Does Times Real Estate VP’s “Joke” Betray Anti-Bike Bias?

In December, Streetsblog reported on the lack of bicycle parking in the new New York Times Building, despite promises to bike-commuting staff that there would be space inside. We talked to several Times employees who said that after initially being allowed to bring their bikes in, they were suddenly denied entry.

A months-long standoff of sorts ensued, until building management finally opened a storage area big enough to hold 20 bikes, with spaces reserved by permit (the building is 1.5 million square feet). The hostility Times’ cycling employees have encountered since moving into the Renzo Piano-designed, Forest City Ratner-built "green" tower has caused some to stop riding to work.

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White sent a letter to Times Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., urging him to install adequate bike parking. Here is the response, from Hussain Ali-Khan, VP of Real Estate Development for the NYT.

Dear Mr. White,

Mr. Sulzberger has forwarded me your letter regarding bicycle parking in The New York Times Building. I am happy to say The New York Times Building incorporates many green technologies including bicycle parking!

The Real Estate Development team and the Building Operations department worked with our development partner and co-owner, Forest City Ratner Companies, and with bicycle riding employees to identify a suitable location for secure indoor parking. This was accomplished in December. The delay between moving in and setting up the bicycle parking was mostly due to logistics as we had significant construction activity in the building for several months after the Times moved in and we wanted to evaluate a couple of ideas after contractors and construction materials had been moved out. The reports you received were premature or ill informed and employees need only indicate their need to the security officers to be shown how to access the bike parking area.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding regarding bicycle parking at The New York Times Building. Good luck with your mission to rid the planet of cars!

Kidding! But not really. 

  • billy bob

    Beyond any “anti-bike bias”, I would add some arrogance and ignorance.

  • fdr

    At least he wished you good luck.

  • vnm

    Where’s the humor? That’s just a jerky and pretty unprofessional thing to say. He must have been quite unnerved by the attention to the bike parking issue.

  • JF

    I will point out that T.A. used to publish a newsletter called Auto-Free New York – although it wasn’t called Auto-Free World or anything. I always admired the chutzpah of that slogan, although I think it’s safe to say that Ali-Khan doesn’t. His mentioning of it is indeed petty, mean and unprofessional. I think they should revoke the building’s “green” status just for that.

    In any case, it sounds like they need a lot more bike than 20 spaces. Have fun storming the castle!

  • nobody

    Actually, even after TA’s mag was renamed to “Transportation Alternatives Magazine”, until recently it had a section entitled “Auto-Free World”.

  • Davis

    I’m sure he’s just trying to make a joke and it falls a bit flat and you can’t read too much into it. However, if I read anything into it it’s that we’ve got a real estate VP for a major Midtown corporation who doesn’t seem to have a clue as to just how much the Transportation Alternatives / Livable Street agenda ultimately benefits major real estate interests in this city. I mean, has Hussain looked out the window of his new building and noticed what a degraded, traffic choked, crap hole 8th Avenue is? Is he aware of how much a Jan Gehl-ish public space and transport upgrade would benefit his company’s real estate value and employee quality of life?

  • daniel arthurson

    Sort of ironic …this guy just built a 1.5M sq/ft building with 0 parking spaces! He clearly is doing his part to rid the planet of cars!

  • MD

    I’m sure he wasn’t demonstrating an attitude of smirking condescension toward someone with earnestly held beliefs that are to the left of his own.

    The Times would never do that.

  • Eric

    Is it any wonder that The Times thinks the world’s only bike boxes are in Portland?

    I’m thinking about buying a bunch of junked bikes and locking them to the Times Building’s facade with the thickest cables I can find.

  • Lisa

    I don’t really understand everyone’s comments. Maybe he actually meant good luck. You know — being nice.

  • Daniel

    Lisa,

    Typically, when some politico or civic group wants to write off a Livable Streets advocate they’ll call you a “car hater” or say something like, “these crazies just want to rid the world of cars.” And while both of those statements may be true at times, including the “crazies” description, I think that’s where the sensitivity comes from. Basically Hussain is boiling down a pretty well reasoned, rational and detailed set of advocacy positions to “ridding the world of cars.” I’m sure he was just trying to make a joke but it comes off as obnoxious and ignorant.

  • Josh

    I agree with Davis, this looks like a poorly-executed attempt at humor to me.

    If I worked at the Times building, I’d be more bothered by the fact that the letter doesn’t seem to be clear on whether there’s going to be more than the existing 20 spaces.

  • william

    The letter indicates that they never properly planned for bike parking, though building is just three blocks from the Hudson River Bike Superhighway! They “wanted to evaluate a couple of ideas…” Uh huh. A “green” building with bike parking as an afterthought.
    I work in the building and have been told only 20 spaces, to be allocated by lottery by size of tenant. wish me luck.

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