UPDATED: Upper West Side NIMBYs Sue City Over Central Park West Bike Lane

The city is being sued to block a protected bike lane on Central Park West — where Madison Lyden was killed last year. Photo: David Meyer
The city is being sued to block a protected bike lane on Central Park West — where Madison Lyden was killed last year. Photo: David Meyer

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.


CPW Residential Board of M v Residential Board of M PETITION 1 by Gersh Kuntzman on Scribd

  • thomas040

    Jesus Christ this is so backwards thinking it’s almost incomprehensible.

  • com63

    You guys should provide an update on how 14th st is working without the busway restrictions

  • Driver

    You guys should provide an update on how 14th St is not working without the busway restrictions. *Corrected*

  • These damn fools were no doubt encouraged by the irresponsible decision of Judge Rakower in granting an injunction on the 14th Street busway on the same spurious grounds.

  • Would like a future, please

    it’s climate arson.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The progressives (1970s version) strike again.

    The actual original progressives of a century ago are probably rolling over in their graves about how that name has been hijacked.

    And environmental grounds? That takes the cake. The entire city planning field was hijacked long ago.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Who are Paul Millman and Bonnie Eisler?

  • William Lawson

    Jesus these people are just plain nasty, despicable pieces of shit. What garbage excuses for human beings. We should go up there and set up a permanent protest outside of their nasty little shitcaves.

  • KeNYC2030

    Condos in that building are going for between $2,300 and $4,300 a square FOOT. And these people are so desperate to hang onto a handful of spaces where they can store their private property free of charge that they are willing to endanger the life of every cyclist riding by? There really are no words adequate for this.

  • homer2101

    Perhaps it’s time to sue the city whenever they re-paint a roadway. Or inexplicably remove a bike lane. Bog them down with millions in legal feels, and maybe they’ll finally change SEQRA to something sane that doesn’t let every crank hold things up indefinitely.

  • Resident

    Selfish assholes who should probably move to wherever their second homes are.

  • Simon Phearson

    The DOT keeps pointing to their plans to re-do the QBB upper roadway as a reason not to open up the south outer roadway to bike traffic. That seems like a pretty substantial capital project involving an historic structure, as part of a broader plan to maintain LOS across the bridge. I wonder if they did an EIS?

    I think that’s the only way to make some headway here. Abuse the SEQRA process until the City Council can be motivated enough to amend the law to preclude these kinds of frivolous lawsuits.

  • Simon Phearson

    This is almost literally an “I got mine” scenario, considering that, by the complaint’s own reasoning, any DOT action to create the current conditions would also have required an EIS. Convenient, though, that the status quo is already in place, eh?

    Maybe the DOT should just relocate the bike lane to the other side of the street and see how they like it there.

  • maxmaxed

    Nah, the ones who complain the most are most likely boomers who still pay fixed $900/month rent. Plenty of them all over Manhattan.

  • Vooch

    until around 1955 it was illegal to park overnight on CPW

  • Vooch

    it’s mostly about the doorman having free parking plus the horrors of evil
    bicyclists coming from OUTSIDE the neighborhood ( cluchtes pearls )

  • Larry Littlefield

    Remember, no EIS required to add four lanes to the Staten Island Expressway.


  • Emmily_Litella

    “Stripping the city of prime real estate”

  • Joe Mama

    Would be much more productive to push for reforms to SEQRA and the judicial system both to lessen the likelihood of these challenges and to raise the standard required for even a preliminary injunction.

    The whole two minutes of hate thing feels great but doesn’t get us anywhere.

  • Joe R.

    This may well be the last gasp of this selfish outgoing generation. They probably already realize they’re going to be less and less likely to get what they want via the legislative process. The electorate is undergoing a generational shift. The group which prizes parking and level of service is getting smaller and smaller. This leaves the courts as their last hope. If they lose these lawsuits, the city should make them pay for all court costs. I’m not seeing how any sane judge could grant this injunction on its merits. City streets don’t belong to the neighborhood they pass through, nor is the curbside space required to be reserved only for parking. NYC is free to change any street any time for any reason.

    Maybe we should file a counter suit complaining that no EIS was done when the street was reconfigured to speed cars along sometime in the mid 20th century.

  • BrendanL

    Sounds like we need a complete network. Fully protected bike lanes on central Park west, and the surrounding side streets.

  • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b1c6b3ac4636a1263178d6fcf68ee026d958d4fd4ef66bffee16f06da254d532.jpg They argue that the mayor’s push for bike lanes “…favors a tiny minority of citizens by handing over vast swathes of the city’s public space.”

    Only 25% of Upper West Side households own cars and yet nearly 100% of the space on both sides of every street is devoted to parking. Tell me again who the “tiny minority of citizens are” who are handed “vast swathes of the city’s public space.”

    And any argument that a bike lane somehow changes the history or “grandeur” of Central Park West is absurd on its face, unless one’s sense of history begins int he 1950s.

  • Patrick Valentino

    A coalition of drivers is… traffic

    If you have to drive, or just even want to drive, your best friend that day is the person who did not.

    The anti bike lane arguments are something out of the 1950s.

  • KeNYC2030

    I think it was 1950, but good point.

  • BronxEE2000

    I’m ok with this, just like I’m ok with that group of business that sued over Morris Park Avenue.

  • KeNYC2030

    If that’s the case, they can park in the nicest garage on the UWS and STILL be well under market rent!

  • Daphna

    SOLUTION: NYC DOT puts muni meter along all of Central Park West this week! They have the complete authority to do that. There can be no argument that installing meters needs an environmental review. Once the parking it no longer free, these NIMBYs will not fight to maintain it. They will drop their lawsuit. They are only fighting for the free parking. All their other cited “reasons” are things they could care less about.

    Shame on lawyers Richard Leland, Steven Cordero and Sara Manhelbaum. But at least they did not have the competence to make a better argument.

  • Daphna

    But judges did grant injunctions to prevent installation in the Bronx on Morris Park Avenue (4 to 3 lane conversion) and in Manhattan on 14th Street (busway), so it does seem to be a risk that there are judges out there who cater to these NIMBYs.

  • Daphna

    At least you are reading Streetsblog articles and being informed even if you have different opinions. Keep coming and getting educated on these topics.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Yes we know you don’t like cycling and think that environmental review should be used perversely to encourage more driving.

  • BronxEE2000

    Yes we know you don’t like cycling

    Actually you have me wrong.

    I’m totally fine with cycling and have always made sure that when I’m driving to not get in the way. It’s just people getting around however they can. However, folks have been riding in the hood forever with few issues. Transplants show up and now the city must cater to them. I’m not saying there aren’t real issues that need to be taken care of, but the way it’s being handled now, I don’t like. This new anti-car rhetoric doesn’t help anyone.

  • CJ

    Another tired old line about how it’s “transplants” who are riding more bikes. Show your work. And if it’s just andecotal, how can you tell a transplant riding a bike from a native New Yorker riding a bike?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    “I’m totally fine with cycling”

    Right. You’re fine with few people cycling at high risk in bad conditions as is the case today. You don’t want to enable more people to cycle or to make it safer or lower stress.

    You’ve also got extremely shitty nativist views that have no place in New York City.

  • Hilda

    I hope this case proves that a bike lane benefits the public more than the storage of private vehicles. That should then be used as precedent again and again.

  • Loved the tweet: One day soon, their children and grandchildren will google their their names and know that in the fight against death, they stood with death.

  • Mason

    This is 72nd street correct?

  • Mason

    Lol at claiming that a bike lane will somehow impact the environment in a negative way compared to parked vehicles.

  • LES Stitches
  • OnePersonOrAnother

    There’s no good reason not to have all parking on the UWS (and in the rest of Manhattan for that matter) be metered.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    You’ve gotta be kidding me. It’s Arthur Schwartz’ Yuba all over again: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4b9670c3d588c3f057796f232bbdcd72aa3e85462d11da73d791aaed45665a38.png

  • qrt145

    It is amazing how all these lawsuits frame their argument as if this were the first bike lane in the history of the universe.

  • AMH

    The Dakota at 72nd and CPW.

  • AMH

    That one had me mystified. How is real estate being stripped, and where is it going?

  • Vooch

    Yeah I transplanted in 1975

    Joe R transplanted in like 1957

    Simon transplanted circa 1966

    Larry L transplanted around 1954



  • PDiddy

    Drawbridge hipster.

    You have no business saying who does or does not belong in NYC and that they do not have a right to demand the city to build a system that keeps them protected.

  • BronxEE2000

    I’m probably more like you than you think.