Mark-Viverito: Misinformation Won’t Stop East Harlem Bike Lanes

Patsy's Pizza owner Frank Brija, right, claimed at a CB 11 meeting that protected bike lanes in East Harlem would make asthma rates worse. Photo: ## Mays/DNAinfo##

After a misinformation campaign by two local business owners, East Harlem’s Community Board 11 rescinded its vote in support of plans for protected bike lanes along First and Second Avenue Tuesday night. The board will soon vote again on the project, which has the backing of local Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Community Board 11 has already voiced its support for the protected bike lanes twice. In 2010, the community board expressed outrage over being first promised a protected lane, then having the Bloomberg administration recant. Then, this September they voted 47-3 to support the construction of the protected lanes, setting the stage for construction as soon as the spring.

But, as DNAinfo first reported, after restaurant owners Frank Brija and Erik Mayor organized against the project, the board voted to take back its most recent endorsement. The community board will vote again on the bike lanes after considering the businessmen’s arguments and hearing a new presentation from the Department of Transportation.

“They’re ready to do Occupy Milk Burger.”

Community leaders, including Mark-Viverito and CB 11 chair Matthew Washington, support the bike lanes and promised to ensure that the board has accurate information about the project.

Brija and Mayor, the owners of Patsy’s Pizza and Milk Burger, respectively, gathered signatures from 61 business owners in East Harlem. Mayor claimed that the businesses had not been contacted about the project, though DNAinfo’s Jeff Mays reports that DOT Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said her office contacted every business along First and Second Avenues, as did the board’s district manager and transportation committee chair.

The East Side project would bring protected bike lanes and new pedestrian refuges to a neighborhood with some of the most dangerous streets and severe asthma problems in the city. Mayor and Brija threw the kitchen sink at the proposal. In addition to arguing that the lanes would remove parking spaces and be underused, Mayor and Brija claimed that the bike lanes would increase congestion and actually worsen asthma rates in the neighborhood.

“There was a lot of confusion and misinformation provided that night,” Mark-Viverito said of Tuesday’s vote. She added that she’d personally be working with the board leadership to make sure that CB members get the best information possible about the effect of bike lanes.

“I don’t see this as any sort of slowing down of the process to get the protected bike lanes we want and need in East Harlem,” she said. “The vote was not to say no to the bike lanes.”

Added Mark-Viverito’s spokesperson, “There is a strong commitment on the part of Council Member Mark-Viverito, the Department of Transportation and the Community Board to work collectively to move this forward. The Council Member is still 1,000 percent behind ensuring that we have protected bike lanes in East Harlem.” Mark-Viverito has rallied for the bike lanes on the steps of City Hall and spoken on the issue at previous community board meetings.

Washington, who voted against rescinding the board’s prior vote for the lanes, blasted bike lane opponents for using deceptive rhetoric to make their case. “People are making inaccurate statements about the project and the process and they need to be clear about what it is they are looking for,” he told DNAinfo. “The flow of misinformation is not helping anyone.”

Local residents decried the board’s decision to walk back its support for safety. “It’s not fair,” said Dina Montes, who rides in the neighborhood with her 4-year-old daughter. “They’re putting these people’s safety on hold because these two people don’t like having bike lanes in front of their shops.”

James Garcia said he’s launched a petition drive to counter Mayor and Brija’s efforts and is already receiving an enthusiastic response from his neighbors. “They’re ready to do Occupy Milk Burger,” he said. “You have these wide streets where people speed down. It becomes a hazard not only for cyclists but children and the elderly.”

  • Eric McClure

    Given their concern for the health of East Harlem residents, I’m sure Patsy’s Pizza and Milk Burger will be replacing their current menus with salads and raw veggies any day now.

  • Ronald McDonald

    I think twenty people and their kids should go into Milk Burger, sit down and not order a damn thing.  Maybe some of the kids can give Erik Mayor their empty inhalers and teach him a thing or two about what really causes asthma.

  • Anonymous

    If he’s concerned about asthma from engine exhaust then he should be all for the anti-idling bill Int. 71.

  • Steve Vaccaro

    Thank you Noah for jumping on this story.  A leafleting/petitioning event to take place outside some of the businesses leading this attack is being organized by local residents.  Details to follow, but folks who want to express their support for these lanes should try to hold open 10:00-2:00 this Saturday.

