Can Red Hook Become NYC’s Most Bike-Friendly Neighborhood?

Earlier this week, the Forum For Urban Design announced the Red Hook Bicycle Master Plan Design Competition, offering cash prizes for the best proposals to "re-imagine Red Hook as the most bicycle friendly neighborhood in all of New York."

Plans should center on the creation of a bike loft parking facility at the Smith/9th Street subway station, now scheduled for a 2010 remodeling. The Forum envisions a garage with space for at least 100 bikes, accessible to both neighborhood and visiting cyclists via "dedicated bike lanes and routes." Plans should also include feasible funding proposals.

Competition details may be found on the Forum For Urban Design web site, as well as in this video from Brian Lehrer Live, in which Lehrer interviews the Forum’s Lisa Chamberlain and Loreal Monroe while looking at a couple of Streetfilms for inspiration.

The registration deadline is June 2; submission deadline July 31.

  • gecko

    Definitely an interesting design challenge connecting a 100 bike loft parking facility at the Smith/9th Street subway station in the vicinity of some terrifying truck traffic and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway likely requiring some use of elevated bikeways to fully transform Red Hook into a bike friendly neighborhood with sublime possibilities including NYC’s closet point to the Statue of Liberty, a long section of the Brooklyn waterfront right across for Governor’s Island, cruise ship docking including the Queen Mary 2, and a New York Waterways ferry dock.

    In the longer term, it would probably be more practical, convenient, and functional to have the bike parking in Downtown Brooklyn at the Jay Street / Borough Hall transportation catchment which includes a unusually large number of subway and bus lines within walking distance to the Long Island Railroad and across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall in Manhattan.

    In any case, these design competitions provide great bangs for the $buck in generating solutions potentially suitable for implementation.

  • momos

    Wow, the bike stations in Chicago and CA shown in this video are AMAZING. There should be one underground at Union Square, several in Central Park, several scattered around Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan and Long Island City. Imagine if each was equipped with showers and lockers, plus a nice place to hang out.

  • gecko

    momos, The ferry docks might have a bit more immediate room for bike parking; maybe, like municipal health clubs.

  • momos

    Gecko, you’re right. Whitehall and St. George terminals definitely should have them. And there would be some prime spots along the west side greenway, too.

    I really like your metaphor of municipal health clubs. What if a portion of city rec centers in locations with heavy bike traffic were rehabbed specifically for cyclists?

    “Bike hubs” are such a fantastic idea. They should be considered part of bike infrastructure and be included in any planning. They should have clean showers and lockers in addition to secure bike parking, so they could really become full fledged commuting hubs. And adding a few picnic tables with umbrellas would make them social gathering spots with benefits for the broader public too.

    I love it! Let’s get on it, New York!

  • momos

    PS. Rehabbing rec centers to accommodate bike hubs doesn’t mean taking away the rest of rec center features. I had something more like small additions in mind, like building a bike shed or converting a storage room for bike parking, and reconfiguring policies to allow commuters to leave a change of clothes there for the day.

  • gecko

    momos, I believe the Parks Department has this already to a limited extent (without the bike facilities you mention) in really inexpensive gyms and public pools like the one at the Carmine Street Pool in the Village or the one at the 23rd Street Pool (Asser Levy).

    So it shouldn’t be much to provide the additional bike facilities and possibly entirely new gyms with bicycle facilities.

    They are called Recreation Centers and can be found in all five boroughs:

  • gecko

    Oops! That is pretty much what you just said. #6 just expands on it a little.

  • gecko

    Here’s the link for the one in Red Hook:

    Red Hook
    155 Bay Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11232
    Center Manager: Jackie Spann
    Deputy Center Manager: Sharon Williams/Dawn Cook
    Phone: (718) 722-3211 (718) 722-7105
    Fax: (718) 722-7341
    Cross Streets: Henry and Clinton streets

    (Hint, hint)

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    When I commuted from Woodside to Soho in 2002-2003, I used the Carmine Street gym as my “bike hub,” showering there on my way to work. As soon as they switched to summer (pool) hours, they were no longer open in the morning. Fortunately I had a membership at the New York Sports Club and used that, but at $80 a month it’s an expensive bike hub.

