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.
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.