CB 12 Committee Puts Parking Over Safety in Vote on Uptown Bike Lanes

DOT is proposing significant bicycle and pedestrian upgrades in Washington Heights, but the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee wants to nibble away at a protected bike lane in the plan. The committee voted to support the DOT plan but with modifications that would shrink a proposed protected bike lane on Edgecombe Avenue to preserve parking.

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT
The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan [PDF] would provide river-to-river links between the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park, where cyclists and pedestrians would be able to connect to the Bronx. The proposal comes after the approval of bicycle and pedestrian upgrades for the Bronx side of High Bridge Park [PDF].

The plan would result in a net loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. Most of the change is concentrated on Edgecombe north of 165th Street, where parking would be removed for the bikeway on sections of Edgecombe with two-way car traffic.

At its meeting Monday evening, the CB 12 transportation committee deadlocked, 2-2, on a vote to support the plan after members Jim Berlin and Anita Barberis protested the loss of parking. Berlin has a long history of prioritizing parking over street safety at CB 12, which covers a neighborhood where about three-quarters of households are car-free.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the working-class people I know have MetroCards,” Maria Lopez replied to Berlin, reported DNAinfo. “I drive, but I support this plan.” Lopez is also a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine. After her reply, according to multiple meeting attendees, Berlin began a condescending response by calling her “honey child.”

“The entire room gasped,” said one person at the meeting. “It was racist, misogynistic and ageist all at once, and it was stunning…I just don’t think he realized how inappropriate that was.”

Eventually, the committee agreed on a compromise resolution, with a 4-0 vote, that supported the plan but asked DOT to shorten the protected bikeway on Edgecombe in order to preserve parking.

“It was somewhat disappointing, because one particular person, their opinion can really influence what happens in an entire community. And it was clear that the people from the community that came out really supported it,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. The group offers bicycle education courses to high school students, including at the George Washington Educational Campus on Audubon Avenue.

“A lot of people don’t like to ride in traffic,” Reyes said. “The benefits outweigh the loss of parking spaces in terms of the amount of  kids, particularly, that would be able to access this park.”

The plan includes a lot of big improvements for safe walking and biking in the neighborhood.

A two-way protected bikeway will be added to the steep section of 158th Street between Broadway and the Henry Hudson Parkway, where riders connect to the Hudson River Greenway. Between Broadway and Edgecombe Avenue, the project would shift to shared lane markings on 158th and 159th Streets.

In addition to a protected bikeway, the intersection of 158th Street, Riverside Drive, and Edward Morgan Place is set for major pedestrian safety upgrades. Image: DOT
In addition to a protected bikeway, the intersection of 158th Street, Riverside Drive, and Edward Morgan Place is set for major pedestrian safety upgrades. Image: DOT

DOT is proposing painted curb extensions on the northeast and northwest corners of Broadway and 158th Street, and on the southwest corner of Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue, which becomes 159th Street. Sharrows would be installed on Broadway between 158th and 159th Streets, which connect to the existing painted bike lanes on St. Nicholas Avenue.

At the multi-leg intersection of 158th Street, Riverside Drive, and Edward Morgan Place, DOT is proposing painted curb extensions and pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances and clarify where drivers should go. The new pedestrian spaces will eventually be built out in concrete where feasible, DOT says.

A second east-west two-way protected bikeway will be added to the north, on 170th Street between Haven Avenue and Edgecombe Avenue. The street, currently 42 feet wide, would have the lane added to its south side. Parking would be preserved, except for a handful of spots at key intersections, and the travel lane would be narrowed to 13 feet. The bikeway connects to a bike route on Fort Washington Avenue, which is already used by cyclists bound for the George Washington Bridge.

Where 170th crosses Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue at Duarte Square, the bikeway would be built out in concrete and shift to the north side of 170th as it approaches the intersection of Amsterdam and Edgecombe.

After crossing Amsterdam, the two-way protected bikeway would curve south on Edgecombe until 165th Street. From 165th to 155th, it would become shared lane markings. Unsignalized crosswalks will be added at 165th Street at the entrance to High Bridge Park, at 162nd Street at a bus stop, and between 155th and 157th Streets near Coogan’s Bluff Playground.

