Scoopy, Week of Jan. 9, 2014

Councilmembers Jumaane Williams, left, and Rosie Mendez were all smiles on stage together at Councilmember Margaret Chin’s inauguration last Sunday.  Photo by scoopy

Councilmembers Jumaane Williams, left, and Rosie Mendez were all smiles on stage together at Councilmember Margaret Chin’s inauguration last Sunday. Photo by scoopy

Friends again? There may be — at least publicly — no hard feelings after openly lesbian City Councilmember Rosie Mendez blasted her colleague Jumaane Williams for his stance against marriage equality and abortion rights during his recent unsuccessful bid to become the next Council speaker. The two briefly shared the stage on Jan. 5 at the inauguration ceremony for Councilmember Margaret Chin, who is now entering her second term. Although Williams, after giving his congratulatory remarks, left the stage almost immediately once Mendez began her speech, she started off by making a rather friendly reference to Williams’s musical talent. “Did Jumaane sing?” Mendez asked the crowd, smiling. “Oh, he didn’t? That’s a real treat, you know, hearing Jumaane sing.” Mendez, who represents the East Village and part of the Lower East Side, took a public shot at Williams, of Brooklyn, in late November when she said she wouldn’t support him in the speaker’s race because he opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. “As an out lesbian, it’s problematic for me that the person who would be representing this body is anti-gay marriage, anti-a woman’s right to choose,” Mendez said then in an interview with Capital New York. “Those are two really fundamental progressive issues.” Williams is, in fact, a member of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, though many in the city certainly do not consider his views on marriage and choice to be progressive in nature. Mendez, for her part, has declined to join that caucus, while she is generally regarded as one of the city’s most liberal elected officials. While praising Chin on Sunday, Williams highlighted Chin’s role as a founding member of the Progressive Caucus as a reason for his continued support of her. “We’ve been doing a lot of good things in [the Progressive Caucus], and I’m looking forward to serving with her for another four years,” he said. A day after the inauguration, in response to our question about his relationship with Mendez, Williams released a terse statement in which he did not allude to anything that went on during his bid to become speaker. “Councilmember Rose [sic] Mendez and I have a great relationship, and I look forward to continuing our work together,” he said. Mendez’s office did not immediately return a request for comment. Moments after Williams and Mendez spoke on Sunday, a political staffer, speaking anonymously, said that Williams simply can’t afford to lash out against critics of his socially conservative views. “If he still held grudges against anyone for that, he wouldn’t have any friends left,” the staffer said.

Riders on the storm? Bike-share stayed up and running last week through winter storm Hercules, but one had to wonder how many people were out there cycling on bikes of any kind. We tried one of the Citi Bikes around 10:30 last Thursday night as an inch or so of snow had already fallen, and it was way to slippery to ride for anyone other than Evel Knievel. As the storm was bearing down on the Big Apple, Dani Simons, a rep for NYC Bike Share, LLC, along with spokespersons for the city’s Department of Transportation, told us the plan was to start removing some of the cycles from on-street bike stations on major roadways and temporarily relocate them to stations on sidewalks and in plazas. “We anticipate leaving the system open but are prepared to shut it down if the storm worsens overnight,” Simons said. Seth Solomonow, a D.O.T. spokesperson, added, “Workers will shovel out bike stations promptly.” If necessary, Solomonow added, NYC Bike Share would install “snow flags” to indicate on-street bike-docking stations. In the end, the system was never shut down.

A "station identification" flag was placed at the bike-share dock at Grand and Greene Sts. after winter storm Hercules — just in case anyone couldn't recognized that there were bikes here.  Photo by Scoopy

A “station identification” flag was placed at the bike-share dock at Grand and Greene Sts. after winter storm Hercules — just in case anyone couldn’t recognized that there were bikes here. Photo by Scoopy

