Still No Progress on UES Crosstown Bike Lanes at Community Board 8

The surreal world of Upper East Side bike lane meetings took another bizarre turn Wednesday night. DOT has put forward a simple plan for painted crosstown bike lanes in the neighborhood, but instead of breezing through Community Board 8, it’s become a prime example of how even the most basic safety improvements can get bogged down in a series of gripe sessions.

DOT wants to install three new crosstown dedicated bike routes on the Upper East Side [PDF]. Image: DOT
The three pairs of crosstown bike lanes in DOT’s plan. Image: DOT

DOT’s plan would add painted bike lanes on three pairs of crosstown streets: 85th and 84th streets, 78th and 77th streets, and 67th and 68th streets [PDF]. The project removes no parking spaces or car lanes. CB 8 passed a resolution asking DOT to install crosstown bike lanes in the neighborhood in November, but once DOT showed an actual proposal, the NIMBYs came out of the woodwork.

Wednesday’s meeting was no different, according to advocates and committee members in attendance, with a succession of residents and organizations from each affected street arguing why their block could not handle a painted bike lane.

“There were people from each of the streets who were at the meeting and they all said ‘on my street over my dead body,’” said attorney and UES resident Steve Vaccaro. Compared to previous meetings, Vaccaro said, “the anecdotal evidence was even more irrelevant. There were people saying, ‘There’s a thrift shop on our street.’ There were people saying, ‘There are restaurants on our street.’”

Earlier this month, the committee called “not on my street” opponents on their bluff, passing a resolution asking DOT to study the feasibility of bike lanes on every crosstown street in the neighborhood.

At Wednesday’s meeting, board member Michelle Birnbaum claimed Borough President Gale Brewer’s office had determined the resolution was invalid because it had been proposed by a “public member” of the committee — a non-voting member who did not go through the political appointment process. Brewer’s office said today that its staff had responded to “a hypothetical that was similar to but different from the question CB 8 wound up facing Wednesday night,” that its advice “may have been incorrect,” and that it is now consulting the city’s Law Department and “researching the question further.”

The parliamentary wrangling will probably turn out to be irrelevant. Vaccaro said CB 8’s final resolution does not explicitly reject the street pairings in DOT’s plan, instead requesting that DOT explore possible alternative pairs for the board to consider. Vaccaro said he’s confident the board will support DOT’s plan — eventually.

There is no law stopping DOT from striping the bike lanes without a resolution from the community board. A DOT spokesperson said the department is waiting on the text of the board’s resolution before making a determination on how to move forward.


    At this point city concil or the mayor needs to release an official edict that prohibits DOT from seeking a greenlight from community boards. Theres just too much of this nonsense.

  • BridgeTroll

    Once rode my bicycle on street with a bike lane to a restaurant located on same street with said bike lane. Can confirm did work. Good soup 9/10 would do again.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    a slightly different take on the meeting:

    More suppprters attended meeting than rejectionists; by my checking the room when attendees ‘clapped for our side’. 9 speakers suppprted Lanes and 7 rejected. At least 2 of the rejectionist speakers hurt Their cause by appearing rather deranged.

    the rejrctionists realize They are Fighting a losing campaign, They only Hope to delay and stall.

    The majority of the CB supprts the Noveber proposal for painted Lanes to be installed ‘asap’ and protected lane(s) to be installed in 2017?. The suppprters on the CB just need to feel they will get Sold back up from the Community.

    The rejrctionists are already gearing up for the forthcoming Battle of Complete Streets on Second Avenue. The Crosstown Lanes struggle Is a mere skirmish.

  • “Brewer’s office said today that its staff had responded to ‘a hypothetical that was similar to but different from the question CB 8 wound up facing Wednesday night,’ that its advice ‘may have been incorrect,’ and that it is now consulting the city’s Law Department and ‘researching the question further.'”

    Pardon my French, but this is f*cking absurd. It’s paint on pavement. The Law Department? Parliamentary tricks? Give me a break.

    DOT needs to put these bike lanes in right away.

  • Manhattan Voter

    How big of a disappointment has Gale Brewer turned out to be? She can’t be gotten rid of soon enough.

  • rao

    It must be incredibly dispiriting to be a DOT employee and have to waste your time and talent and taxpayers’ money on this farce of a public process. Reality: We’re talking about painted lines that are going to be ignored by 99% of motorists and will fade away after a couple of years. Why should they even be voted on by the CB to begin with?

    Also: When DDC wanted to build an accessible bridge to the east side greenway to replace the stairs at the south end of Carl Schurz Park, the CB 8 dead-enders frothed and gasped, but DDC started construction anyway. That was a far more consequential project than some stupid white lines on a badly paved street. There is a lesson there.

  • Ban Community Boards

    At a certain point, whining about bikes all the time while continuing to ignore the people killed by cars and trucks is a moral choice. Haven’t heard anything from Michelle Birnbaum about this one:

  • JudenChino

    Or a statement of principles that states that elimination of free road side parking may not be a consideration re: installation of bike lanes (as opposed to loading zones, buses, and FDNY and sanitation access which should of course be given due consideration).

  • Didn’t de Blasio already say that DOT doesn’t need to follow CB rejections/objections? Why must we continue this farce?

  • cjstephens

    In defense of my native UES, I would point out that all of the actual votes taken by the Community Board and its committees have been overwhelmingly in favor of the bike lanes. A handful of vocal crazies are slowing down the whole process, alas.

  • KeNYC2030

    If DOT can remove a physically protected bike lane on 170th with no community input it can certainly ignore NIMBY rants and put paint on the ground. It must know by this time that there are people who, given the chance, will object to any change whatsoever on their block — the addition of a new trash can, the trimming of a tree limb, anything. This resistance to change extends to defending at all costs the continued presence of fast-moving, multi-ton vehicles that reliably kill or maim thousands of New Yorkers each year.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    sign the TA petition and pass around – the rejectionists have 650 on their petition.

  • neroden

    Honestly? At this point community boards, which are *appointed*, need to either be made elected, or be abolished entirely. As it is they’re ludicrous — they don’t represent anything or anyone.


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