Eyes on the Street: NYPD Sanctions Bike Lane Blocking on Henry Street

Photo: Peter Kaufman
Spotted on the fence in front of the First Presbyterian Church: a police plan to sanction bike lane blocking on Henry Street. Photo: Peter Kaufman

Looks like Assembly member Joan Millman’s efforts to keep the Henry Street bike lane clear of cars belonging to church-going motorists yielded only a Pyrrhic, pre-primary day victory.

For those who are just tuning into this saga, Ink Lake blogger and Brooklyn Heights resident Peter Kaufman has been trying to get the 84th Precinct to stop allowing members of the First Presbyterian Church to park in the Henry Street bike lane on Sundays. In August, a phone call from Millman’s office to the 84th seemingly put a stop to the compact between church and police (a variety of informal arrangement that some city synagogues take advantage of as well).

Then Kaufman started to notice some backsliding, and finally this Sunday he saw several copies of the above notice attached to the fence in front of the church. Here’s his reaction:

Compromise? Church-goers, with the acquiescence of the police, will continue to be allowed to block the lane when they want, and now the congregants have it in writing.

I contacted Ms. Hudson [Millman’s chief of staff], who said she had not been informed of this apparent codification of the arrangement between the church and the police, wherein people attending church won’t be ticketed. She said she would bring this to the attention of the Assemblywoman, and would be contacting Captain DiPaolo of the 84th.

Here’s a shot from this past Sunday, of the cars of the poor congregants who would rather park in the bike lane than find a legal space or a lot.

Photo: Peter Kaufman
Photo: Peter Kaufman

Streetsblog’s phone calls to the 84th Precinct have yet to be returned.

  • Charlie


  • james_jackson

    Stop being a baby, it’s one day and only a few hours of that day. And stay off the sidewalk, punk.

  • Rob B.

    The question for church goers is this: Do you want to push young children riding bicycles into the traffic lane with huge cars, SUVs and trucks?

  • RJ

    Sunday (Critical) Mass anyone?

  • Rolando P.

    “Church participants who must come early … will find that both side of Clark Street are open for legal Sunday morning parking.”

    Just because the NYPD says so doesn’t mean it becomes legal—it’s just *unenforced*.

    Total aside, I find it hard to sympathize with the parking ‘needs’ of someone with a vanity plate (as pictured above).

  • I must assume, James, that you’re talking about the parishioners who do indeed park their automobiles with two wheels on the sidewalk there. Henry street is narrow, the bike lane is narrower, and cars are fat. But it’s not nice to call them punks and babies.

    But I’m genuinely surprised the church is so bold as to declare a public bicycle lane their “legal parking Sunday morning parking”, just like that. The police do not write the laws, nor do the churches. It’s going to be interesting.

  • A little skepticism is called for – the notice was presumably printed by the church – we have no idea how “official” this is or what the extent of the NYPD participation is in this “agreement”.

    Someone needs to visit the block at 10 AM on Sunday and see if there are any officers directing traffic as the notice suggests they will be.

  • m to the i

    If its okay for people to park their vehicles in the bicycle lane, then cyclists should park their vehicles in this bike lane on Sunday morning too.

  • The church better go and look up the definition of “compromise” again. Parking in the bike lane between 10:30am and 1pm was the entire crux of the dispute in the first place.

  • This might be a stupid question, but if these spaces are only needed on sundays, why don’t they just put a 10 miles (or whatever) speed limit at both ends of the street on sundays, and no cyclepath will be needed as cyclists are safe on the streets. And traffic won’t be delayed too much on sundays anyway. Win-Win.

  • Ralph: That would assume that drivers would obey a 10mph speed limit. And that the NYPD would enforce it.

  • JK

    Somebody with a video camera should be there on Sunday to see if cops are indeed “guiding” motorists to parking spots. Beyond the evident selfishness, shortsightedness, un-neighborliness, and general obnoxiousness of people who believe they are entitled to privatize public street bikeway space for storing their private property, there are multiple problems with this purported agreement:

    > Cops can’t waive city parking laws for a recurring non-emergency
    > Cops can’t grant special privileges to a select group of the public for a recurring, non-emergency, non-special event.
    > Changes in street regs have to be accompanies by appropriate signage and notification.

  • Rolando,
    FYI – it’s not a vanity plate. I scrambled the plate ID. Still, it’s a nice ride.


  • Are model releases now required for publishing photographs of license plates? The plates are publicly viewable and parked on public property–please clarify this policy.

  • Hi Urbanis,
    Good question. I actually don’t care, though a blog I sometimes write for, did. I may switch it back on my blog.

    I agree – there is certainly no expectation of privacy of a license plate.

  • I was disappointed when uncivilservants.org started requiring license plates to be blurred on vehicles parked illegally in public. Part of the reason I never submitted many photos to them.

  • Mike

    Millman confirmed her role in this “compromise” today at the CB2 general meeting. She says it’s because the choir members are “coming from long distances” and therefore apparently can’t walk. She wouldn’t address the question of why they can’t either take public transit or park legally, like normal people. Infuriating.

  • infuriating indeed. click this link for my email to Joan. https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1kzR5Gszy23QB9AAtItki2SJwFBMlFOv9IepzE5k-B-A

  • I like the idea of people in bikes arriving at 10:30 and finding a way to park in the bike lane.

  • I’m impressed with the shamelessness of the church and Millman, dropping their ruse so quickly after her primary election challenger was taken care of.

