When Will the NBBL PR Stunt Come to an End?

We are now well into the fifth month of the attack on street safety improvements known as the Prospect Park West lawsuit. There was no conclusion in court today, so the Jim Walden media tour will go on at least a little while longer.

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White had this to say in a statement released this afternoon:

By any reasonable measure, this charade is over. The City set hard data against fact-free grandstanding to defend commonsense street safety improvements that the vast majority of neighborhood residents love and asked for in the first place. Any concerns about these improvements have been exhaustively addressed and it’s time to move on. The people of Park Slope deserve better than to have their time wasted by a puffed-up PR stunt.

It's not a trial. Photo copyright Dmitry Gudkov

Here’s a little more on the integrity of DOT’s data versus the cherry-picked numbers used by opponents to sow doubt about the project.

For those following the legal developments in the case, here’s the affidavit submitted by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, claiming NYC DOT told him the PPW project was installed on a trial basis [PDF] — and our analysis of Markowitz’s impeccable timing.

And here’s the response from DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, explaining that adjusting the construction timetable and evaluating the project does not make it a trial [PDF].

Regardless of how the judge interprets the two statements, the multi-year process leading up to the PPW redesign — and the safety benefits it has produced — should withstand the assault by opponents who are trying to circumvent all the public meetings, hearings, and votes that preceded this project.

Said city attorney Mark Muschenheim:

The Prospect Park West project is not a pilot — and never was. However, we won’t let this issue be used as a sideshow to delay this case from being resolved on the merits themselves. The key issue is whether there was a rational basis for this project, and the record is clear that the community requested the project to improve safety, and the data show that it’s done the job it was intended to do. Thus, we are willing to forego the statute of limitations defense if it means speeding up the resolution of this case on the merits.

  • Disgusted

    That’s a nice freebee for Walden and NBBL. They missed the statute of limitations but still get to try their case. OK. But will this really speed things up?

    The City’s attorneys should have every reason to expect that Jim Walden is going to continue to throw up procedural roadblocks, delays and abuses of legal process to keep dragging this thing out. Now that the case is being tried on the “merits,” Walden’s going to have even more material to work with, more needs for discovery, more people to subpoena, more data to call into question and more ways to drag this thing on into the next mayoral administration. This will allow him to move away from the abstract “trial project” issue and really kick his media smear campaign into full gear.

    For Walden, NBBL and their despicable p.r. agent Linda Gross, the goal here is a trial-by-press-release. As long as the case drags on, they get to keep pressing their case in the media. It doesn’t matter that the case is garbage and the bike lane is a success and enjoyed by most of the community. The court case is just a means to the ends of smearing the current management at DOT and making it impossible for them to build new bike infrastructure in NYC. So, Walden will, I believe, continue to find ways to drag this thing out and keep his media campaign alive.

  • Mark Walker

    This is not about just a bike lane in Park Slope (though even on that level it would be plenty important). This is about structural improvements all over the city — and that includes pedestrian as well as bike improvements. Since NBBL got started, the tone of the mainstream media toward pedestrian plazas and islands has become noticeably more vituperative and one-sided. This isn’t just a political battle that livable streets advocates need to win in one neighborhood for one class of street users. It is, in the long term, a matter of life and death for all of us among NYC’s car-free majority.

  • NBBLing

    Another great day in court for us today!

    To celebrate afterwards, we went around knocking ice cream cones out of the hands of little kids.

    Sooo fun!

  • D. Lay

    New NBBL strategy? Stretch the case out until the 2013 mayoral election, keep issuing press releases and go-nowhere subpoenas, and then, once Mayor De Blasio or Kelly is elected, drop the lawsuit altogether and sit back and enjoy the view from 9 PPW as the new DOT commissioner rips up evey bike lane in the city.  Then NYC will truly know what it feels like to have an administration that doesn’t listen to local communities.

  • krstrois

    I’m so exhausted by this! Retire and move to Boca, already, if you want suburban speedways! 

