Brooklyn Parking Preservation Board Votes Down Bike Corrals

Brooklyn Community Board 1 has had enough of the “war on cars,” and they’re taking it out on pedestrians, cyclists, and local businesses.

Jackson Heights is one of many NYC neighborhoods that survived the installation of bike corrals. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
Jackson Heights is one of many NYC neighborhoods that survived the installation of bike corrals. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

The Brooklyn Paper reports that four Williamsburg shops want bike corrals, to provide room to park bikes while keeping sidewalks clear. “We believe it is our responsibility to beautify the area,” said Jason Merritt, co-owner of Tutu’s, a Bogart Street bar. “And it is beneficial to businesses to have safe bike parking that is not on street signs and posts.”

But CB 1 member Simon Weiser, for one, isn’t having it. “Enough is enough,” said Weiser. “They can put it on the sidewalk and stop taking away car parking spaces. We need to keep the parking we have.” As if these four spaces will have any effect in a district with thousands and thousands of on-street parking spots.

You might remember Weiser from 2008, when he was a go-to bike lane critic during the Kent Avenue redesign fracas. Well, now he and CB 1 have drawn a line in the sand. They rejected all four corrals by a vote of 12-7.

Board members who voted against the corrals argued that there is plenty of room on sidewalks for bike parking and that their turf has lost too many parking spaces to the CitiBike bike-share program and the planned de-mapping of Union Avenue in the middle of McCarren Park, which is meant to make the greensward more pedestrian-friendly. Parking is now more difficult than it was a few years ago, Weiser argued.

So, North Brooklyn might have lost out on nicer sidewalks (DOT could overlook this vote) thanks to a few people in a position of power who think curbside car parking is scarce because there’s not enough of it. Not because it’s, you know, totally free.

“It is worrying and confusing to me that any community board would side against alternative transportation and neighborhood beautification,” said Merritt. More than that, CB 1 has sided against anyone whose highest priority isn’t securing on-street parking for their car.

  • So twelve people get to decide? What about the employees and owners of these four businesses? Surely they number greater than twelve. And what about the hundreds of people who signed petitions at each in support of the bike corrals? Just two of these corrals could provide more parking for people than there are people who participated in this vote. This is democracy?

    DOT needs to listen to the community and ignore the Community Board.

  • QueensWatcher

    Got to pack the next CB meeting and demand the issue be taken up again. And keep packing CB meetings until it is. And the CM need’s to make more appointments with more progressive people. 19 votes total? Was that just a transportation committee? If it was the full board did they even have a quorum? CB’s can have up to 50 members. If there really are only 19-20odd people on the board then there is a lot of room for the CM and Borough President to install new members. Take it over.

  • Jeff

    I’ve made this suggestion with regards to congestion and roadway capacity, but I think it applies to parking, too. These people want to live in a fantasy world where everyone drives cars and the public space needs to be configured to accommodate it? Great. Let’s give them that fantasy world in the form of a “reverse critical mass”. We pick a day on which everyone in the cycling advocacy community rents/borrows a car, and we park them for free on neighborhood streets. Then they’ll see just how much free parking is left over for them in their fantasy, and maybe the idea of trading in three car parking spaces for 24 bike parking spaces won’t seem so bad.

  • anon

    You’re right, just (un-elected) 12 people shouldn’t decide. But that’s how it’s set up now. Rather than complain about the process, advocates should do more organizing to persuade them. Just think how many more proponents would come come along if you can convince some stodgy CB members?

  • How would this be different from, say, today?

  • Eh, I think advocates are doing a lot of what you say. Many sit on community boards or committees (I do!) and others are regular faces at meetings. These corrals were supported by petitions and multiple letters of support, so the idea that they just got presented to the committee without advance organization but lots of post-game complaining is false.

  • KeNYC2030

    There is a widespread misconception that car owners have an inalienable right to store their private property on public property free of charge. DOT is the agency charged with deciding the best use of public street space. It should simply treat this vote as it would the opinion of any other group with a vested interest and make its own determination of what would best serve the neighborhood.

  • Jeff

    Well, apparently the loss of three parking spaces is enough to throw the whole parking equilibrium into a tailspin, so I guess we only need three participants to unleash carmageddon.

  • Wilfried84

    Perhaps it’s time to change the process.

  • Joe R.

    I agree that more bike parking near businesses is needed BUT I think it should be off-street parking. The best place is a small bike rack inside the store near the front door where the security guard stands. There’s nothing preventing these businesses from doing this. I personally wouldn’t lock my bike to outdoor bike parking, even right in front of the store, for fear it would get stolen. Oudoor bike parking is fine if you’re on a Citibike or your bike is a real POS, but not if you have a decent bike. Bike theft has been rampant in NYC for decades, yet nothing is ever done about it.

  • Keith Williams

    If you parked bikes inside most NYC stores, there would be no room for customers.

  • Eddie

    I would not park my bike in one of those corrals. I want it as far away from moving traffic as possible. Mishaps do happen, like the truck that recently backed up on the sidewalk and knocked my rear wheel out of true (my bike was locked to a street sign).

  • Joe R.

    Sure, some stores may not have room for a rack inside but based on my observations 95% of stores have room for at least a rack holding a few bikes near the front entrance. Most big box stores have enough room for a virtual bike parking lot in front.