As for how many people actually used bike-share during the peak-snow period, Nicholas Mosquera, a D.O.T. spokesperson, on Friday afternoon, told us, “There have been more than 3,000 rides [on Citi Bikes] in the less than 24 hours since snow first started falling.” Snow, in fact, was on elected officials’ minds this summer, when, on July 1, a month after bike-share launch, a posse of local politicians wrote a joint letter to Janette Sadik-Khan, then commissioner of D.O.T., expressing concerns about bike-share and snow removal. While they noted they support bike-share, the elected officials said the agreement between D.O.T. and bike-share’s operator was unclear on who would plow snow near the bike-share stations. They noted that at one community meeting, “a D.O.T. representative raised concerns that the Department of Sanitation should not be plowing near bike-share stations, as it would cover the bikes in snow.” The pols also expressed concern that plows would smash into the bike-share docks if they were hidden in snow piles. In addition, they asked “what is the protocol” regarding shoveling snow for building owners who have bike-share stations directly in front of their buildings? “Are these owners supposed to shovel the snow into the [bike-share] station itself?” they asked. Signing the letter were Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Brian Kavanagh, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, state Senators Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron, Councilmembers Mendez and Chin and former Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Sadik-Khan answered them on July 17, saying, in part, “Guidelines for snow removal will be similar to those for trash. Property owners should make piles along the sidewalk, and if there is a bike-share station on the sidewalk, they should pile snow at the ends of the station or at any breaks in the station.” As for garbage and snow in and around Citi Bike stations sited in the street bed, Sadik-Khan wrote, “NYC Bike Share is required to remove debris or snow for a six-foot radius around a station. This will help to provide an adequate buffer around which street cleaners and plows will be able to navigate. … If snow is pushed up against a bike-share station [by a city plow], NYC Bike Share will remove it, and in cases of predicted severe storms, bikes will be removed and stations will be deactivated in advance.” Sadik-Khan added that, at the Department of Sanitation’s request, NYC Bike Share, LLC was working to create station-identifying markers, i.e. the flags. “In most snowfalls, however,” she wrote, “the Department of Sanitation should have no more difficulty seeing bike-share stations than it currently does seeing parked cars.” However, in the end, Hercules didn’t leave massive mounds of snow in its wake. On Monday, Glick reported, “We did not receive complaints regarding the clearing of the Citi Bike stations or people being able to clear the sidewalks.” As for the pols’ concerns when they anxiously wrote Sadik-Khan back in the summer, Glick said, “We were thinking more of a foot and a half of snow rather than 6 inches.” Riding a bike — a Citi Bike, actually — early Monday morning, we did spot, at Grand and Greene Sts., one of the tall red flags that NYC Bike Share, LLC put out to mark a docking station, but there was only a negligible amount of snow left. … More to the point, we wondered, who among the politicians who signed the letter has ever actually ridden a Citi Bike? Kavanagh, as we recently noted, and Hoylman, too, are annual members of the program. Amy Varghese, Chin’s spokesperson, told us the councilmember actually does not know how to ride a bike. (O.K., in that case, she should not be doing bike-share — yet.) Glick told us, “I haven’t taken a Citi Bike ride yet. I have my own bike, which I ride infrequently. I walk a lot. But in the spring, I will do what Brad does — and carry a helmet — so I can avail myself of Citi Bike.” We hope Glick, who is a big Twitter fan, will tweet out a picture of that! … David Gruber, chairperson of Community Board 2, told us the bike-share station on Carmine St. that he has complained should not be there, since he feels the street is too narrow to begin with, had its bikes removed as Hercules hit town. He told us to mention the Bicycle Task Force meeting that C.B. 2 will be holding on Mon., Jan. 27, at 6:30 p.m., at Grace Church School, 86 Fourth Ave., at E. 11th St. Enforcement and bike safety will be the big issues, he said. “Seriously, there’s a lot of emotion with this bike issue,” he told us. “I think bike-share has started to quiet down, but there’s still a lot of concerns about bikes.” The task force includes, among others, Two Boots Pizza (which, of course, has a fleet of bike deliverymen) and Village activist Zack Winestine, presumably a serious cycling advocate, based on the fact we almost always see him carrying a bike helmet.

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One Response to Scoopy, Week of Jan. 9, 2014

  1. Patrick Shields

    If he is talking about the bike station in front of Father Demo, there have been few, if any problems there. The real issue on that block is the sidewalk directly across the street, which consistently has only one lane of sidewalk because of the often empty exterior of the cafe. On one of the busiest walks to a major subway station in New York City, is almost constantly blockaded inappropriately and dangerously. I know it's an institution, but whatever license it has is being abused in a manner which forces pedestrians to walk out into the street. Between Joe's Pizza tours blocking the sidewalk, and the cafe's sidewalk depth, the real problem there need addressing.

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