  • Anonymous

    It’s a lawyer’s first instinct to have a case thrown out due to lack of standing, or timeliness, etc..however, this has become a sideshow to a sideshow.

    The “rational basis” standard of an Article 78 proceeding, is plenty good enough.

    Markowitz’s own affidavit demonstrates DOT installed the lane on just such a basis.

  • Marina

    As I sat behind and next to Louise Hainline and her gray-haired friends at the court hearing this morning, I couldn’t help but imagine them all on bicycles, enjoying one of the safest bike lanes in Brooklyn. It wasn’t a fantasy as much as a fond recollection of months spent in Groningen, NL observing hundreds if not thousands of seniors enjoying bicycle trips for shopping, errands, coffee with friends and touring.

    If the Seniors and Neighbors drop this absolutely silly lawsuit, so that DOT can continue its work of expanding the network of protected bike lanes, perhaps they too can get to experience the pleasure, convenience and health benefits of bicycling.

  • Matlock

    Watch out. Jim Walden might sue you for age discrimination for that comment.

  • Mister Bad Example

    People need to start thinking out how the whole livable streets movement lasts after Bloomberg departs. JSK has become the target for politically ambitious Dems who are staking out positions for 2013, and the people reading the tea leaves don’t think he’s going for a fourth term (nor should he). I would hate to be on the wrong side of a post-Bloomberg tidal wave that takes Bike and Ped-friendly public space back to Giuliani days.

  • I must say, I’m ambivalent about the tactical decision to let go of the limitations defense and let the case be decided “on the merits.”  Because the “merits” here are not the merits of the Prospect Park West bike path.  They are the merits of the view that bike paths do not implicate local conditions sufficiently to merit environmental review.  And from a results-oriented point of view—which clearly is the view on which the NBBLrs have been operating—vindicating the DoT’s ability to manage bike lanes without environmental review may be a problem for livable streets advocates come 2013. 
     
    Because of the excellent community organizing done by PSN and others in park Slope—a neighborhood with one of the highest cycling rates in the city—we have in the case of a PPW bike path a livable streets project with genuine popular support, as shown in the pools conducted by two different local elected officials.  But part of the support stems from the particular community we are dealing with, and the fact that there was a widely-felt need for traffic calming at this particular location, with excess capacity on the roadway so that the impact on motorists was limited.
     
    What happens if a new DoT in 2013 decides to begin removing existing livable streets projects, the merits of which are not a clear-cut as those of the PPW path, in neighborhoods where residents are not as supportive of livable streets infrastructure to begin with as in Park Slope?  A win for the DoT “on the merits” in the current NBBL suit will be a powerful obstacle to attempts by livable streets advocates to use environmental review as a tool to keep those projects in place.  The negative environmental impacts of removing, say, the 8th and 9th Avenue bike paths are obvious, in terms of increasing pedestrian and cyclist injury rates and in other ways, but a “win on the merits” in the NBBL suit means that advocates for retaining those paths would not be able to use a legal challenge as vehicle for raising those negative impacts as a reason to retain those paths.
     
    Disposing of the current NBBL suit on limitations grounds might mean that NBBL-like groups would bring timely environmental review challenges to new livable streets projects launched over the remainder of the JSK administration, but that doesn’t worry me so much because (1) I expect DoT will do the requisite minimal of environmental review in support of any new projects, and (2) it may be that we are not going to get any more new significant livable streets projects from the JSK administration (putting aside the possibility of bike share, or improvements in Greenways, parks, and recreational facilities that are unlikely to draw the opposition of on-grid projects). 
     
    This may be a situation where we should be “careful what we wish for,” and perhaps take the same results-driven approach as NBBL.

  • I must say, I’m ambivalent about the tactical decision to let go of the limitations defense and let the case be decided “on the merits.”  Because the “merits” here are not the merits of the Prospect Park West bike path.  They are the merits of the view that bike paths do not implicate local conditions sufficiently to merit environmental review.  And from a results-oriented point of view—which clearly is the view on which the NBBLrs have been operating—vindicating the DoT’s ability to manage bike lanes without environmental review may be a problem for livable streets advocates come 2013. 
     