  • r

    “It was somewhat disappointing, because one particular person, their opinion can really influence what happens in an entire community.”

    If there’s a better quote than this to show that Community Boards don’t represent the community, I haven’t seen it.

  • Kate

    “Somewhat disappointing” is such an understatement. That a nasty little man like Jim Berlin has any say at all, that anyone even gives him any credence is beyond the pale. He doesn’t represent his community. He represents himself and his own tiny interest… his parking spot.

  • BBnet3000

    After her reply, according to multiple meeting attendees, Berlin began a condescending response by calling her “honey child.”

    This is who we put in charge of transportation in this city (unelected) and why we are going to be stuck with 1950s/60s street designs probably until the 2050s/60s.

    Cutting back the DOT’s plans makes them feel like they’re actually doing something other than exercising a veto and lets them aggrandize themselves.

    and the travel lane would be narrowed to 13 feet.

    Some ambitious proposal that they’re cutting back too. A 2-way bikeway is generally a poor practice, and with highway-spec lanes maintained on a surface street?

  • Ian Turner

    Does anyone know who appointed Berlin? Can we write them?

  • SheRidesABike

    Ah, yes, the same Jim Berlin who almost had to be escorted out of a T&T committee meeting because he literally started screaming about how taking a few parking spots away to accommodate bike lanes would result in violence. I believe he was assigned a very unofficial monitor of sorts and calmed down for a while. This “honey child” stuff …bring back the monitor.

  • Rabi

    So much of what’s wrong with this city’s transportation system can be summed up by the crazy idea that bike commuting is elitist and working-class people drive.

  • Ian Turner

    Answered my own question, he was appointed by Ydanis Rodriguez and coincidentally his term expires next month.
    http://www.slideshare.net/GaleABrewerMBP/2015-cb-member-chart

  • SheRidesABike

    Working class people do drive — take taxi drivers, for one. The problem (well, one of many) is the idea that the convenience of working class drivers is a higher priority than the safety of working class people who depend on transit, walking, or biking to get around.

  • Alex

    What you’ve said can be easily applied to so many other community board members. The entire NYC community board system is a sick joke on the people who live here.

  • r

    Hopefully Ydanis Rodriguez, who’s been great on Vision Zero, will show Jim Berlin the door. A man like this shouldn’t stand between the community and Vision Zero.

  • Well she wasn’t wrong…obviously it was she who was going to get violent.

  • qrt145

    “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

    This man must be auditioning to host the New Colbert Report.

  • Jonathan R

    Unlikely. Jim Berlin is one of our Washington Heights permanent unelected community leaders.

  • Brad Aaron

    The lengths we go to to accommodate this bullshit…

  • Jonathan R

    How many people are not interested in attending community meetings where this kind of behavior is tolerated?

  • Joe R.

    The irony here is he’s probably rich and/or retired, so driving and parking are purely a luxury for him, not a necessity.

    If a single person can significantly water down a project which a supermajority of the community support, and purely for a frill like free curbside parking, what hope is there for the rest of the city?

  • SheRidesABike

    Exactly. That was my first experience at a T&T meeting. It really tainted my view of the CB system.

  • HamTech87

    Why not extend the “fresh kermit” green paint through the intersection? This will call attention to it at the most dangerous point.

  • WoodyinNYC

    The divine right of royals, nah, it’s more like the President-for-Life position of tinpot African dictatorships.

    The citizens of New York voted for term limits for City Council members and they hated it. They apparently take out revenge on the voters by supporting lifetime appointments to the Community Boards.

  • WoodyinNYC

    Anita Barberis ain’t much better it seems. She sits there with Berlin when he calls a woman “Honey Child” — and she’s cool with that. Female as footpad or what?

  • SheRidesABike

    Yeah, they do that in Seattle where the cycletracks pass entrance/exits to parking garages, etc. I’ve not used them much during heavy traffic yet but does seem to help.

