Iris Weinshall’s Anti-Bike Lawyer, Jim Walden, Is Back

The lawyer who spent a good chunk of 2011 deceiving the press and the public about the safety effect of the Prospect Park West bike lane is back in the news.

Former deputy mayor Randy Mastro and former DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall teamed up to launch Jim Walden to anti-bike prominence in 2010.

Jim Walden made an appearance in the Post this weekend on behalf of clients who are suing the city to remove a bike-share station from SoHo’s Petrosino Square. “I’ve been disappointed to see Citi Bike stations moved in wealthier neighborhoods,” he told the paper. “You would think [the city] would want to avoid even the appearance that struggling artists would be treated differently than highfalutin financiers.” Like so much of the coverage that came out of the PPW lawsuit, this turns out to rely on cherry-picked information.

The city has moved or adjusted bike-share stations not just in front of tony Manhattan condos, but also in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and western Bed Stuy. Council Member Tish James reported in May that her office was working with DOT on tweaking four stations, and the station now at Skillman and DeKalb was relocated from a previous site further south and east. The station site on the north side of Petrosino Square, meanwhile, collected more than 60 votes of support on the station suggestion tool that DOT referred to when designing the system map. The site may upset Sean Sweeney and his SoHo Alliance, but plenty of people told the city they think it’s a good place for a bike-share station.

New Yorkers got their first glimpse of Walden’s flair for generating bad press about bike projects in 2010, after Iris Weinshall, the former DOT commissioner who’s married to Senator Chuck Schumer, prevailed upon former Giuliani Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro to take the case against the PPW bike lane pro bono. Mastro is co-chair of the litigation arm at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the mega-firm where Walden works.

In addition to retaining the services of Walden and other Gibson Dunn attorneys at no charge, the people who sued the city to reverse the PPW redesign hired a PR firm and worked their own, very substantial media contacts to drum up negative coverage about NYC DOT. The coverage quieted down after Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Bert Bunyan ruled that their case had no standing. But, as it happens, their appeal of that decision is still active, and Walden continues to pop up, making trouble for various DOT bike initiatives.

Back in April, DNAinfo reported, Walden approached Manhattan Community Board 8 prior to a vote on bike safety improvements that DOT had proposed for the approach to the Queensboro Bridge. Walden sent an email casting doubt on the safety benefits of bike lanes, offering to help “in your evaluation of the bike lane on UES.” Responding to the accusation that he was seeking out more anti-bike clients, Walden told DNAinfo, “I’ve got a very, very full docket of pro bono cases that cover a very diverse number of issues. If someone is speculating that I’m looking for more pro bono cases at this state, they obviously should take a hard look at my pro-bono docket before they make such an assertion.” (The board eventually voted in favor of the DOT project.)

Now Walden is suing the city again, on behalf of Sean Sweeney’s SoHo Alliance, best known for opposing DOT measures to reclaim space for walking or biking. Neither Walden nor Sweeney responded to email inquiries about whether the work is pro bono.

On the Prospect Park West front, Doug Gordon at Brooklyn Spoke reports that Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes — the anti-bike lane group with ties to Weinshall and Schumer that operates out of the penthouse of one of the most exclusive residential buildings in Brooklyn — is appealing for donations. A message sent out to the email list “1,000 Friends of Parks” includes this ask from NBBL’s Louise Hainline:

Our pro bono lawyers at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher have fought long and hard for us and they are still sincerely committed, but we have reached the point where we need to raise some real money…..Help us keep fighting.

While the appeal has a tinge of desperation, it’s also a sharp reminder that Hainline, Walden, and company haven’t gone away.

  • Anonymous

    I thought Hainline and Weinshall sent emails from their CUNY email accounts during work hours. Doesn’t that mean they have already raised “in-kind” contributions from a taxpayer-funded university?

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/07/11/cuny-refuses-to-disclose-weinshall-emails-about-ppw-bike-lane/

  • Mark Walker

    Their will to power is disturbing. Sounding out the mayor candidates on who they plan to appoint to DOT and other key posts is now a matter of urgency.

  • tyler

    I winder if (former dean) Hainline has passed the hat around to her NBBL buddies before asking other to donate to the “cause.”

  • Jared R

    A station at DeKalb and Vanderbilt in Fort Greene was relocated a few days ago. Unfortunately for me, this is very inconvenient. I have my hopes up because this relocation coincided with paving on DeKalb. I’m hoping my station returns after the DOT is finished with their work.

  • All this over a bike lane? A simple bike lane? America has got to be one of the most laughed-at countries when it comes to this stuff.

  • mike

    You’d think a senator could find a more attractive wife.

  • These people’s ideas are bad enough that I don’t think it’s necessary to attack them on how they look.

  • Park Slope Parent

    It would be a small hat. NBBL’s membership is probably so small now they could carpool.

  • Shemp

    Have you noticed the street there is being resurfaced?

  • David Sessions

    Another error in the Post story: it claimed that Barry Diller (IAC CEO) had a station “removed,” but in fact it was just moved to the other side of the street to be less of an obstacle at the entrance to the IAC building on West 18th street.

