Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer seems to have joined up with the NIMBYs of Turtle Bay in their fight to keep the United Nations — and more relevantly, those who live near it — free from bike-share stations. Echoing the rhetoric of a rogues’ gallery of East Midtown’s most committed opponents of livable streets, Stringer wrote yesterday to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, asking DOT to reduce the number of docks at the two stations planned for Dag Hammarskjold Plaza because of the site’s “unique characteristics.” (The letter can be read in full below the fold.)
Stringer makes two main points. First, with programming like a Greenmarket and other community events, as well as open space for relaxation, the plaza is both too popular to let people access by bike-share and too serene to be tarnished by cyclists.
Second, the “unique security concerns” of the location necessitate the shrinkage of bike-share stations. While Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon may want a bike-share station near the United Nations, highly qualified neighborhood experts know that terrorists are known to wait until bike infrastructure is both convenient and safe to strike. (Nobody tell them about the bike-share station inside the White House security perimeter.)
We asked Stringer to explain just how reducing the number of bikes at Dag Hammarskjold would affect the “unique characteristics” of the site. His office sent this response:
Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza is treasured by the local community and maintained by an active group of volunteers. Neighbors enjoy the robust calendar of community programs and the opportunity to find a small oasis of calm in the bustle of midtown. The latest DOT draft map indicates that the Plaza will have substantially more bike docks than are planned for any other location in the surrounding neighborhoods, and the installation of this many docks will transform the plaza from a place of quiet reflection to one of active use. A reduction in bike docks in the Plaza would not diminish the ability of New Yorkers to access the Citi Bike program in the area–and would substantially increase residents’ feelings of comfort in the Plaza.
This video explains how to use DC’s bike-share system, which employs the same type of kiosks, bikes, and technology as New York’s will. Does it make you uncomfortable?
Here is Stringer’s full letter:
The City of New York
Office of the President
Borough of Manhattan
June 21, 2012
NYC Department of Transportation
59 Maiden Lane, 37th Floor
New York, NY 10038
Dear Commissioner Sadik-Khan:
I am writing regarding the proposed siting of two bike share stations at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, located at East 47th Street between First and Second Avenues in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan.
The roll out of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Citi Bike program is an ambitious initiative to develop a green and healthy transportation alternative for New York City residents. The program will enable New Yorkers who use this service to commute to work, run personal errands, and better traverse the city’s core.
While I support the city’s bike share program, I also recognize the significant impact the installation of hundreds of new bike docks will have on neighborhood streetscapes and local residential communities. Specifically, my office has recently heard from a number of Turtle Bay and East Midtown residents with concerns about the considerable number of bike docks planned for Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza.
As you know, this block-long plaza in the heart of Turtle Bay has served for decades as a quiet retreat for neighborhood residents and visitors alike. As one of the few substantial open spaces in East Midtown, it is a beloved neighborhood amenity that hosts year round community events, cultural and educational programming, and even a Greenmarket. Further, its proximity to the United Nations complex has made it a natural destination for large social and political demonstrations, and consequently, a location with unique security concerns.
According to DOT’s latest draft map of proposed bike share station locations, Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza is slated to host two docking stations with a total of 74 bike docks – 43 docks located on the west side of the plaza and 31 docks on the east side – making it home to the largest number of bike docks in the Community Board 6 area. Given the unique characteristics of the plaza, I urge DOT to reduce the number of bike docks in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza to better align the scale of the proposed installation with surrounding bike share locations.
I appreciate the effort DOT has made to date in collecting input from community stakeholders. I encourage you to continue to evaluate the feedback submitted by residents regarding station size and location and incorporate that input into your plans. The bike share program is something we all want to succeed, but that will only happen if government is prepared to work with communities and is sensitive to legitimate neighborhood concerns.
If you have any questions or require clarification on my request, please contact Kristen Ellis in my office at (212) 669-7877. I look forward to continue working together towards a successful launch of the city’s bike share program.
Scott M. Stringer
Scott M. Stringer
Manhattan Borough President