NYPD on U.N. Bike Lane Closures: Nothing to See Here, Streetsblog

During the United Nations General Assembly, the "bike lane" is the road. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
During the United Nations General Assembly, the "bike lane" is the road. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The NYPD has refused to release information about its decision to close critical Manhattan bike lanes during the United Nations General Assembly last month, citing the need “to protect the deliberative process of government.”

Streetsblog had filed a request with the NYPD under the Freedom of Information Law “to obtain all communication from and to the NYPD … pertaining to road and bike lane closures for the 2018 United Nations General Assembly,” which ran from Sept. 22-29.

In our Sept. 26 request, Streetsblog specifically asked for the inter- and intra-agency communication among the NYPD, the Department of Transportation, City Hall and the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs so that we could determine the agencies’ motivation for shutting down the First and Second Avenue bike lanes during the gridlocked week.

Our request was filed formally only after the individual agencies declined to comment for our story on the closures. And it came amid a glaring irony: DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg had just called on New Yorkers to bike through the traffic-choked streets during the General Assembly.

Nonetheless, our request was denied because “the information, if disclosed, would reveal non-routine techniques and procedures,” the NYPD said in an Oct. 1 email.

So on Oct. 10, I appealed, reiterating that the information is essential so that the public can determine why the decision was made.

“I am not seeking any classified security information,” I wrote. “I am only trying to determine how various agencies discussed the need for the closure of the bike lane. … Names or sensitive information can obviously be redacted.”

Sgt. Jordan Mazur, an NYPD records access appeals officer, responded one day later with the denial, arguing that “the records that you have described are inter-agency or intra- agency records that are exempt from disclosure under FOIL law unless they are: i.) statistical or factual tabulations or data; ii). instructions to staff that affect the public; iii.) final agency policy or determinations; or, iv.) external audits.”

“The exemption is intended to protect the deliberative process of government, and to encourage the free exchange of ideas among government policymakers,” Mazur continued. “You assert that you are, ‘trying to determine how various agencies discussed the need for the closure.’ … The records, as described, are quintessential ‘deliberative process’ materials and, therefore, your appeal is denied.”

That’s too bad because many cyclists have complained not only of having the bike lanes closed during the UN’s annual meeting, but also about having insufficient information on why bike riders cannot pass the Secretariat building even as cars speed right past it. (See tweets below.)

Neither City Hall nor the DOT responded to a request for comment.

  • I call this soft fascism though quite frankly it’s not all that soft anymore is it.

  • The idea that the police themselves get to determine what information they release further demonstrates the department’s contempt for civilian government. This City’s police department is as unaccountable as a military junta.

  • It would be legitimately shocking news if I wasn’t already familiar with the NYPD’s obstruction with legitimate FOIL requests & community planning

  • Rider

    I don’t think you need FOIL to figure this out. Just look at how NYPD uses the bike lanes during events. They are staging areas for their own equipment. Kind of like how the QBB bike/ped path becomes a shortcut for DOT workers to drive across the bridge when the car lanes are jammed at morning rush hour.

    What really needs investigating is the decision making process at DOT. Why do they choose to grind half the city to a halt each year instead of limiting traffic into Manhattan? If the traffic volume were cut back to a reasonable level, temporary bike lanes could be demarcated out of the NYPD’s way.

  • J. Geoff Rove

    2 Guesses:
    1) The UN bike lanes are used for special auto access, or
    2) The scenario where multiple motorcycles ridden by evil doers converge on the UN using the bike lanes and strike the UN with WMDs, like in those Tom Cruise movies.

  • Pbny

    Closing bike lanes temporarily is not fascism. Not even “soft fascism”, whatever that is supposed to mean.

    As for making every communication between governmental agencies open to public scrutiny at the expense of revealing security and counter-terrorism practices, this is a necessary limit on what may be made public. At some point, there must be a degree of faith in our system that allows for it to function as openly and free as it does. Some may think that questioning authority on every issue is an indication of intelligence. However, lacking the ability to discern a legitimate concern from a knee-jerk opposition is the opposite.

  • Daisy’s World

    In the past few months, shared electric-battery-powered scooters have swept the country, with their operators persuading officials in Austin, Santa Monica and San Francisco to launch pilot programs. New York, however, with its tougher regulatory environment, seemed the last place the e-scooters would find a home.

    But shared-scooter companies looking to enter the nation’s biggest market may be in luck, and not just because some of them have enlisted lobbyists experienced in clearing a path with local authorities. They are coming in at what could be a moment of unprecedented experimentation.

    That’s what some observers view as the upside to the L-line shutdown, which will begin in April, stretch 15 months and leave 225,000 commuters without their usual ride between Brooklyn and Manhattan. http://www.daisylimo.com

  • Seamus Sullivan

    whatever you say officer. meanwhile a car that was still allowed to drive by could do a hell of a lot more damage than someone on bike

  • Pbny

    I am not sure whose comment you are answering here. I offered no opinion regarding the effectiveness of restricting cars or bicycles.

    My comment had to do with your assertion that closing bike lanes temporarily-and absent open public scrutiny was a fascist act. I would give you the benefit of the doubt and consider your comment just a bit of sarcasm. However, you went on to emphasize your point by claiming that it is no longer “soft” fascism that we are experiencing. The problem that you are describing is simply not one which a rational person would equate with fascism. In fact, describing it as such would likely be very offensive to anyone who ever has lived or currently lives under fascism.

  • sbauman

    This isn’t the first time non-motorized travel has been banned in the name of security. I researched when pedestrian paths on our bridges were closed. It was during World War II and allegedly for security purposes. This was at the same time that gas was rationed and “non-essential” travel was discouraged. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

  • In other words, nothing to see here. Right?

  • Whatever you say, officer. Apologies to those people living under fascist rule whom I offended.