Stringer Sides With UN Bike-Share Terror Fearmongers

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

Janette Sadik-Khan
Commissioner
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.

Sincerely,

Scott M. Stringer

Scott M. Stringer
Manhattan Borough President

  • Before someone starts complaining that bike share promotes sidewalk cycling based on the video, I’ll point out that the Dag Hammar bike share kiosks under  attack are in the street, not on the sidewalk, and that it is legal for adults to bike on the sidewalk in DC, which is why it is shown in this promotional video.

  • Jeff

    In all fairness, his fleeting shout-out to “security concerns” aside, Stringer isn’t siding with “UN Bike-Share Terror Fearmongers”, he’s siding with a few Turtle Bay residents with (albeit poorly justified) concerns about how a large bike share station could change the character of the plaza.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m on “our” side, and think that the concerns amount to nothing more than classic NIMBYism, and that the current station planned for this site is appropriate given the transportation needs of the surrounding community and the city as a whole.  I just don’t appreciate loaded headlines like this that make Streetsblog into the NY Post of the livable streets movement…

  • The Unacyclist

    Scott Stringer’s intellectual integrity is apparently for sale to wealthy East Side campaign donors.

  • @7e1970922cf83fe54c9f1a64d1af39c9:disqus  Stringer’s nod to the fearmongers is plainly stated in his letter:

    “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.”

    Please spare us from drawing lazy parallels to the Post.

  • Ben, I think Stringer’s wording implies much more concern about Occupiers than terrorists.

  • @yahoo-OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ:disqus I think it’s a mistake to read the letter so literally. The general purpose is clearly to show the East Side NIMBYs that Stringer has their back. The “security concerns” sentence is a signal to the subset of NIMBYs who’ve latched on to the terror paranoia.

  • Anonymous

    Right, so bike docks will ruin the “oasis of calm” that, according to Stringer, is a site for community events, a green market, and social and political demonstrations! Score one for fallacious logic.

    And then they are surprised that a place that sees all this action (plus, being close to a large employer, the UN) might need more bike docks than random intersections throughout the neighborhood. Score two for fallacious logic.

    They might as well complain that Grand Central Station has too many bike docks because it has more than the surrounding neighborhood.

    They probably imagine hordes of cyclists showing up all at once. I think it’s more likely that they will show one or two at a time, and no one will even notice them. People hardly notice cyclists anyway.

    Tangential note regarding the invisibility of cyclists: people complain that bike lanes are unused. I once stood for the better part on an hour next to the CPW bike lane, and counted cyclists and motor vehicles. Cyclists were 15% of the vehicles that I saw, but admittedly the lane looked “empty” because bikes are small and quiet. I guarantee that if you asked someone who wasn’t keeping count to estimate the fraction of cyclist traffic on that street, they would guess about 1%. Perhaps 1% is closer to the truth if you measure traffic “volume” in cubic meters per hour, or in tons per hour. 😉

  • Anonymous

    I am disappointed in Stinger. He is usually better than this. Bike docking stations are going to ruin the oasis of calm? About as much is garbage cans and mail boxes I guess.The clicking of the bikes going into the dock must be louder than I remember them.

  • Anonymous

    What a bunch of buffoons.  The bike share units are for them to use.  Does every single person in the Far East 40s rely primarily on cabs?  There’s no train near there and cross town buses are a joke. 

    These vocal NIMBY’s are hurting their less vocal neighbors. 

  • Anonymous


    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.

    That block long plaza is flanked by two truck routes.    So trucks are ok.  Bikes are not?  

  • The Unacyclist

    @yahoo-OKEONAMLFIOS5WI7MPQY6SXBCQ:disqus Okay.  I’ll give Stringer the benefit of the doubt and assume he only means protesters crowding the plaza and not bomb-filled bikes.  The solution is simple: remove the benches, planters, garbage cans, and public art.  For every bike share station that can’t be put in, remove a comparable number of car spaces, since protests inevitably spill into the street.  Anything that could cause a hazard needs to go just in case those OWS hippies come a callin’.

    If the plaza has “unique characteristics” that can’t be compromised by bike share docks, then it also can’t be compromised by car parking along its edges. You can’t have it both ways.  As he says, government needs to be sensitive to “legitimate neighborhood concerns.”  Calling for a reduction in the number of bike share stations but not making a similar request to reduce the free parking renders the concerns illegitimate.  I expect better from Scott Stringer.

    The irony here is that a bike share station could easily be removed in the event of a scheduled protest or event on the plaza and put back in after it was over.  I wonder if Dr. David Gootnick would move his car as quickly.

  • I’m a fan of bikeshare but also a fan of Stringer… and Stringer is generally a friend of bicyclists. I’m trying to figure out how that all reconciles here. My interpretation (as the most likely scenario):

    Stringer is asking the DOT to scale back the number of bicycles in this one location because people asked him to intervene. He’s siding with their request because he thinks the request is reasonable, given the information that he has. 

    I can think of no particular reason why this particular location is useful as a hub for as many as 74 bicycles. Maybe the DOT knows better and has good cause to bulk up this location with bike docks. But local residents and users of the plaza feel like this many bike docks will have a disruptive effect. The DOT has always willingly bestowed power to local residents to accept or reject infrastructure proposals. 