    It was never up to Millman to grant exemptions from traffic law. It’s one thing for an assemblywoman to request that the police stop ignoring flagrant weekly parking violations, but the idea that she can also grant indulgences from the law is ridiculous. Millman is not Queen of the Heights. How can she even talk about how far any choir members have to travel, as if it were up to her to judge when and where the law applies? That’s really something.

    What is it again that you call an arrangement to defy the law–which Millman, the church, and police now admit to openly–a criminal conspiracy?

  • Kevin Love


    I presume that you mean just the opposite of this sentence in your email:

    “I do not understand why you’d put the safety of your constituency ahead of those driving in from elsewhere.”

  • good catch Kevin. I already sent the letter to her, but yes… i did mean the exact opposite. i’ll let you and streetsblog know of any reply she makes.

  • Can’t we just get a fleet of pedicabs to pick up and drop-off church-goers?

  • Tralfaz

    Someone needs to set up a video camera – time lapse of this!

  • ChrisC

    >>Stop being a baby, it’s one day and only a few hours of that day. And stay off the sidewalk, punk.<<

    How are we supposed to stay off the sidewalks when idiots like you are blocking our bike lanes? Jackass.

  • J

    There is no compromise here. Just like it is always illegal to park on the sidewalk, it is always illegal to park in bike lanes. Period.

  • Josh

    “Church-goers, with the acquiescence of the police, will continue to be allowed to block the lane when they want”

    No, they will be allowed to block the lane between 10:30am and 1pm on Sundays.

  • Josh: Your point? Between 10:30am and 1pm on Sundays is exactly when they want to be allowed to block the lane.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Folks should realize that this is utterly typical of Assembly member Joan Millman. She appeared to be helpful on this issue during the Democratic primary. But as soon as that was over, she brokered a “compromise” that is, essentially, a total loss for everyone except a few church-going car owners from outside the neighborhood.

    It’s reminiscent of her bold stand to support congestion pricing… two hours after congestion pricing was declared dead:


    Brownstone Brooklyn voters need to wake up and run someone real against Joan (i.e. someone other than Doug Biviano). Excluding, perhaps, the Upper West Side, Millman represents the Assembly district with the greatest number of livable streets and transit advocates in all of New York state. Yet, she continuously votes against our interests. What’s wrong with this picture? Why can’t we get rid of her?

  • a Hells kitchen cyclist

    there’s a joke about being holier than thou in here somewhere

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    It was pretty clear from Millman’s comments at the community board meeting that she doesn’t get it.

    Marty is right. The voters in this assembly district need a real candidate to challenge the incumbant.

  • Bloomie pulled a similar stunt after his third-term reelection—according to many accounts he sacrificed a major segment of the Bedford Avenue bike lane in exchange for the Hasidic voting bloc…

  • I heard from Millman’s office directly and perhaps there was some misinformation on this report. She shared the latest news she heard at the CB, but was not actually someone who brokered this ‘compromise’ at all. In fact, NYPD apparently took down the signs when they found out about them too. And it wasn’t a pre-election day issue to get the bike-vote because she’s been aware of it, and attempting to coordinate with NYPD and the church since May. Though her poor wording certainly begs for a full statement with more elaboration, she did introduce Bill A.2842 that would create a mandatory surcharge for vehicles standing or parking in a designated bike lane, with those funds going to DOT’s Bicycle Safety Outreach Program. http://assembly.state.ny.us/member_files/052/20100506/

    Still, there’s much to be done here on a micro, and macro, level where Streetsbloggers could certainly ask the Assemblywoman to clarify her positions.

  • Thanks Paco for the update. I hear from Millman’s office too, and DiPaolo happened to be in Millman’s office, and he was shown the signs.

    He wanted them taken down, BUT, it’s not clear to me he wanted them taken down because they were factually incorrect, but rather, it catches them ‘red-handed’.


  • When the first car starts parking in the bike lane, someone should call 911 and say that a car blocking the bike lane is putting people in danger. Let them tell you it’s not an emergency but they will patch you through to the precinct if not.

    Alternatively, someone cold hand OT fake tickets in front of the church as people ext their cars. Or maybe just post pictures on the trees/poles of the cyclists killed in Brooklyn recently.

  • Sorry, that should read “Somebody could hand out”

    One of the funny parts is that the church is convinced that one side of one street will fill demand for drivers. They are now inducing more demand and even advertising to anyone on the street that they can come park there for a couple hours. My guess is the the choir is a smokescreen – I bet this is a naked grab by the staff and clergy. Look forward to more reporting on this.

  • double parker

    During church services ,Are the ONLY cars allowed to park in the bike lane those attending that church’s service ???
    How do the “police ” know if a car belongs to a church goer ??? ( a handmade dashboard sign ??)
    How about me .. I’m not attending THAT church .. but can I park my car in a bike lane to attend my church ??? I can make up a dashboard sign .. ” attending church ” ..

    Maybe if the bike lane is full ,I can park in those corner spots where an emergency vehicle needs to make a turn??? it will only be from 10 am to 1 pm !!!.. or maybe I can park in front of someone’s driveway … or fire hydrant … bus stop ..again it’s just while I’m attending church services ..and legal parking spots so very hard to find .
    I like this .. all parking regulations suspended on Sunday while attending church … Wait my friend goes to “church” on Saturday !!! and another on Friday … let’s make everyone happy .. all parking regulations suspended ANYTIME anyone is attending religious service …. problem solved ..

  • J. Mork

    My religion is “God is in Everything.” This means that every moment of every day is a religious service for me. Please send parking pass ASAP.


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