  • AsthmaKills

    For the record, there are a lot of facts that were deceptively not taken into consideration when this proposal was introduced.   The full scope of the project should been introduced to the masses which includes the residents of East Harlem. 166 Parking spaces will be removed and we will also lose a lane of traffic along 1st avenue that leads to the Willis Ave Bridge, a heavy flowing artery for those that exit the city.  It’s a no brainer, having 2 less lanes on an avenue that is already congested only means heavier traffic.  If there is heavier traffic, that means more pollutants in the air.  What is so hard to understand?  Also how shall the fire truck and EMS trucks travel through this traffic?  Will they use the bike lanes and if so, with the traffic, how will they eventually make it to the right side of the street if they are driving up the bike lane on the left?  It will exacerbate the already poor air quality in East Harlem and its a shame that people are only considering the bicyclist which are far and few….but the toxic pollutants will affect the millions of people that live in East Harlem.

  • Harlem Lover

    The City of San Francisco’s bike lane network build-out was delayed for years due to a similar claim that made its way to court — that bike lanes cause more air pollution. The City of San Francisco utterly and totally defeated and disproved this claim. Let the Community Board know. This issue has been fought over before. The people who argue that improving bike and ped infrastructure somehow makes streets less safe and cities less healthy — those people are consistently proven wrong.

    Sidenote: Frank Brija, you are a scumbag. Why not just be honest? You are concerned about the loss of some parking spots and difficulty that the protected bike lane may cause for deliveries. Frank: If you and people like the so-called “Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes” would just be honest about your opposition to these projects, it would be a lot easier to respect your opinions and have a rational conversation. Sadly, you guys all live in some old-school, old-media, old-politics world where you think you are more likely to get your way by lying, spinning and confusing people.

  • Louise

    Speaking of San Francisco, AsthmaKills, when the Embarcadero Freeway collapsed, people predicted traffic chaos, massive jams, and higher pollution on city streets.  Guess what?  It didn’t happen.  The traffic disappeared because people sought out other options.  Today the Embarcadero is one of the most pleasant places to walk, cycle, and, yes, drive in all of the United States.

    Your scary picture of emergency vehicles in bike lanes is ridiculous.  It’s not as if its all that easy for fire trucks to get through rush hour gridlock right now.  What will they do?  They’ll take the bike lane; we cyclists are nimble enough to move out of the way quickly, unlike drivers who stay in the middle of the road and jam up everything.  I haven’t noticed an uptick in burned out buildings and heart attack victims in Chelsea or on Columbus Avenue, yet those areas have exactly the kind of bike lane that scares and confuses people like you.  (For more info on this scare tactic see Kramer, Marcia; Hainline, Louise, NBBL, et. al)

    If bicyclists are the “far and the few” I would think that standard should also apply to personal parking spaces for drivers in a neighborhood with hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom don’t own cars.  You can guarantee that once they are open, the bike lanes will handle a volume that far exceeds 166 people.

    Enough fear mongering.  I think it’s the height of cynicism, chutzpah and pure craven politics to use asthma as an argument FOR keeping more space for cars in our neighborhoods.  These two restaurant owners and their small minority of defenders should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Love Pizza

    Wow, we usually go to Patsy’s at least once every three months.  Not anymore.  I’ll tell everyone I know.

  • Hazel3

    Also let it be known that according to Jeff Mays report, the DOR borough commissioner Margeret Gargione did in fact contact every business owner but that was AFTER the board had already voted in favor of the bike lanes.  They were only reaching out to the businesses to cover their asses because they rightfully knew they had never contacted a single business owner.  But lets be clear, this campaign has nothing to do with business owners against bike lanes…this has to do with the residents of the East Harlem involved in a major decision that will have a  dramatic impact on the air quality along 1st avenue from 96th street to 125th street. 

  • AsthmaKills

    correction DOT* (Dept of Transportation)

  • Andrew

    @147c00a08b2f8ac2bd5ba17d290ac73a:disqus There won’t be any loss of travel lanes on 1st Ave. The parking lane and buffered bike lane are switching places: 13.

  • Maybe it’s a sign of progress that these businesses are playing the asthma card in their attempt to kill an important street safety project. They might sense the futility of simply claiming that a handful of parking spaces used by very few people in the neighborhood should trump safe biking and walking for everyone else. Not that this misinformation campaign won’t also be futile.

  • Anonymous

    @147c00a08b2f8ac2bd5ba17d290ac73a:disqus @17332831896255059d942b58f34008d3:disqus your link was bad:
    Page 13.

  • Mike

    Actually, “AsthmaKills”, a lane WILL NOT be removed from First Ave!  All that would happen on First Ave would be swapping the bike lane with the parking lane.  The number of travel lanes would not be affected.

    It’s disappointing that you’ve resorted to misinformation in your smear campaign against this much-needed protected bike lane.


