Garage Managers Flout Bike Parking Law, Fool DCA Inspectors

It’s been about two months since the Bicycle Access to Garages Law took effect, requiring parking facilities with more than 100 car parking spots to provide bike parking too. So far, it appears, a lot of those garages are violating the law and turning away potential customers who want to park their bikes. How easily can they get away with it? As this video from reader BicyclesOnly shows (warning: turn down the volume until you see people in the frame), refusing to comply with the law is a piece of cake, because the Department of Consumer Affairs hasn’t enforced the rules with any conviction.

Here we see a garage manager at Redball Parking, located at 919 Third Avenue, admit that he won’t accept bikes. He also cops to telling DCA inspectors a different story. "I said that we take bikes," he admits, right before repeating that the garage doesn’t take bikes. Even though no sign was posted at this garage stipulating bike parking prices, as required by law, that excuse was enough to get DCA to lay off.

After the jump, see the official notice from DCA explaining that the agency found no violations at Redball Parking.

DCA_inspection.jpg

Note that the complaint was filed on November 19, more than a month before the Post reported that the city had received no complaints about garages flouting the new law. (The same story confirmed our suspicion that the 18.375 percent tax that garages are levying on bike parking is illegal.)

Last week, DCA responded to a follow-up from BicyclesOnly, saying they’ll send another inspector to Redball Parking. We have a request in with the agency for comment, and to find out if any adjustments to their enforcement strategy are in the works.

  • “Redball” Parking?

  • Peter from Stuy Town

    It’s a National/Alamo rental site, and also where the 1970s “Cannonball Run” car races started. I’m kind of surprised since they have a good rep, but I suspect it’s ignorance and fear more than malice.

  • Red Ball is a small chain of parking garages in Manhattan. As for the motive, it’s not ignorance. This clip shows the fourth time I have told this guy that I want to park my bike here and that the law requires him to take it (the first was before the law took effect on November 11). And it’s not malice either; I believe him when he says his “main office” told him how to handle bike parking. It’s just a matter of Red Ball and the DCA not taking bicyclists seriously.

    Unless the DCA meaningfully enforces the bike parking requirements against all of the garages, no garage operator will want to disadvantage itself by converting sapce to bike parking.

  • J

    I really don’t think it’s about space. The law doesn’t mandate a ton of bike parking, and a well-run garage will charge a rate so there are always a few empty spaces. It does take time to order and install racks and the city doesn’t seem to be pushing for this with any urgency. At least the law is on your side.

  • DingDong

    I feel bad for this guy. This video could get him fired, when it seems like he’s totally reasonable and the main office are putting him in a bad place.

  • NattyB

    Well done Bicycles only,

    I must admit, that I’m a bit ambivalent on the bike parking in garages aspect of this law, for several reasons:

    (1) I don’t trust my bike with others, especially parking attendants. Just as the guy said, “we’re waiting on the bike racks,” I could just as easily hear one of the guys says, “sorry sir, there’s no bike here.”

    (2) I don’t want to spend money on something that should be free.

    (3) I’d pay for covered bike parking. But, there are free alternatives, namely, Scaffolding.

    So yah,

    I must give BicyclesOnly the props he deserves for his outstanding advocacy as well as all the research he does for trying to make biking in this city accessible for all. Just this particular aspect, doesn’t affect me personally so much.

    (4) But, I’m more annoyed about how gradual and incremental it is for these bicycle infrastructure developments. Like, Bicycle Access in Buildings is law, yet, I’m out using outdoor racks and scaffolding every day. Like, it was a major success, but, really, the law was only for situations where (i) you had a tenant who had wanted to provide access for their employees but were forbidden by their building management. My employer is a non-profit with limited funds. I’m not about to ask them to retain an architect and take other actions and expenditures, so I can take my bike up, through the damn freight elevator, where I can’t even take my bike out after 6pm (maybe I could take the regular elevators then).

  • NattyB, I never lock my bike to scaffolding for three reasons:

    1. It belongs to someone, and locking things to someone else’s property is not the right thing to do;

    2. It could be removed at any moment, because you never know when the scaffolding company will come by to look at it;

    3. It blocks the sidewalk even more than the scaffolding all by itself does.

    Nobody wants to spend money on things that should be free, but getting something of value (a secure place to leave your bike) is worth, in my opinion, spending some money on. For that reason, it’s worth pushing DCA to follow up on complaints so that those who want to park their bike securely have the option.