    Outside is good also if adequate security exists.

  • Joe R.

    Those are my feelings as well. Even my “junker” bike, which is an old Huffy with an improved drivetrain, is not something I would feel comfortable chaining to a sign or a bike corral.

  • anon

    Can’t have it both ways – You can’t applaud the CB’s when they do right and the call for them to be dissolved when they go a different direction. You can’t say DOT should ignore them for your projects and then say they don’t listen to the community when their work doesn’t meet your goals.

    Democracy ain’t always pretty. The Community Board processes does need to be reformed, but that doesn’t mean things will always err on the side of livable streets. Only more and better organizing can realistically do that.

  • Yourboy

    Uh get a better bike lock?

  • Hilda

    Within the NYC Dept. Of Buildings, there is a means to protest a requirement if it is not necessary for safety, if it proves to be a hardship to a business. Given the amount of space that the bike corral is taking, perhaps if there is a way to show that the majority of the customers at this business are arriving by bicycle, not having parking could be a hardship. If this is not metered parking, the argument would appear to be simple. F this is metered parking, it may get turned around by a different business owner.
    A simple graph of the number of bike that can be parked vs. the number of cars that can be parked might refute any opposition.

  • I’m fine with CB’s making decisions *I* don’t agree with when the decisions are based on evidence and the general will of the community. If 200 people show up to a meeting and don’t want a bike corral that has the support of only 10 people, the CB would be 100% right in voting it down, as much as that might disappoint people here. But in making its decision, it should also weigh the statistics and note that only 44% of the people in the neighborhood own cars.

    What it should not do is weigh personal inconveniences or perceived offenses over a “war on cars” into its decisions. CB1’s vote, like many others, seems to be a case of a CB ignoring both the will of the community and the evidence. That’s not okay, no matter which side you’re on.

  • Bobberooni

    If you want to win this argument in the court of public opinion… point out that the proposal is to convert parking that will serve ONE vehicle to parking that will serve TEN. Clearly, that is good for business. And it puts you in a good position to paint those who vote against it as “elitist.”

  • ocschwar

    Spend as much on the lock as on the bike.

  • qrt145

    The typical response is “yes, but you can park your bike on the sidewalk taking zero car spaces!”

    So you also have to mention the additional benefit of having a more usable (and even prettier) sidewalk for people to walk on. But of course we know how much people who only care about parking their car care about that…

  • Bobberooni

    Good thought. But is this response just an excuse to do nothing?

    One should insist that the bike parking spaces are needed, that there is demand (demand that would otherwise be driving), and that this is good for business (it is).

    Then we can get into a real conversation on where ON THE SIDEWALK the bike corral will go. Because they’re right, in one way — as a biker, I don’t really care whether the bike corral is on or off the curb. But I suspect that may people who say “you can park on the sidewalk” haven’t really thought through how this is really going to work, and are just hoping for the status quo. One might point out that they are insisting that the bikes be parked in a place where they can’t legally be driven. Putting bike parking on the sidewalk encourages sidewalk biking.

    We can point out that anything that encourages more bikers frees up road and parking space for drivers, making it a win-win for everyone.

  • Teresa Toro

    DOT can’t listen to the community when there’s barely any community turnout for critical votes like this one. The process is fine; it’s when the bike/ped community becomes apathetic that this happens. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of showing up, showing up, showing up.

  • Teresa Toro

    For what it’s worth, the transportation committee recommended yes. And the full board had a low representation that particular night of its more bike/ped friendly members. Regardless, if bike/ped advocates showed up in numbers at the full board meetings, members would be much more strongly reminded of their accountability. You’ve got to fight for your right to… park-y.

  • I don’t disagree, but I’ve also seen instances where the advocacy community turns out in droves and a CB ignores them anyway. The CB6 Fourth Avenue saga comes to mind. Huge turnout at the committee meeting, near-unanimous vote by the committee, and the board voted it down. (Though it had a happy ending, thanks to some wrangling.) Look at Mount Morris Park West in Harlem and many other examples where deep community involvement and big turnout at meetings were ignored by CBs.

    The process can turn people to cynics and affect whether they show up the next time.

    And it shouldn’t always take huge community turnout. One would hope board members would be intelligent and selfless enough to be able to place evidence over their own inconvenience.

  • Teresa Toro

    That’s okay, Doug, because then the community can still document/demonstrate the support when it appeals to DOT directly; makes it easier to achieve that happy ending after the CB defies the will of the majority. I agree we shouldn’t always need a huge community turnout but it should happen often enough for board members to realize that we’re here, we steer… get used to it. They need regular reminding.

  • JamesR

    Bingo… I’m on a CB in a different borough, but the battles are the same. It’s all about bodies in the room and if you want positive change, get out to these night meetings, dreadfully drawn-out and excruciating as they may at times be. This is the process, and clicktivism on Streetsblog is worth very little in the end.

  • MattyCiii

    That’s brilliant.

    Maybe target the effort. Stake up all parking spots in an ‘n’ block radius of the CB meeting for the hours before and through the CB meeting… those with the windshield perspective are cruisin’ for parkin’ while those who walk or cycle are votin’…


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