    This isn’t even BIAS NEWS….THIS IS PROPAGANDA!!!!!  

  • AsthmaKills

    Mike…yeah your right, because we already lost a lane due to the NYC buses.  We’re down to 3 lanes out of 5.

  • Eric McClure

    Who came up with the absurd notion that DOT should have to personally notify every single business on First Avenue that they’re striping a bike lane and removing a few dozen parking spaces?  These are public streets, not private driveways.  The only thing more absurd is the crazy Inhofean notion that replacing cars with bikes increases asthma rates.

  • So encouraging car travel and having an excessive number of car lanes REDUCES cases of asthma more than encouraging bicycle travel and placing greater distance between bicyclists and pedestrians from automobiles? That must be why the lungs of LA kids are SOoOOoOO healthy

    And FWIW,

  • TO_Man

    It boggles the mind that anyone in the world could be stupid enough to believe that adding bike lanes would INCREASE asthma rates. My god. Are some people just born without a brain.

  • TO_Man

    “166 Parking spaces will be removed and we will also lose a lane of traffic along 1st avenue that leads to the Willis Ave Bridge, a heavy flowing artery for those that exit the city.  It’s a no brainer, having 2 less lanes on an avenue that is already congested only means heavier traffic.  If there is heavier traffic, that means more pollutants in the air.  What is so hard to understand?”

    This is the kind of stupidity I am talking about. Just as more lane capacity induces more traffic, less capacity will mean less traffic. As for EMS, the will get down the street the same way they do now. Where I live the main “arterials” are only two lanes each way (INCLUDING parking lanes, so one driving lane each way outside of park hours when parking isn’t allowed), yet emergency vehicles still manage to get through. Even with bike lanes there will be more than one moving lane on each of 1st and 2nd Avenue, so how would emergency vehicles not be able to get through? That makes no sense.

  • pedestrian

    These bike lanes should be blocked until the pedestrian can be assured that bikers will obey traffic laws.  Not stopping for red lights, going the wrong way and riding on sidewalks are major complaints that are not being addressed in other parts of the city.  What makes it worse is that the NYPD is told to ignore these traffic violations due to efforts by bicycle lobbyists having political clout and money backing them up.  DOT says they are not in the business of traffic enforcement.  The mantra repeated by the bicycle advocates is that they kill fewer people than cars.   With a large number of sunday drivers are being added to the streets the average pedestrian is now more at risk than ever before.

  • Move people, not cars

    “Mike…yeah your right, because we already lost a lane due to the NYC buses.  We’re down to 3 lanes out of 5”

    How is increasing a street’s capacity to move people (by converting it to a bus lane) “los[ing] a lane”?  Doesn’t make sense.

  • eveostay

    These cat lanes should be blocked until the pedestrian can be assured that drivers will obey traffic laws. Not stopping for red lights, speeding and failure to yield in crosswapks are major complaints that are not being addressed in other parts of the city. What makes it worse is that the NYPD is told to ignore these traffic violations due to efforts by motorcar lobbyists having political clout and money backing them up. DOT says they are not in the business of traffic enforcement.

  • J

    @147c00a08b2f8ac2bd5ba17d290ac73a:disqus  Yes, First Ave lost one lane due to the SBS project on First Avenue, and that was over a year ago now. The traffic has already settled into its new pattern. The bike lane project will not remove any vehicle lanes on First Ave. The only change that will happen is that the parking lane and bicycle lanes will swap places. Vehicle speeds and vehicle capacity should actually increase slightly, due to the new left turn bays which will be installed as part of the project (these are why parking spaces must be removed). 
    Despite these very well-documented facts, you and Erik Mayor keep repeating the lie that this project will cause 1st Ave to lose a lane of traffic, scaring people about more congestion and worse asthma. You don’t care about asthma. You care about parking, but you know that’s a losing argument, so you set up this scare tactic about congestion and asthma, as if maintaining the status quo is going to do anything to help asthma. If you really want to have an impact on asthma, speak up for congestion pricing, speak up for the Sheridan teardown, speak up for residential parking permits, speak up for hybrid taxis. Your argument is a sham, and everyone who does even a little bit of thinking for themselves knows it.

  • Dang it.  Those CAR lanes.

  • Move People, Not Cars has the right idea.  The SBS bus lane dramatically expands the capacity of the right lane on First Ave. to move people.  DoT’s figures for level of service on First Avenue south of 34th Street showed that the complete street results in more people being moved each day on that roadway than under the earlier street configuration.  That includes moving hundreds of cyclists each day.  Isn’t that the right measure of performance?