    Why should your organization have to hire an architect? They could buy a Cycle Tree and stow it in a disused cubicle. Voila! Instant bike parking.

  • I agree with DingDong. This employee (even as a manager) probably has no input on capital expenditure. If the company doesn’t approve spending x amount of money for the racks, there’s nothing he can do. Same with pricing, I doubt he has any control over it, there’s probably a corporate formula.

  • I feel sorry for the guy too, but would you mislead a city inspector the way he did because your boss told you to? I wouldn’t.

    He seems like a decent fellow and I had repeated cordial dealings with him, but his bottom line for nearly two months was “I know the law says we have to take your bike, but no, we won’t take your bike,” or “the racks are coming.” It doesn’t take two months to buy and install a bike rack. I’m not going to let RedBall shit on my rights and then hide behind this guy.

    Ironically, I probably won’t ever feel comfortable parking in this garage because of what I had to put this guy through to make them install the bike parking. But is the answer to do nothing? And if the city does ultimately force this garage to install bike parking, isn’t it fair that other competing garages in the area should be forced to do so too?

    Any unfairness from this law will be minimized if DCA enforces widespread compliance. Then garage owners will not be tempted to put their managers in this situation.

  • Jk

    From roughly 1993 to the early 1990’s 15-20 commercial garages in Midtown offered bike parking. While space was an issue, administrative hassle was a much bigger one. Garage managers and attendants had to deal with complaints about bikes being stolen, vandalized and picked apart. Bike thieves had a perfect environment for removing expensive components under little scrutiny. A celebrated incident, in which a garage attendant was punched out after confronting a probable thief, ended the experiment at most garages. (You can read about much of this on the TA website in back issues of the TA Mag/Streetbeat.)

  • Angel

    Well done. But the responsibility is on the management, not on the folks they have working there. I’d guess this dude couldn’t care less if bikes could park there or not, he’s getting paid by the hour either way.

    Red Ball and the DCA are responsible for that site not already having bike parking available. Shame on them both.

  • DingDong

    Would I mislead a city inspector because my boss told me to? Probably not; but my boss is pretty reasonable and wouldn’t fire me over it and even then I have a pretty good education and even in this recession could probably find another job. Not saying it’s wrong to post this video (I’m unsure how I ultimately feel about that and I think you’ve done great work in fighting for bicycle parking), I just hope this guy will be alright.

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    “Would I mislead a city inspector because my boss told me to?” Maybe I would; maybe I wouldn’t. But I sure wouldn’t cop to it to a “customer.” This guy is toast. I think there was another way to achieve the same end without burning him.

  • If you really want to pursue it, then follow up with calls to the community board’s district manager and the councilmember’s (Jessica Lappin in this case) office.

    Of course, like you were saying, you might not want to leave your bike there now, anyway.

  • annonymous

    I know this garage and the guys are always friendly and helpful. As for the bikes when I asked they let me know I could park my bike starting Thursday January 14th as that is the day that the amendment takes effect (see link) http://www.nyc.gov/html/dca/downloads/pdf/bike_parking_rules_011410.pdf

    As you can see they are in full compliance with Consumer Affairs. Although if I walked into a garage I would be a little nervous about legal action being taken for using a hidden camera.

  • Christopher

    A suggestion to get DCA to do its job right:
    If you see a parking garage that won’t take your bike, in your complaint mention a) the stuff about bikes and b) say that you suspect that the garage is storing more cars than it is licensed to. Now, don’t lie (that would be wrong), but pretty much every parking garage in the city dense-packs the cars, often all the way up the ramp. Their license from DCA lets them park up to a certain number of cars in the garage. If they go over that number, they can get fined serious $$$.
    Why should you do this, when what you really care about is the bikes? It’s much more difficult for the garage management to lie about the number of cars present at the time of inspection (the inspector can simply count). If the garage gets cited, it will trigger a follow-up inspection, which will be another opportunity for an inspector to see if the garage is complying on the bicycle issue.

  • BicyclesOnly

    Thanks for the history JK, though I hope it does not discourage folks from garage parking. Garages should guard against these problems by installing the racks required by the law within sight of attendants, preferably near the booth. DCA and TA should be advising the garages to do so.