    There is actually a significant need for safe places to change clothes and/or shower. Transgender people need places to change clothes, and so do the homeless. Cyclists, transgender people and homeless people – not exactly the most powerful coalition, but th need is there.

    I remember when the Port Authority Bus Terminal had walls lined with lockers; you could leave your stuff there for hours on a quarter. I think there were similar lockers in Grand Central and Penn Station. Then one year they were gone; I never figured out why, but I think it was the same time they got rid of the benches. Wasn’t there some story about someone storing body parts in a locker?

  • gecko

    Angus, Please. I don’t need anymore ideas! (My parts are all accounted for.)

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Not your body parts, someone else’s! But according to this Times article, that was either an urban legend or my imagination.

    Apparently, the lockers were removed because homeless people were storing their clothes in them. Can’t have that, can we? Baggage checks were removed because of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. How’s that logic? The bombing was done with a rented truck filled with explosives, but did they forbid people from parking rental trucks in underground garages? No.

    What’s really nuts is Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Jeanine Moss’s unsubstantiated assertion that there aren’t that many people who actually need (and deserve) the service, because the important visitors bring cars to store their stuff in:

    Jeanine Moss, a spokeswoman for the New York City Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the weary-traveler-with-baggage-in-tow problem was not that common and was more likely to apply to international travelers than to one-day visitors to the city.

    “Many of the day-trippers come in by car and don’t usually carry much in the way of personal belongings,” Ms. Moss said. “What you’re describing primarily affects the traveler who is changing airports and has a layover and the baggage isn’t checked through to the final destination. They are so few, I doubt it’s a huge problem.”

  • momos

    Although that article is from more than 10 yrs ago, I’m sure officialdom would say the same thing now. Can’t have storage lockers b/c of terrorism & homeless people.

    Ms Moss says the only people not having storage lockers for are “international travelers.” And who needs them.

    Except that international travelers spend far more money in NYC than day trippers and the Bloomberg administration has spent millions opening travel bureaus around the world to get more int’l visitors.

    And New Yorkers need storage facilities too — cyclists in particular. This is yet another group the City is now trying to increase in size.

    And homeless people have legitimate storage needs too.

    In most European cities they’ve figured out how to have modern, clean, bright storage lockers at transit and bike hubs without it becoming a security issue or attracting tons of homeless people. If they can do it there, why can’t we do it here?

  • momos

    Typo, sorry. Meant to type this:

    Ms Moss says the only people for whom not having storage lockers is a problem are “international travelers.” And who needs them.

  • gecko

    There has to be a lot more cyclists to get the needed amenities. Hopefully, DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan’s proposal for halving mortality from car and truck accidents will provide seeds for change and maybe she is just being conservative on how many more people will feel comfortable traveling the streets on bikes.

    Most likely, it does make good economic sense to have a lot more people on bikes (say, one-half million or more) because it would cost so little to provide for them, where at the same time it would enhance the quality of life as such to substantially increase tourist dollars and local commerce and provide for a much more resilient transportation environment, and other benefits as well which could easily translate into net income for this city.

    The expectation level has been so low for so long that there has to emerge a vision for what can really be done. We’ve seen what China has done (before they went crazy in love with cars). They would not have been able to pull themselve up to where they are today if they did not have bicycles and a substantial transportation network.

    A sufficiently forward-thinking “New York City Model” based on human-scale transport could be quite amazing!

    Designing a bicycle network around an high-elevation station like Smith/9th could be a good start.

  • Can’t we keep it simple?

    Do the great biking cities actually provide public shower facilities everywhere? I would think the need only applies to bikers who race. And can’t they just use a washcloth in their office restrooms to wipe themselves down?

  • gecko

    keep it simple, Pith helmets with fans would work.


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