In Mistake-Marred Letter, CB 6 Lends Voice to East Side Bike-Share NIMBYs

Community Board 6 is concerned about a bike-share station at 18th and Irving Place that DOT already eliminated from consideration. Image: ## DOT##

Where can bike-share stations be located, according to the East Side’s not-in-my-backyard crowd? Not Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, which is both too serene for bikes and too crowded with protestors. Not around the corner from the Israeli consulate, which is too fat a target for terrorists who, as Marcia Kramer could tell you, prefer to deliver explosives via bike. Not in areas that are too residential. Nor in areas with store entrances or medical offices. And if that leaves anywhere — the sidewalk under a 42nd Street overpass was recommended as a model location — no station should have more than ten docks.

Each of those objections was raised in a document sent by Manhattan Community Board 6 to the Department of Transportation last week, cataloguing 14 locations that the board had received complaints about. A letter drafted by transportation committee chair Fred Arcaro and signed by board chair Mark Thompson endorsed some of the residents’ complaints — even one about a non-existent station proposal — and enclosed the rest without comment while requesting a formal DOT response to each one. While the letter notes that the CB received many comments supporting bike-share, none of those are included.

In January, CB 6 voted 39 to 2 in support of the broader bike-share program, and overall the board has tended to take positions in favor of projects like the redesign of First and Second Avenues. But as transportation committee chair, Arcaro has repeatedly stood in the way of livable streets improvements in the district, and his letter adds the community board’s imprimatur to some truly baseless complaints.

The shoddiness of this anti-bike NIMBYism is perhaps best illustrated by one of the three stations singled out in Arcaro and Thompson’s letter. They complain of a station in front of the service entrance of 130 East 18th Street, a residential building on the corner of Irving Place. That location, however, wasn’t selected by the Department of Transportation for a bike-share station.

As DOT reps explained at a CB 6 meeting I attended in May, the station had only ever been included as an option on the maps DOT used to gauge community preferences for station locations, which included five times more options than would ultimately be selected. Once the residents said they didn’t want a station there, it was taken off the list.

CB 6 could have taken this opportunity to help refine the selection of bike-share sites, but in general, the complaints the board is lending its authority to are rooted in opposition to the very concept of bike-share.

Stations located on the sidewalk, for example, are objected to on the grounds that they will “seriously impede pedestrian and vehicular traffic.” The only way such a station could conceivably impede cars is by being used, then ridden as intended in the street. As noted above, both residential and commercial areas are deemed particularly inappropriate for bike-share stations.

The general comment that no station have more than ten docks would, needless to say, hobble the program, especially on the extremely dense East Side.

There have been many hyper-local complaints about bike-share station siting. (With 420 slated to go in this year, how could there not be?) Some have helpfully used neighborhood expertise to improve the system, others were standard NIMBY objections, and none threatened the overall integrity of the bike-share system.

CB 6 could be lending its imprimatur to similar efforts to shape bike-share, a program it supports, to local conditions. Instead, this letter amounts to a sloppy attack on the whole system. Someone on the East Side should form Neighbors for Better Bike-Share Criticism.

  • Albert

    Was the rest of the CB6 Transportation Committee aware that this letter was going out?  Or did the chairs take it upon themselves to send a letter that appears to represent only their personal interests & opinions—and not those of the majority of the committee?

    If the latter was the case, wouldn’t such an autonomous action be grounds for removal from the community board? 

  • andres

    They should probably ban cars and pedestrians from the streets too, as both have also previously been used as bomb-delivery vessels. This community is among the worst in the NIMBY category, including the confusing statements that they don’t want to give up existing park space but they also do not need more park space, just keep everything as it is.


    This is why Citi Bike needs to launch already.  Putting the bikes on the ground and showing that the world won’t end is the only way to prove these factually-challenged NIMBYs wrong.

  • First, I think Fred Arcaro is simply doing his job as CB6 transportation chair by taking the concerns that have been raised, the ones that seem to be the most valid or pressing, and passing them along to the DOT. A lot of these criticisms seem to be pointed squarely at him, and I’m sure he did not personally raise many of these issues (I’d bet he didn’t originate any of them, really).

    Arcaro is not supposed to be a transportation expert. He ought to be fairly aware of common transportation issues and strategies in his district, but a lot of this is new territory and I’m sure that he’s doing his best to weed out the nonsense complaints, even though a few of them (like the stupid “buses can’t make turns on 24/Lex” issue) still got through anyway. 

    It’s also worth noting that this message is not meant to reject bikeshare as a whole, that the “revisions” are for a small number of sites in the district, and that strong alternate suggestions were provided for a number of the complaints (sensible or not).