    It seems that relocating some of the bike docks to other nearby spots will make everyone happy. And I think that’s what they should do. And I think Stringer is being reasonable, too, in helping the neighborhood get their concerns through to the DOT. As a matter of fact, he’s doing his job and doing it well.

    I think the Tudor City and Turtle Bay residents are effing crazy, but this is one spot where we might get the most progress by temporarily humoring them. Best-case scenario, they’ll have to fight it out at future CB6 meetings internally over how much bikeshare expansion is needed to meet demand. Worst-case scenario, the bikes ARE disruptive to the plaza but at least it’s only a couple of dozen that need to be relocated further away. I figure it to be win-win either way.

  • Ian Turner

    Disappointing. I was planning to donate to Stringer’s campaign.

  • Anonymous

    It either is or isn’t a terror threat. If it’s a terror threat limiting to two doesn’t keep anyone safe.

  • Scott has enough cred with the livable streets community based on his past work that I haven’t decided to end my financial and volunteer support for him. But I do think it was irresponsible for him to cite security concerns in his letter–those clearly are specious–and I’m going to be watching very closely to see how his involvement in this issue develops.

  • Only in the logic hall-of-mirrors that is nyc “bike bedlam!” would NIMBY cranks seriously try to position themselves as bigger authorities on international terrorism than the freaking SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS!!!

  • +The Unacyclist, it’s not that the bike station would make things more dangerous if protesters come, it’s that it makes it easier for  protesters to come. I feel that makes bikeshare a good thing, but lots of people disagree on that. 

  • Eric McClure

    Since the whole “terror” concern is a silly smokescreen for good, old-fashioned anti-bike NIMBYism, the headline is perfectly appropriate.

    And I don’t recall anyone raising terror concerns about bike-share stations at Grand Central, Penn Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal or Atlantic Terminal.  One might think that the UN’s thousands of workers might even like to use bike share to commute.

  • Ian Dutton

    You know that I’m 142% behind bikeshare and -17% behind the NIMBYs. But I don’t think this is crazy. He’s asking that they reconsider the size, not “get off my lawn.” The tone is overwhelmingly positive towards bikeshare. He doesn’t mention terrorism, just a broad-brush “security” – and there are a lot of non-terrorism security concerns around there.

    He totally leaves the door open for a small retreat on the size, which might be appropriate. And when the system launches, the same NIMBYs will be complaining that they got short-changed and will demand a larger rack, which can be dropped in the location in an hour.

    This whole story is overblown as editors look for an “anti bikeshare rage” angle everywhere.

  • Station44025

    The irony is that Dag Hammarskjöld has streets named after him in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.  I’m willing to bet there are bike lanes on a few of them, if not bike share.

    One of his famous quotes: “It is very easy to bow to the wish of a big power. It is another matter to resist it.”

    The straws that anti-bike NIMBYs will grasp for is getting more hilarious with each episode.

  • If, like Brian says, that many docks isn’t needed for that location, then that will be proven over time, and they can easily move some of them elsewhere. Remember, these things are not bolted into the ground.

  • @IanD_NYC:disqus Stringer is smart enough to know that he couldn’t write a letter to DOT agreeing with anyone who linked bike share stations to terrorist attacks in India so he wrote this instead, saying that there are “legitimate concerns” about these locations. 

    Sounds reasonable in comparison, but it’s really just a way of hiding some highly ridiculous concerns beneath the authority of the borough president’s office.  To use an extreme example, it’s like the difference between Orly Taitz demanding to see Obama’s long-form birth certificate and John Boehner saying that he has to take the president at his word when he says he was born in the U.S.

  • Wilfried

    Has anyone noticed that there will be a bike share demo at the Plaza on June 27th? Not that I’m suggesting anything. Just sayin’…

    http://www.citibikenyc.com/events-demos

  • Anonymous

    Saw it in use yesterday in DC, I was impressed. There’s no reason this shouldn’t be used in NYC as planned.

  • Matt C

    Year two of bike share in Boston is in full swing.  I see more and more white collar/professionally dressed folks using the bikes – people aren’t stupid, they see a good thing and jump on board.

    A year from now when people of Turtle Bay clamor for more bikes, I hope someone has the sense to tell them “no” and send them a copy of this letter, as a catalog as to “why”.

  • Streetsman

    Which is it – quiet and tranquil, or active and heavily programmed? Answer: neither is relevant. It’s just a place where the community members who maintain it feel ownership of the space and do not welcome a use that invites outsiders. It’s fear of the unknown really. I think the solution strategy Stringer’s office should be proposing here is one of wait and see, not one of reacting hastily. Let Alta install the station at the recommended size, and then see if the ONE supposed negative impact that was actually specified (that it “will transform the plaza from a place of quiet reflection to one of active use”) actually comes to bear.

  • Julius Breezer

    Et tu, Scottae?

  • fj

    Yup, Stringer is just another transportation and climate pragmatist lacking the true leadership to address rapidly accelerating emergencies.

    Business as usual is unacceptable during times of great change

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