  • Steve Vaccaro

    Please join Transportation Alternatives’ East Side Committee at 10 am tomorrow, at the northwest corner of 116th Street and First Avenue, for leafleting and petitioning in support of the pedestrian and and cyclist safety improvements on First and Second Avenues. 

    Even if you have just an hour to spare, please try to join us between 10 and 1 pm.

    Steve Vaccaro,
    Chair, TA East Side Volunteer Committee

  • Dirk Peters

    Wow, MilkBurger and Patsy’s are really shooting themselves in the foot with this one. There might be some back-and-forth in this forum, but overall, waging a campaign against liveable streets is like waging a campaign against motherhood. Who really supports First Avenue in it’s current configuration, other than a couple of wealthy business owners?

  • pedestrian

    How do we get bicylists to follow these rules?

  • callmeL

    As a resident of Harlem, this is really disappointing. If bike lanes were available, I would definitely frequent E.Harlem businesses more.

    Is there a list of the 61 businesses that are against the bike lanes?

    I do not want to frequent any of those businesses anymore, even though Patsy’s has great pizza, and Milk burgers are pretty good.

    In fact, because of a lack of bike lanes in E.Harlem/UES, I frequent businesses on the east side less even though I live right there. I love running errands on my bike on the weekends, in fact, I see whole families out with their kids riding bikes on the west side. Why wouldn’t East Harlem businesses want that too?

    I don’t understand the logic of how lack of parking decreases business – wouldn’t bike lanes mean that more locals would be stopping by? Also, with the number of condos and apartment buildings being built in E. Harlem, I’m sure that having bike lanes would definitely lure more buyers uptown.

    Bike lanes would improve the quality of life – right now cars and delivery trucks just speed down the avenues, it’s dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians (even those that are following rules and not jaywalking).

    I understand that all businesses have problems delivering stuff – I sympathize, that’s why places directly in front of businesses should have a loading zone and a time limit. That prevents drivers from parking all day and preventing businesses from making deliveries.

  • Anonymous

    I think that in many cases, the real reason business owners and their employees want free or cheap parking spots in front of their business is so they can park *their* cars there all day. Some who were interviewed for a recent NYT article on the “lost tradition” of meter feeding admitted as much.

  • EastHarlemAdvocate

    It’s obvious that none of you live near 1st or 2nd avenue in East Harlem.  If you did, then you wouldn’t even argue with the fact that we suffer from terrible air quality due to highly congested streets, 2nd ave subway construction, FDR drive tire rubber particles in the air and commercial diesel trucks in droves storming up first avenue.  East Harlem is recognized to have the highest Asthma rate in the nation!!!  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to prove that removing a traffic lane on 2nd avenue will create more traffic in an already congested avenue.  Anything that will exacerbate an already painful health crisis should be voided and not even considered unless you are a tyrant and forcing this “eminent domain” style of bike lane implementation. But let me get this right, you much rather provide safer biking conditions for a few bikers while affecting the lives of over 150,000 people that live in East Harlem!?!?!?  How the hell does this make any sense?
    Why don’t you go visit the Asthma Center in East Harlem and tell them that next week they should start getting used to breathing through a straw!  You will KILL US WITH THIS STUPID IDEA!!!  Ride your bike up the esplanade, or through Central Park or up Madison Avenue that doesn’t have commercial traffic but you dont need to REMOVE TRAFFIC LANES to create bike lanes.

  • BR17

    I am 65 years old, I grew up in harlem and have lived in east harlem for the past 40 years.  This is a community, a neighborhood.  We have a lot of schools, daycare centers, senior centers and churches. These bike lanes are dangerous to pedestrians, the elderly, mothers with babies and toddlers, the handicapped and school children.  On several occasions I have been crossing the street and had a bicycle rider speed by going in the wrong direction.  These bike lanes do not belong in this community.  That is what the park is for.  There is also a lot of traffic on first and second avenues and these lanes are only adding to the congestion. The bike lanes have also taken away much needed parking spaces for residents of the community, causing them to park their cars almost in the middle of the street.  Over the last year or so I see things here that don’t fit. This is East Harlem not Greenwich Village.  In 109th street where the schools are, the weekend parking has been taken away so people can play ball. I agree with Mr. Garcia completely.

  • Anonymous

    @1fada2c1b6ddc71dd98a7d59fbe7c5bc:disqus : your comparison of bike lanes with parks is analogous to saying “we don’t need streets for cars; that’s what racetracks are for!” Transportation is different from sports and recreation.


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