    That said, the first thing that strikes me here is how the communication is of an overall poor quality. Particularly, the spreadsheet is not formatted well at all. It’s not so much that I fault him for keeping a spreadsheet of items, but it takes 5-10 minutes to reformat this in a modern word processing program so that the bikeshare planners can better process each idea.

    Second, yes, some of the complaints/suggestions are ridiculous and should be dismissed politely by the DOT, and maybe should have been dismissed with more careful evaluation by Arcaro himself. The siting of J-12.9 and I-12.4 are appropriate, reasonable, and unlikely to cause bedlam. The vehicular status quo in that area is gridlock during many hours of the day, anyway. The police/DOT must do a much better job of directing vehicles in that area, rather than impede any program that might usefully employ some shared street space. Moving on – we already know the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza complaints are coming from people who won’t ever shut up. (It’s unfortunate that Arcaro must pass those complaints along, but I don’t fault him for doing so. No one on CB6 can get people in that neighborhood to pick their battles with anything at all.) The “concern” about siting a bikeshare facility next to a rather large building whose tenants include the Israeli consulate is stunningly idiotic. “Interferes with taxi zone” literally means “taxis park here to eat lunch at Curry In A Hurry”. (Good luck getting a pickup around there! Because, you know, they’re all “off duty”.)  And something like “the area is too congested for bike 
    station” really means that the person making the complaint doesn’t want bicycles, public or private, on his/her side of the street at all. But that’s a really great siting area, seeing that there is a dense concentration of really popular businesses (Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, Five Napkin Burger, a Bank of America ATM, a Capital One branch, a 24/7 Duane Reade, a Ricky’s, and all those businesses on 14th between 2nd/3rd) and, additionally, a ton of businesses that are high quality and deserve extra traffic – all within one block of the site. My complaint is that 39 docks won’t be enough. 

    And the bit of feedback stating that no station needs more than 10 docks… this is new territory for all of us, and I can see why some people would be alarmed by a plan to drop 30+ bike docks in an area where it might be a major inconvenience (though WE know that it won’t be). The DOT needs to address this feedback by committing to another round of reassuring the community about siting. But, reasonably, the people who made that complaint should listen to what the DOT has to say… and they should have already listened, otherwise this wouldn’t be a problem. Otherwise, the DOT should not answer this concern with dock reductions, since it’ll just cause demand issues that will make people think of bikeshare as an inadequate failure upon launch.

    I dislike the negative tone of this reaction to the CB6 letter, but frankly I also think that the complaints being passed along are thoughtless/selfish (and likely to have originated from classic NIMBYs) and that Fred Arcaro may have been able to do more to pare down the complaints to a reasonable few, along with an actual review of all the complaints (to see if invalid ones were getting through) and a better job at formatting. That said, I think he’s just doing his job, and it’s not his position to answer each of these complaints… nor is it his personal wish to have all of these bikeshare sites completely altered or eliminated.

    If there is any silver lining, it’s that Stuy Town seems to not be making much of a fuss about this, since I would have figured them to have ten thousand complaints about anything public, bicycle-related, branding-related, or youth-inclined in their midst. So, something about the DOT’s bikeshare communication may be working after all.

  • Ian Turner

    @brianvan:disqus, if Acaro is just passing comments along, why pick out the complaints? Why not pass along the accolades as well?


    Brian, there’s a big difference between expecting a volunteer member of a community board’s transportation committee to be an expert and expecting him to know the facts of where proposed bike share stations are to be located before drafting a letter about them.

  • @7c177865bd107a919938355fe93de93a:disqus 
    I don’t think the DOT is asking for accolades and compliments. The “complaints” are not for negativity’s sake – the DOT did actually request all concerns about siting to be directed their way so that they can review and accommodate, if practical. In a sense, some of these are not “complaints” but additional recommendations for review and refinement. 

    (Some actually are gratuitous non-useful complaints, of course. I wonder how many of those Arcaro had to filter out of the draft copies of this message.)

    Of course, given the nature of feedback, people are probably quite used to keeping their compliments to themselves anyway… in NYC you only hear the complaints. 🙂

  • @d527324ab1ad4abf8a945537946cd45f:disqus 
    Nearly all of the sites he addressed were accurately recognized, and one of them was merely a matter of confusion (having been on an earlier list of sites).

    Again, I do think this post was a little too harsh on Mr. Arcaro about these fine points. We all make mistakes. I’m far more concerned with the suggestions, passed from CB6 residents, that are not mistaken but are worrying in tone regardless. 
    (“the area is too congested for bike station” – ugh.)

  • If NYC used something like Social Bicycles the whole question of where to place docking stations wouldn’t really arise:

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