petrosino Square neighborhood opposed this location and made other recommendations. We did not recommend Cleveland Place because it is narrow, congested and a victim of illegal bus layovers that the City has refused to address. The first published "final" still had the bike share dock in the designated sculpture site; it was transferred only when Parks confirmed the information the community had already provided to the DOT at the public meeting. Clearly participating at the hearing was not enough.  But then, Parks wouldn’t let them use it.

    How they came up with the present proposal is unknown. It was not shared with the community.  The new placement only came to light when another branch of the DOT distributed a map depicting Wayfinding Signage being placed in the areas of SoHo and environs in partnership with the Chinatown BID. Whatever it was, those who know the area intimately say the siting is dangerous. And some wonder how it came to be that the 43-dock bike share station is to be sited right in front of the building resided in by two of the neighborhood’s most vocal activists, who have been at loggerheads with the DOT in the past over its failure to respond to CB2 resolutions and requests from electeds for measures that would alleviate the traffic crisis around Petrosino Square.

    In their defense, the DOT did give a number of briefings to members of the City Council, who I'm sure they expected to consult with their constituency. Unfortunately, this area has a City Council Member, Margaret Chin, who should have reached out to the non-bicycling and bicycling community, but failed to do so and continues to show no interest in this community’s concerns.

    Community group Friends of Petrosino Square has suggested an alternative placement, one that seems much more reasonable, safer, and is even closer to the original placement and to the subway.  It seems a win-win to me.  I can't understand the DOT's position at this point.   I'm starting to suspect they have more marketing majors working for them than traffic experts.

  12. Just to say that I tried to tap the 'like' button but got the wrong one instead. So add' plus 1 ' for this comment, please

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