NYPD Has Spent $1.32M to Suppress a Monthly Bike Ride

Charles Komanoff, flanked by Marquez Claxton and Norman Siegel, at City Hall this morning.

Time’s Up took its campaign for safe bicycling into the economic arena this morning with release of a report documenting the Bloomberg administration’s squandering of New Yorkers’ tax dollars in suppressing the Critical Mass bike rides.

With the City Hall steps as backdrop, the grassroots environmental group released a report I helped prepare, estimating that police and other agencies spent $1,320,000 harassing and arresting Critical Mass riders from September 2004 through August 2006.

This figure comprises:

  • $1,000,000 spent by the NYPD policing the rides and processing arrestees (calculated by prorating officer’s salaries and costs of scooters, police transport vehicles, helicopters and other equipment for the hours deployed)
  • $150,000 spent by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office charging arrestees and trying cases
  • $170,000 spent by the NYC Law Dept. bringing and settling lawsuits against Critical Mass (the "Bray" and "Time’s Up" cases)

During the same two-year period the city spent less than $700,000 planning, engineering, and installing bike lanes in the five boroughs. Thus, over the past two years New York City spent twice as much suppressing two dozen bicycle rides as it spent creating a safe bicycling infrastructure that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers could be using every day.

At the City Hall event, Marquez Claxton, who does public relations and political affairs for 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, called the NYPD’s suppression of Critical Mass a "personal campaign" by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "When you see such illogical allocation of police resources," Claxton said, "you have to conclude that the impetus is personal vindictiveness rather than dispassionate analysis."

Noted civil rights attorney Norman Siegel called on NYC Comptroller William Thompson to verify the dollar estimates in the Time’s Up report. "Auditing use of tax dollars is your job as comptroller," Siegel said. If you’re serious about running for mayor in 2009, the people of New York City will see to it that this is an issue you can’t duck."

Another speaker, Mark Taylor of Assemble for Rights, urged New Yorkers to speak out against the NYPD’s proposed parade-permit rules at a November 27 public hearing. Letting the police write the law in addition to enforcing the law is something that happens in a police state, Taylor warned.

For more information on this issue, here is my 2004 report (PDF file) documenting the trivial traffic impacts of Critical Mass rides on New York City traffic congestion and mobility.

Photo: Fred Askew

  • mike

    Shouldn’t that be $1.32 million over TWO years?

    More info here.

  • g

    Does that figure include the cost of the fuel needed to operate police cars and motorcycles?

    Either way, a protest meant to promote clean, sensible transportation options causes the police to waste gallons and gallons of gas.

    Isn’t it ironic?

  • Clarence

    As always, an excellent post. And I am sure CK was very conservative with his $$$ figures. If anything – I am sure there are plenty of things we could all think of that would increase the figure beyond $ 1.32 million.

    For example, if the NYPD officers assigned to the ride were out fighting crime on the streets during those hours instead, how many additional crimes and injuries (or, perhaps dare we go there, possibly a murder?) could have been prevented? The $$$ value for someone losing their life/being severly injured in a crime would be tough to estimate and I am pretty sure would not be included in the study…but I am sure CK can/will answer that.

  • P

    What a waste- and I’m don’t even believe that Critical Mass is a very effective tool to promote biking.

  • Thanks, Mike. I fixed that error.

  • Dan

    Any estimate of how many tons of carbon were emitted by the police in their efforts to harass Critical Mass riders?

  • Boogiedown

    Yeah, but what about all the police overtime? Cops gotta earn some BREAD! And you know that the cops pulling overtime are the ones about to retire. Wouldn’t want to cut them out of the action, would you?

  • ddartley

    One of many reasons NYPD should shift a lot of personnel to bicycles, and out of cars and scooty-scoots.

    But of course that’s just a silly idea.

  • AD

    The comparison of the expenditures on Critical Mass policing and bicycle lanes is astonishing. Komanoff, thanks for bringing this to light.

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    Well Boogiedown as a matter of fact NYC Cops are relatively poorly paid, starting pay is about $13/hr. Yeah, theres health care and a pension but…Come on. People complain about WalMart and Home Depot.

    Every discussion of social policy doesn’t end with some poor working stiffs salary and benfits. And this excellent discussion of opportunity costs shouldn’t really go there. The cops do what they are told. Winning them over as individuals is part of what this debate should do. Police overtime would be fine with me if they are writing up unsafe driving. That some guys roll that into their pensin doesn’t bother me either.

    The thrust of this fine piece is that these costs are experienced while actually making the streets less safe for bicyclists. Everyone has their own issues with the police but they don’t set the policy.

    And, to me a lot of this policy is a legacy of the Republican convention. That convention was good for the Republicans but bad for the city. The Coliseums, Casinos and Convention Centers development strategy is part of what took NYC down this road. That and having a rich guy mayor who is used to just giving orders and having them followed. Makes it hard to build permanent social relationships based on civic trust.

  • Boogiedown

    Fair enough, Macchiavelli.

  • mike
  • Bugg

    While you assume that NYPD is the bad guy, they get their orders from City Hall.Your ire is more properly directed at Bloomturd and DOT Commissioner for Life Weinshall. Most rank&file cops have no burning desire to have to be bothered wtih this as long as it’s peaceful. And for the most part the behavior of Critical Mass, other than some traffic issues, has been exemplary. They would rather be in their typical assignments that this wasteful nonsense.

  • Mike, CK

    Can I suggest putting the report in a pdf file, adding someone’s name to it as the author and someone to respond to press or other queries…

    This could be a powerful argument against the new parade rules. Money talks and no one wants to waste money on excessive over enforcement of minor rules. That $1.3 million could have saved a senior center or a library or a youth after school program.

    Please make this report more professional looking and it will get legs…

  • Hi all —

    The interest in the report is heartening. Thanks!

    Give the credit to Time’s Up — their idea, their tenacity, their arranging the City Hall event, etc.

    I’ll fwd Glenn’s suggestions above to XU.

  • The study can be found here as well:


  • ddartley

    I mostly agree with Bugg. There was a video on Bikeblog (linked to on this site, I think) a while back that showed about three instances where cops released CM riders they’d detained after the rider showed the cops text of the laws, and demonstrated they were within the law.

    I think those clips made those particular cops look good–they saw the text of the law and they did the right thing.

  • Steve

    Check out the following link to a lecture given by Commissioner Ray Kelly on the topic of security and civil liberties just a few weeks ago: http://law-library.rutgers.edu/feeds/06millerlecture.php.

    Kelly describes the NYPD performance at the RNC as one of the NYPD’s “finest hours,” and discusses the proposed parade regulations.


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