How Do Bike Seizures Fit Into Bloomberg’s “Green Plan”
On Tuesday afternoon the Parks Dept. seized dozens of bikes parked at the Forest Hills train station
Lauren Philson was out running some errands near the Forest Hills train station in Queens on Tuesday when she spotted three or four men using large clippers to steal bicycles. The men weren’t your typical bike thieves. "They were wearing white polo shirts with Parks and Recreation logos on them," Philson says. And they were heaping the bicycles into the big, green Parks Dept. truck pictured above.
A friend’s bicycle had been picked up in the seizure so Philson, a 25-year-old photography professional, asked the Parks officers what was going on. They told her that the bikes were being removed from trees and fencing around trees. Philson believes that bicycles were also removed from street signs and other street furniture and estimates that there were somewhere between 40 to 50 bikes piled into the truck.
Abigail Lootens, a Parks Dept spokesperson, says the bike seizures are not part of any new citywide policy nor were they done in respnse to a specific complaint. "Street trees are under our jurisdiction and if Parks enforcement officers are patrolling an area and see unattended property, they’ll confiscate it. It’s just routine," she said.
Later, a neighbor who used to work in the park brought Philson to the command center where the bikes had been taken. There she spoke with a Parks Enforcement Patrol officer who told her that "it was the first day of a citywide campaign" to remove bicycles from Parks property. The officer said the campaign was "part of the Mayor’s ‘green plan’ including the planting of a million new trees throughout New York City," Philson reports.
The Parks Dept. says that the officer who spoke with Philson is "misinformed." I have called the officer but have been unable to reach him.
Lootens said that she would try to get answers to a number of questions that I asked. She didn’t know how many bikes had been confiscated on Tuesday. She could not confirm whether bike confiscations took place at other locations throughout the city. And she didn’t have information about how often the Parks Dept. conducted bike seizures at the Forest Hills subway station in the past. "It’s just enforcement of Parks rules, a daily thing. It’s not uncommon," she says.
As for procedure, "When bikes are confiscated," Lootens says, "a note is left behind notifying the owner and telling them where they can claim it. The bikes are first brought to the local Parks Enforcement Patrol command center for several days where it is hoped they will be claimed. After that they are moved to storage at Flushing Meadows Corona Park for about a week. If still not claimed, they are turned over to NYPD."
Philson, however, says that no notes were left behind at the Forest Hills train station. Rather, the Parks employees left a single business card thumbtacked to trees on which bikes had been locked. The business card belonged to Kenneth Brown, Captain of the Parks Enforcement Patrol, Queens Sector.
"At the command center, I was giving the Captain a hard time," Philson said. "He said, ‘Look, you’ve got to get a group together in the community and do something about this.’ He seemed like he felt he was doing something wrong by taking the bikes but had to do what he was told."
Photo: Lauren Philson, Tuesday, July 10