How’s this for some impeccable timing? Less than 48 hours before the next scheduled court date in the Prospect Park West case, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is inserting himself into the proceedings in an attempt to keep the tenuous suit from being thrown out.
Yesterday afternoon LCG Communications, the PR firm representing bike lane opponents, alerted the local press: Markowitz had submitted an affidavit stating that DOT “explicitly described the PPW bike lane as a trial.” (Streetsblog is trying to obtain the actual affidavit; for now we just have the press release [PDF].) Markowitz has been fighting this project for at least two years, and the finality of the redesign has been a central legal issue for months, but only now, apparently, at the eleventh hour, did the borough president’s memory kick in.
For everyone who’s catching up on this story — we are deep in the weeds here. The permanence of the PPW redesign is a legal question with no actual bearing on the success, popularity, or legitimacy of the project. We are talking about an idea that was requested and approved by the local community board. A redesign that has slowed down speeding traffic, reduced crashes causing injury, and increased cycling while reducing sidewalk riding. It enjoys widespread support in the local community, and it’s attracting new riders, including kids who can now safely bike to Prospect Park on their own.
In a legal sense, however, the “trial” issue is important, because the plaintiffs missed their chance to file a lawsuit within the four-month statute of limitations following the permanent installation of a city project. Their case will get tossed unless the judge rules that the PPW redesign was implemented on a temporary basis.
The most pressing question raised by Markowitz’s affidavit is this: Why now? Why, with only hours to go until the next court hearing, did Markowitz come forward to share a recollection from 16 months ago? Given everything we know about Markowitz’s relationships with bike lane opponents and his deep involvement in the campaign to reverse the redesign of Prospect Park West, the sequence of events makes no sense.
- Markowitz’s office came up with the idea of calling the bike lane a “trial” or “pilot” project before meeting with DOT brass on March 1, 2010.
- Markowitz made multiple TV appearances complaining about the Prospect Park West bike lane in the next year. Not once did he tell a sympathetic reporter like Marcia Kramer that he was told the project was a trial.
- Markowitz gave an extensive interview to WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein in April, 2010, barely a month after the meeting with DOT staff. At no point in the interview did he say the project is a trial.
- Markowitz testified at a New York City Council hearing on DOT bike policy last December, appearing with other PPW bike lane opponents. At no point in his testimony [PDF] did he call the project a trial.
- Markowitz has been in constant contact with bike lane opponents, including former DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall, for nearly two years. He and his office have had prolific email correspondence with Brooklyn College dean Louise Hainline, leader of the anti-bike lane group “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes,” going back at least to last May. The unsubstantiated contention that the project was a DOT “trial” figures prominently in the plaintiffs’ lawsuit [PDF]. Yet bike lane opponents made no mention of any DOT statements to Markowitz about a “trial” when they filed their complaint. That was four months ago.
- When the city replied to the plaintiffs’ suit, they made the permanence of the redesign the centerpiece of their legal argument. Because the bike lane had been installed eight months before the plaintiffs filed their lawsuit, the statute of limitations had run out. Marty said nothing at the time. That was more than a month ago.
- When Jim Walden, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, asked Judge Bert Bunyan to adjourn the case last month, he said he needed more time to review a FOIL disclosure from City Council Member Brad Lander, which would supposedly reveal DOT’s hidden “trial project” agenda. He said nothing about DOT statements to Markowitz.
- When Walden wrote to the judge asking for another delay, he cited a New York Times story about Bloomberg administration pilot projects, which made no mention of Prospect Park West, as the justification. He said nothing about Markowitz.
Only now is Markowitz coming forward with this recollection of being promised that the PPW redesign would be a trial — a memory that would have served his purposes on several prior occasions. Perfect timing.