    Because of the excellent community organizing done by PSN and others in park Slope—a neighborhood with one of the highest cycling rates in the city—we have in the case of a PPW bike path a livable streets project with genuine popular support, as shown in the pools conducted by two different local elected officials.  But part of the support stems from the particular community we are dealing with, and the fact that there was a widely-felt need for traffic calming at this particular location, with excess capacity on the roadway so that the impact on motorists was limited.
     
    What happens if a new DoT in 2013 decides to begin removing existing livable streets projects, the merits of which are not a clear-cut as those of the PPW path, in neighborhoods where residents are not as supportive of livable streets infrastructure to begin with as in Park Slope?  A win for the DoT “on the merits” in the current NBBL suit will be a powerful obstacle to attempts by livable streets advocates to use environmental review as a tool to keep those projects in place.  The negative environmental impacts of removing, say, the 8th and 9th Avenue bike paths are obvious, in terms of increasing pedestrian and cyclist injury rates and in other ways, but a “win on the merits” in the NBBL suit means that advocates for retaining those paths would not be able to use a legal challenge as vehicle for raising those negative impacts as a reason to retain those paths.
     
    Disposing of the current NBBL suit on limitations grounds might mean that NBBL-like groups would bring timely environmental review challenges to new livable streets projects launched over the remainder of the JSK administration, but that doesn’t worry me so much because (1) I expect DoT will do the requisite minimal of environmental review in support of any new projects, and (2) it may be that we are not going to get any more new significant livable streets projects from the JSK administration (putting aside the possibility of bike share, or improvements in Greenways, parks, and recreational facilities that are unlikely to draw the opposition of on-grid projects). 
     
    This may be a situation where we should be “careful what we wish for,” and perhaps take the same results-driven approach as NBBL.

  • Rob

    You’re so right, Marina.  Just got back from Belgium and the Netherlands.  Saw so many older adults on bicycles, and they seemed SO HEALTHY and VIBRANT!

    Met a man in probably his early 80s who lives 1/2 year in Belgium and 1/2 year in USA.  Described how he rides his bike everywhere in Belgium, and barely uses his car.  He never uses a bike in the USA because he feels it is too dangerous.

    Given this experience, I actually feel sorry for some of these older adults.  They don’t realize how much better their lives could be.

  • Rob

    Re: message from me below.  I feel sorry for the NBBLers, who don’t realize how much better their lives could be if they rode bicycles.

  • Rob

    I agree.  And I’m worried at the state level that Cuomo still hasn’t signed the Complete Streets bill that passed both houses of the legislature unanimously.

  • Rob

    I agree.  And I’m worried at the state level that Cuomo still hasn’t signed the Complete Streets bill that passed both houses of the legislature unanimously.

  • Hans

    Totally. This guy, I believe, is a member of NBBL’s Drachten division. Look at how he rolls…

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2006/11/28/dutch-wheelchair

  • Charles_Siegel

    Elisabeth Rosenthal’s article saying that she supports bike
    lanes but everyone in the neighborhood opposes the Prospect Park West
    bike lane, is now linked on planetizen at http://www.planetizen.com/node/50472

    This
    is another chance for people to comment on the article.  I have added a
    comment saying  that a poll found that the majority of neighborhood
    residents support the bike lane and that hundreds of people rallied to
    support it. 

    This is the same  Elisabeth Rosenthal who wrote a
    front-page article in the Times saying  that the goal of European
    transportation policy is to “irk” drivers and make them so “miserable”
    that they shift to alternatives.

    (sorry to repeat this comment.  I posted it on today’s news before I realized that there is a post about the PPW bike lane, which is a more appropriate place for it.)

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget. In the wise words of cycling and transportation expert Louise Hainline, this isn’t Copenhagen or Amsterdam.

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