    Yes, Ian, perhaps CM Koeppell would like to know the mockery DCA has made of the law he sponsored. Though in fairness, DCA quickly agreed to reinspect this facility when I showed them what a shoddy inspection they had conducted the first time. DCA has told me they have an internal protocol that prohibits issuance of a violation the first time noncompliance is found. Instead, the garage is to get a warning. So there is one “free pass.”. That is what made the finding of no violations in this instance so outrageous; coupled with the shoddy “I’ll take your word for it” inspection practice, the protocol would guarantee that there would never, ever be a violation found. And then on top of it, DCA apparently ignored my pending November-filed complaints and told the Post, in connection with its December 28 article, that it had received “no complaints” of denial of bike access. Many of the garage owners seem to be hanging back to see whether the law will be enforced, not unexpectedly given the signals from the DCA. DCA so far has shamefully failed its mission to protect consumers in this instance, in part as a matter of policy.

    Anonymous,

    You are misreading the DCA materials. They clearly state that the law went into effect November 11. I think it’s interesting that these garage attendants tell you they will accept bike parking on January 14, but I asked this guy twice on January 8 when he would accept bikes and he couldn’t tell me. And fyi, there is nothing in the least illegal about taping a public conversation, and this guy knew he was being taped. A surreptitiously- taped conversation (which this was not) may not be admissible in court, but it is not illegal to create.

  • stressed desserts

    I think you should stick to cycling and not interpreting the NYC Admin Code and Rules of the City of New York.

    The law (read: Administrative Code) went into effect on November 11th 2009. The rules (read: Rules of the City of New York) go into effect January 12th, 2010. Without the Rules in effect, the law (Code) is unenforcible and that is generally the case across the board for anything codified in the Administrative Code.

    That concludes the lesson for today.

  • stressed desserts

    Forgot to state I believe whole-heartedly in bicycle parking in garages. If you as a cyclist wish to get overcharged for parking a bicycle, by all means do so. Way to boost the economy. I’ll lock my joint outside free of charge.

  • Stressed Deserts,

    You’re wrong to think that the garage access law is enforceable only as of January 12. Take a look at this guidance from the DCA to garage owners, which went up on the DCA website last year, and states:

    Important: On November 11, 2009, Local Law 51 of 2009 took effect, amending the Administrative Code of the City of New York regarding bicycle parking in garage and parking lots. If your business will accommodate 100 or more automobiles, you must provide bicycle parking.

    And since we’re in “civics lesson mode,” I’ll point out that the poorly- named “Administrative Code” of New York City is in fact the body of laws enacted by the legislative branch, the New York City Council. Unless a law passed by the City Council expressly provides that it will not take effect without implementing regs, the law takes effect as passed by the City Council, and then the responsible agency (DCA in this case) can enact implementing regs that supplement, without supplanting, the terms of the law.

    The enforceability of the Admin Code from November 11 is obvious, for a couple of reasons:

    First, the regulations say nothing about mandatory bike parking (they don’t have to, because that is already in the law, which took effect on November 11). By your logic, the mandatory parking provisions of the Admin Code are still unenforceable, because the DCA has not promulgated any regs that require bike parking, just regulations for bike parking signage. Do you really think the laws enacted by by the City Council can be nullified by DCA in this manner?

    Second, DCA has not taken that position. To the contrary, DCA has sent out inspectors to respond to bike parking complaints from November and December 2009. Do you think they’ve got it wrong too?

    It bears mention that the City Council, in enacting NY Admin Code 20-327 back in August, specifically directed the DCA to prepare its implementing regs before the effective date of November 11. Look at Section 2 of the session law which states:

    §2. This local law shall take ninety days after enactment except that the commissioners of consumer affairs and/or buildings shall take all actions necessary for its implementation, including the promulgation of rules, prior to such effective date.

    Just because DCA didn’t get its act together on the regs in time for the November 11 effective date of the law certainly is no reason to conclude that the law is not enforceable until it did.

    Class is in session!

  • As for the desirability of bike parking, I’ll be joining you out on the sidewalk most of the time, stressed, until I my employer gets a bicycle access plan from our landlord. In most circumstances, nothing beats the convenience of locking up to a street pole right in front my destination.

    But there are circumstances where in my view garage parking makes sense. They will vary from person to person, but these are mine:

    1) When I’m locking up in a funky neighborhood.