  • SheRidesABike

    Got so distracted by the Berlin hoo-ha. Ugh. Anyway, this actually looks like a decent plan and it’s exciting that they proposed protected paths on three different streets, which are important connectors, instead of coming to the table with watered down proposals from the gate. But with people like Berlin on the board DOT needs to come with proposals to shut down entire streets so that when the T&T strips it down, the protected lanes are the compromise solution, not the biggest ask.

  • J

    Seriously, and by giving more people more options, the folks that truly need to drive will have an easier time doing so.

  • J

    And he was unelected to his position, and there is democratic means of removing him from power. Truly sad.

  • Morris Zapp

    “Jim Berlin called the bike lane supporter ‘honey child.’ He then hailed a Checker home, put a Swanson’s Hungry-Man dinner in the oven, crimped fresh tin foil around the rabbit ears, and watched ‘Chico and the Man.’”

  • I served on the T&T Committee a few years ago as a member of CB12.
    Looks as if it hasn’t changed much: still obstructionist. Community Board Members who’ve been serving for more than 20 years (eg., Berlin and Barberis) need to step aside and give everyone a fresh perspective.

    Reappointments have likely already been made, btw.

  • iSkyscraper

    CB 12 T&T committee is among the worst in the city. DOT should do the right thing and simply ignore them.

  • iSkyscraper

    Or by the fact that residents with clear biases get to act as the supposed representative voice of the community in complete ignorance of the fact that very few people (in Manhattan, anyway) actually own a car:

    http://www.nycedc.com/blog-entry/new-yorkers-and-cars

  • iSkyscraper

    Quite correct. I went to two and never went again. Just terrible. The community board is fine if crazy people want to have somewhere to vent, but they should be kept away from any sort of real power whatsoever.

  • iSkyscraper

    Just as many vocal community board members who never see wrong in illegal bars and nightclubs, or in voting on them, actually own nightlife businesses of their own.

  • BBnet3000

    We don’t do NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide best practices here, even though NACTO’s headquarters is on Park Avenue.

  • J

    Behold the first few miles of the Trottenberg DOT’s protected bike lanes. Tellingly, they 1) do not connect to other protected bike lanes or bike boulevards, 2) are not continuous in themselves, and 3) are not part of a larger plan for a low-stress network.

    These lanes will certainly be helpful, but in general, we’re spinning our wheels.

  • Jonathan R

    I think you could read the article more closely. The 158th Street protected lane is an important connector between the Hudson River Greenway and the street grid. It is a steep uphill heading east, so having a protected lane means that people on bicycles will be able to climb without having to worry about blocking traffic behind them. The Edgecombe Ave lanes connect with the High Bridge, which connects to the Bronx.

    Second, we Washington Heights residents deserve safe, pleasant, and direct routes to travel by bicycle whether or not they are linked up to other routes in New York City or are part of this notional “low-stress” network.. The routes in this plan are legitimate routes that I for one use frequently and do connect up with major through routes.

  • J

    I used to live in that area, and rode down 158th frequently. It sucked, and this will certainly be much much better. You’re right that both protected lane segments connect to greenways, making them part of the existing low-stress network, which is very good. I guess my overall worry is that DOT has a history of treating sharrows and protected lane as equivalents, and so we end up with a patchwork of facilities, which cater to wildly different skill and comfort levels, instead of finding ways for every part of the network to conform to all levels. Since there is no bigger plan for the bike network, these segments could linger on as minor spurs in the network, while DOT considers them to be linked with sharrows to other sections. If the parking supporters get there way, some of the protected segments will be orphaned, making them pretty useless. There is plenty of space in the area to put in protected lanes, St Nicholas and Broadway being prime candidates, but generally little will on the part of DOT.

    You’re right, though, I probably overstated the negative and understated the positive of this project, and it was good for you to point this out

  • LN

    w158th is part of my daily commute, it is essentially a big hill that is an on/off ramp for the westside highway further endangered by three blind exits from parking garages (one a DOT facility). The only way to ride it safely is to take advantage of the complicated intersection in the second picture at riverside/riverside#2/edward morgan/158th to blow the red light, take the entire lane hoping to get to the bottom of the hill before the cars behind you. In the summer this is the main route for families, including little kids on bikes heading to picnics in the park. Ironically, one passes ‘safety city’ on the way up/down the hill.

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