  • Daphna

    The station at DeKalb and Vanderbilt is still on both the NYC DOT bikeshare map and on Alta’s bikeshare map. On Alta’s map that station is currently listed “out of service”. Possibly that station was temporarily removed while the road was being re-paved and will be put back once the resurfacing is done.

  • Jared R

    I just hope it gets put back. It’s been a traumatic experience 😉

  • Daphna

    The NBBL (Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes but actually the Never Build a Bike Lane crew) do not want a lane that allows seniors, young children and families to bike safely; and do not want pedestrians to cross the road more easily by virtue of pedestrian islands. They prefer a bike lane sandwiched in between speeding motorists and parked cars – one that is placed right in the door zone of the parked cars. They want to be able to conveniently double park illegally in a bike lane. The Prospect Park West safer street re-design discourages speeding and deters double parking which are not results desired by Louise Hainline, Iris Weinshall (Senator Chuck Schumer’s wife), Jim Walden, Randy Mastro or by the Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher law firm which gave pro bono services to NBBL when they did not quality for pro bono.

    Pro bono is supposed to go to the poor or to advancing rights. This group is wealthy individuals (Hainline and Weinshall both making over a quarter million a year) who were able to afford a PR firm with the money they did not have to spend on a lawyer. Their cause is exactly the opposite of advancing rights. The Prospect Park West bike lane came about through a community process. The NBBL are elite, powerful political insiders who were used to making back-room deals at high levels of government and getting what they wanted, rather than letting democracy or the will of the people play out. The Bloomberg administration would not make these deals with them. They tried all their connections within city government before turning to the lawsuit. In no way does this lawsuit qualify for pro bono. Those represented are the opposite of poor and what they are doing is the opposite of advancing rights. Randy Mastro gave these pro bono services from Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher to NBBL seemingly as a favor to Chuck Schumer. All of these men should be called out on this.

  • Joe R.

    Sooner or later the old adage “shit always floats to the top” will be proven true. These people can hide behind legalese for now, but in the end what they’re doing opposing any reconfiguration of public space away from motor vehicles is costing lives. Eventually the general public will see them for what they really are-petty little tyrants more worried about their free on-street parking than public safety who throw their weight around like spoiled toddlers to get their way.

  • alex

    is there a place that we can find out which stations are being moved so i can lock myself in one of the open bike stands?

  • Joe R.

    I agree. We need to take the high road and criticize them on their ideas only. Doing anything else just gives them ammunition against us.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I once heard this argument in response to city complaints against litigants intentionally dragging out cases, thereby using the cost and trouble of litigation as a weapon of injustice.

    Why doesn’t the Corporation Counsel demand that the case move to a conclusion expeditiously? Why doesn’t it say “this has been going on for years, we’re ready, let’s do this?”

    Well, why not.

  • WASP Civility

    Confirms the age old riddle:
    “What are Jewish & obnoxious?”

    “Synonyms!”

    Ugh….

  • krstrois

    You’re disgusting. Signed, another WASP.

  • Guest

    Isn’t there a huge ethical issue with characterizing this representation as “pro bono”?

    Pro bono services are for “the underserved and to the poor” who otherwise could not seek justice. Providing representation to such affluent and well-connected people certainly falls outside any accepted definition.

    I don’t know if he took this job to earn favors he can call in later, as some have speculated, or not. It doesn’t really matter… Every time he claims he is working “pro bono,” he seems to be deliberately misrepresenting his practice. I hope the bar takes note.

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    I can’t believe I missed this, and just want to add truth to what is false in the report. You write, “The station site on the north side of Petrosino Square, meanwhile, collected more than 60 votes of support on the station suggestion tool that DOT referred to when designing the system map. ” The truth of the matter is that, if you look at the underlying data depicting the location of those votes, you will see that do not come from the residents around Petrosino…in fact most are from those in Brooklyn locations.” The further truth of the matter is that those asking that the bike station be moved into the adjacent street was signed by hundreds of people who actually do live in the area (I believe there were more than 500 signatures) including people who are members of Citibike. The other truth is that the station suggestion tool was seriously flawed in that there was no way for a person to click a “do not like” icon. If one could, that map would not have pointed to the park, but to the adjacent street. And lastly, at the community board meetings with the DOT they were told over and over again…not in our parks, not in Petrosino Square Park. The DOT knew a year before the program was finally implemented that the placement in the Park did not meet the community approval portion of their placement criteria.

    I think adding a shared bike transportation system is great for the City, and want it to succeed. However, why this has to be done on the backs of those of us who worked hard to get a nice open space dedicated to sculpture exhibits is beyond my comprehension. And, going further, why it has to be done in violation of their own rules (no interruption of pedestrian pathing — FAIL, not too close to tree pits — FAIL, no riding bikes on sidewalks — FAIL) to place this in Petrosino Square Park … WHY?

  • qrt145

    Don’t dismiss those votes from Brooklyn so quickly: this is part of a system, and as such the interests of Brooklyn residents who work near Petrosino Square or visit it frequently are legitimate too. Giving supremacy to the interests of local residents at the expense of the larger community is the very essence of NIMBYism.

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