UPDATED: Upper West Side NIMBYs Sue City Over Central Park West Bike Lane
7:29 PM EDT on July 30, 2019
A group of Upper West Siders has started legal proceedings against the city for its plans to build a protected bike lane on Central Park West.
The suit, filed late on Tuesday by owners at the Century Condominium, argues that the plan constitutes "a wide-spread and comprehensive change to the traffic patterns on Central Park West" that is illegal because the city did not perform a sufficient environmental review.
But that reading of the law, called Article 78, is absurd, experts said.
"The nature and irony of this suit is beyond indefensible for the plaintiffs," said Marco Conner, co-deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. "These residents are saying their parking is more important than the lives of others and are making a mockery of environmental review by seeking to dissuade one of the most environmentally friendly transportation forms on earth."
Read the entire filing below, but here are some snippets.
The case does not try to hide its politics. Rather than lead with a legal argument that the city has overstepped its authority, the plaintiffs open with mouths agape at city officials' plans for its unsafe roadways.
"The push for more bike lanes has stripped the City of prime real estate on stately corridors like Columbus Avenue, caused an explosion of traffic tickets for delivery truck drivers who can’t afford them, ignores that the rise in bicycle accidents is attributable to the Mayor’s office in this and past administrations push to increase bicycle ridership, and favors a tiny minority of citizens by handing over vast swathes of the city’s public space," the suit argues — then cites a recent anti-cycling editorial from the New York Post as "Exhibit 5."
The suit also argues that bike lanes are not compatible with Central Park West's status on the National Register of Historic Places, though cars would also be incompatible with the city's far-longer history.
But the main argument is one of admitted selfishness and an appeal to false mobility issues (after all, there are side streets):
The proposed project will negatively impact petitioners in a number of ways. For instance, disabled residents traveling northbound and disembarking from motor vehicles will not be able to do so on the east side with the new lane configuration. In addition, disabled and elderly residents who wish to enter Central Park will be in harm’s way by having to cross the bike lanes due to bicycle riders who often neglect to abide by the normal traffic rules. Also, residents and building staff will lose available free parking, which will increase their expenses.
The suit also blames the city for bad drivers.
Moreover, Central Park West is already plagued with double-parked cars frequently blocking traffic lanes, a condition that can only worsen with the removal of an entire parking lane and addition of the buffer. Nor has the DOT taken any look (much less the required “hard look” required by SEQRA ), at the proposed project’s effect on vehicle distribution on the adjacent streets connecting to Central Park West, where slow-moving vehicles will be forcibly rerouted to cruise for parking spaces; the availability and affordability of alternate parking; the impact on commercial traffic; the impact on congestion pricing; or the possible mitigating measure of authorizing residential parking permits.
But the core argument contends that putting a protected bike lane on Central Park West — one similar to scores of existing bike lanes in New York City — amounts to a "Type I Action" under Article 78, and therefore one that requires extensive environmental review.
"Among Type I Actions are actions that involve physical alteration of 2.5 acres which are contiguous to a historic district and publicly owned park land," contends the suit, which was submitted by lawyers Richard Leland, Steven Cordero and Sara Mandelbaum. "DOT has conducted no environmental review whatsoever because, as it did in the 14th Street Bike Lane Proceeding, it almost certainly has ... mischaracterized the proposed project as a Type II action."
In a statement, the Department of Transportation did not address the legal issues raised. "Far too many lives are being lost on our roadways," the agency said. "The city will fight for this urgently needed and broadly supported safety project on Central Park West.”
City lawyers will appear to 60 Centre Street on Wednesday in hopes of preventing a judge from issuing a temporary restraining order against the life-saving bike path, which was expected to be begun this year — little over a year after cyclist Madison Lyden was killed on the roadway when she was forced out of an unsafe painted bike lane and into traffic.
The case is just the latest in the last few months featuring a small group of residents challenging a fairly routine — and generally widely accepted as legitimate — use of government power, citing Article 78. In the Bronx, some business owners on Morris Park Avenue sued the city to block its plans for a "road diet" that would reduce the roadway from four speedway-like lanes to two, with a center turning bay — a design that has been used repeatedly all over the city.
And on 14th Street, wealthy West Village and Chelsea landowners sued to stop the city's plans for a bus-only roadway, claiming it would send cars to their quiet residential streets.
Both matters are pending in various courts.
More from Streetsblog New York City
Third Ave. ‘Complete Street’ Adds Wide Bike Lane, But Still Keeps Too Much Space for Cars
The bike lane is a good start, but the city must aim higher for its "complete streets," advocates say.
Friday’s Headlines: Here’s a Great Fundraising Idea Edition
Cops Collar Driver Who Killed Heroic Nanny — But the Charge is Merely ‘Failure to Yield’
The charges don't match the outrage that the crash provoked.
What’s Behind the Increasing Assaults of NYC Transit Workers?
A new study says the violence isn't about the transit, but a reflection of our society.
Thursday’s Headlines: What an Historic Day Edition
It was such a big deal that all sorts of strangers in the press corps showed up. Plus other news.