Tuesday: Manhattan CB 11 Hosts Hearing on East Harlem Bike Lanes

A protected bike lane and pedestrian refuges could tame the dangerously wide First Avenue in East Harlem. Photo: James Garcia

Next Tuesday, Manhattan Community Board 11 will take up the extension of protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenue up to 125th Street in East Harlem. This is the critical safety project that the owners of Patsy’s Pizzeria and Milk Burger tried to derail at a recent CB 11 meeting by claiming that it would make asthma rates worse.

The protected bike lane proposal has a long history at CB 11. After the city backed off its initial promise to extend the East Side bike lanes to 125th Street in 2010, residents came out to a community board meeting and demanded to know why DOT wasn’t giving them the same safety improvements that downtown neighborhoods received. Supporters of the project persisted, delivering thousands of handwritten letters to City Hall laying out why protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges will benefit East Harlem. When DOT came back to the community board this year with plans to build the project next spring, the proposal passed 47-3.

Taming the dangerously wide avenues didn’t sit well with the owners of Patsy’s and Milk Burger — Frank Brija and Erik Mayor. Both men sit on the community board and were able to engineer a vote to rescind the earlier approval of the lane. Brija and Mayor claimed, among other things, that devoting more space to biking would lead to worse asthma rates in the neighborhood.

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito strongly backs the project, as does CB 11 chair Matthew Washington, and residents who worked hard to bring safer streets to their neighborhood aren’t giving up.

If you would like to speak up about why reclaiming space from traffic on extra-wide streets is healthy for East Harlem, here’s where to go:

Tuesday, December 6 at 6 p.m.
Taino Towers, 240 E. 123rd Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
Red Carpet Theatre, 1st floor

  • Hazel3@hotmail.com

    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 till 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.

  • Anonymous

    One of the communities with the highest number of bicyclists in the city is East Harlem — that’s right now.  And that number will increase with protected bike lanes once parents realize their kids are protected from cars. 

    And this is not “eminent domain,” which is why it is in front of the community board.  

    Finally, whether you believe it or not, the locations where bike lanes and other traffic calming tools have been used have seen declines in traffic.  

  • Hazel,

    DoT has studied this kind of reconfiguration in many different neighborhoods.  Nowhere have they found that the protected bike lanes have increased particulate or other pollutants in the air, or negatively impacted asthma rates.   What they have found is that the bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements dramatically reduce crashes, and dramatically increase cycling and other forms of healthy transportation.

    Get your facts straight.

  • Ex-driver

    The asthma argument isn’t real.  It’s a distraction.  The real reason for the outrage about the bike lanes is that they’ll remove parking spaces.  These businesses have customers who drive and park.  I get it.  But that’s not a sustainable model for any business in an urban neighborhood.  They need to develop a customer base whose loyalty doesn’t depend on convenient parking.  Especially since the cause of the asthma problem is … driving. 

  • Danny G


    It is pretty clear that Asthma is a problem in East Harlem, for a number of factors. From my understanding of what you wrote, it is so bad that maintaining the status quo is unacceptable, and something MUST be done.

    Based on your logic, to improve the highly congested streets, we should consider widening 1st and 2nd Avenues to allow traffic to move faster. We can add a lane just by shaving 5 feet off of each sidewalk. If you want to really solve the problem, you can shave 10 feet off each side, or simply just remove one of the two sidewalks altogether. Why is it necessary to be able to have SO much space to walk on both sides of 1st or 2nd Avenue? A single-file path will do just fine, and large groups can go for a stroll in the park or on a different avenue if they really insist on walking. I hope the community board will realize that this is a far better option for dealing with Asthma in East Harlem.

  • Joe

    Danny G,

    Excellent ideas.  I would go further, since the problem of asthma is so bad.  Since cars are more efficient at higher speeds (up to 55mph), we should increase the speed limit on 1st and 2nd avenues, and side streets, to 55mph, and widen the lanes. To do this we’d need to remove parking as well, and probably a lot of buildings too. Some may whine about this, but really they’re just pro-asthma.  And bikes and pedestrians could use the service roads (assuming they could hop across the exit ramps). Nothing would help prevent asthma more than to build a nice, wide and fast highway through East Harlem.

  • Anonymous

    I suspect the customer parking issue isn’t all that real either. Many businesspeople just want to be able to park themselves all day in front of their shop for free.

    The loading/unloading issue is the most important one in my opinion, but the solution is to remove *more* parking spots to turn them into exclusive, strictly enforced, loading/unloading zones. But people who want free parking don’t like that either.

  • Bronxite

    I hope this has some sort of connection to the Bronx. I would love to ride in a protected bike lane all the way to Midtown.

  • J

    @38767ebd6c3938004de692c9f6515c93:disqus This project will nearly connect to the new Willis Ave Bridge and the 3rd Ave Bridges, which have connections to the North-South bike lanes on Willis/3rd/Melrose/Park. As far as I know, there are no current plans for protected bike lanes on any of those streets. Also, the connections to the bridges on both sides are pretty crappy, often hard to find and involving awkward crossings and stairs.

  • vhamer

    Hazel – 

    Cars and trucks are what cause asthma. Get mad at them, and the people who drive them, and the politicians who prioritize them. The more we invite them onto our streets, the more they will cause. Same goes for vehicular deaths.


  • It’s already public property, how is that eminent domain?


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