    2) When I’m locking up overnight or for several days.

    3) When it’s raining and there is no nearby scaffolding.

    4) When I’m going on a long ride and I don’t want to carry 30 lbs of locking equipment.

    5) When I’ve taken my security equipment off for a long ride, and then arrived at work the next day to discover I’ve forgotten to replace the locking equipment.

    It just so happens that I have a bike room that is free of charge in my building, so I don’t have to worry about locking up at home. But many folks don’t have free bike parking where they live. I know a family that has to pay extra rent for use of the bike parking facility in their building, but got the manager of the garage where they keep their car to take their bikes for less money than their building would charge. And there are people out there who own bikes that cost thousands of dollars. I expect those folks might be interested in garage parking as well.

    It is clear that the law does not envision all or even most cyclists using garages to park their bikes all or even most of the time. As I recall, with the increases in cycling, there are some 170,000 cyclists on New York City streets each day. If 10% of those cyclists park in a garage twice a month, that’s a daily demand for about 1,000 spaces. Given the 100/200 capacity collar on the mandatory parking requirement–even a huge garage like the 1,100 monstrosity at East River Plaza is only required to have 28 bike parkings spaces–I don’t think the law even requires that as many as 1,000 spaces be created. Add on the small number of people who will want monthly parking either at home or work, and I think the law is pretty much in ynch with likely demand–as long as DCA makes the garages comply. A sure fire way for the city to tamp down demand is to subject cyclists to the expereince of going into a garage and being rejected, and then do a crappy job of following up when they take the trouble to file a complaint.

  • Sorry for the repeat posts, but I need to correct myself. After looking at a list of parking garages and their capacities, the law probably mandates more like 4,000 parking spaces citywide (about 700 are mandated in Midtown East alone). However I doubt that as many as a hundred have been created. We won’t know if supply and demand are in or out of synch until garages start accepting bikes as required by law.

  • 40×14

    Most garages are “park at your own risk” for vehicles. If it’s the same policy for bikes, that may be an incentive to park on the street or bring your bike inside, sadly.

  • 40 X 14, the DCA regulations speak to that issue:

    “(j) No contract, agreement, lease, receipt, rule or regulation made or issued by any licensee with or to a person who parks or stores a motor vehicle or bicycle in a garage or parking lot operated by such licensee, shall exempt such licensee from liability for damage or loss caused by the negligence of such licensee or any employee of such licensee.”

    At least as far as the risk of damage due to the negligence of the garage operator is concerned, the risk is on the operator, not the customer.

  • daisymay

    I have read all of your comments, and must say that I was pretty shocked that some one would have urge and the time to return to a location with video recorder in hand to record an employee simply doing his job. To then exploitate him for giving you the information he knew. If the bike racks where not set up yet then the facility can not accept the bike applicant. That right there would be a nice fine. To begin with the information regarding this new law and all the specifications that came along with it where given out like a crumb trail. The rules themselves contradict each other depending what source your information is coming from. Calling the actual Consumer Affairs Department gets you no where. I called asking a specific question on the signage and the answer I received was “Do You” I am not sure how this was going to help me crack the code but ok at least I gave it a shot. To those of you who are criticizing the DCA of not being out there doing there job, trust and believe they are like ants right now, everywhere and they have been for sometime now. These violations that you speak of are hefty fines imposed onto the facility, and many of these violations are items that are in compliance. So you have no choice but to go to the hearing and be there all day only to find out that your motion was rejected (some unreasonable technicality) so now you have wasted your time and found guilty which means your prize is the full value of your violation. In most cases people just pay the reduced rate for the simple fact that they do not wish to waste hours of their work day only to in the end learn that they were better off not even showing up at all. All this is a fine way for the city to ensure that they will fill their pockets. They are the ones who have set the rates, not the parking facilities. Does anyone know exactly what the added expense has been to have the rates registered, posted, signage made, racks ordered, barriers bought,violations to pay. A lot more than most companies can afford to, and in the end no on will park their bikes. Most residential buildings now offer bike storage for free. All this money invested and to top it off it makes the garages look clunky. I hope people have 1/2 a brain to NOT ride their bikes while in the facility, that would be a spell for disaster.
    All I want to say is look at it from all angles and not just yours.

  • Richard

    Nice a whiny yuppie harassing the parking garage guy. Boo hoo hoo.

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