DADDY MOREBUCKS: Rich Upper West Siders Seek Cash to Continue Bike Lane Fight

The Central Park West protected bike lane, as it appears in front of 25 Central Park West, whose residents are suing the city to stop construction. A motion on the suit will be heard August 20. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
The Central Park West protected bike lane, as it appears in front of 25 Central Park West, whose residents are suing the city to stop construction. A motion on the suit will be heard August 20. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The wealthy Upper West Side condo owners who are suing to block a protected bike lane on Central Park West are looking for cash from their equally super-rich neighbors to help them continue the fight — and wage a public relations war against the street-safety project, Streetsblog has learned.

The condo board at 25 Central Park West has sent a letter to the presidents of several other tony towers along the park asking for contributions for the expensive, and likely fruitless, legal battle, and for a campaign to influence the public.

“Not surprisingly, the letter omitted critical information about the benefits of the redesign or the fact that our community board voted for this redesign (overwhelmingly),” said someone who has seen the letter. This Upper West Side resident was also particularly offended that the letter sought donations to start a “PR campaign” against the protected bike lane.

“I would be outraged if my condo or co-op fees were being used to support this,” the resident said.

A resident of another building — whose president is believed to have received the letter — has already started circulating his own missive to his neighbors, demanding that the building decline the 25 CPW solicitation.

“Not only do I support the bike lane, as do many of my neighbors, but there’s no way they should use building maintenance money for a lawsuit like this,” that resident said.

The lawsuit filed last month by the condo board of The Century at 25 Central Park West seeks to halt the construction of a protected bike lane on the grounds that the Department of Transportation did not properly review the alleged environmental impact of eliminating private car storage along the curb from 59th Street to 110th Street. Plaintiffs believe that drivers will spend more time cruising around the mostly residential neighborhood — belching more toxic exhaust into the air — if there are fewer spaces for them to store their cars in the public right of way.

The suit has already fallen at the first hurdle — last week, a Manhattan judge turned down the plaintiffs’ request for a halt to the construction of the lane while the larger issue is argued. The work on the lower-portion of the bike lane is now almost complete, even as the parties prepare to return to court on Aug. 20.

Two people who saw the letter think that the Century condo board is using building maintenance funds to wage its legal crusade. A spokesperson for the state Attorney General’s office said such a move would not be illegal — unless the building’s bylaws specifically forbade such a use of maintenance money.

Do the board’s bylaws forbid it? It’s impossible to know because condo buildings are not required to file their bylaws with the state Attorney General unless the original developer still controls the board. That’s not the case at 25 CPW.

But legal experts said it’s still a questionable use of building resources.

“It is not illegal to use building funds for a lawsuit related to the building’s well-being and maintenance, but it is illegal to use the funds for a lawsuit that is not related to that objective,” said a lawyer, who happens to live on the Upper West Side. “For example, a building can certainly sue a resident not paying their maintenance. On the other hand, it cannot sue a tenant at one of the board members’ vacation homes for not paying their rent.”

Directors of a corporation such as 25 CPW have broad latitude to spend the shareholders’ money, but not so broad as to enable them to spend it on a lawsuit to stop safety improvements across the street, the lawyer added.

“It’s a breach of their fiduciary duty,” the lawyer said.

Legal or not, the spokesperson for the attorney general said the office would only get involved if a resident of the building lodged a formal complaint (which can be done here, hint hint).

The lawyer for 25 Central Park West, Richard Leland, did not respond to a request for comment. At a hearing last week, he told reporters that he “never” talks to the press.

It is unclear why the residents of the building need more money, as they are among the richest people in the city. According to the Census, 52 percent of the 388 households in the building earn more than $200,000 per year. How much more is unclear. Other Census data show that the average household income is $430,300.

Madison Lyden was killed on Central Park West on Aug. 10, 2018. Her mother is blasting residents of the Upper West Side who are trying to block a protected bike lane.
Madison Lyden was killed on Central Park West on Aug. 10, 2018. Her mother is blasting residents of the Upper West Side who are trying to block a protected bike lane.

The ongoing fight comes on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the death of Australian tourist, Madison Lyden, who was killed by a sanitation truck driver on Central Park West on Aug. 10, 2018, after she was forced out of the existing painted bike lane and into traffic by an illegally parked cab.

In an exclusive piece for Streetsblog, Lyden’s mother, Amanda Berry, decried the legal action that seeks to deny a legacy of safety for her dead daughter.

“To the entitled, wealthy, Central Park West apartment owners fighting this protected bike lane: SHAME, shame on you!! This news shocked me, it devastated me like a personal assault,” Berry wrote. “If this bike lane had been built years ago when it was first proposed, my daughter Madison would be here today without a doubt! Madison would be close to finishing her Masters in Psychology now.”

  • twk

    If they are concerned about exhaust emissions while searching for parking, someone should ask what kind of vehicle they drive. If it is a gas guzzler, then they really don’t care. They loose. If they drive a Prius, then the extra time searching for a parking space adds much less pollution. The benefits of enabling more zero emission vehicles may even exceed the increase car emissions while looking for parking. Perhaps the state could offer a legal remedy in the form of tighter limits on exhaust emissions in cities and require only electric or very high gas mileage vehicles.

  • qrt145

    Again, where can I find census data reported for individual buildings? I’d love to look at the data from my own building… 🙂

  • Elizabeth F

    If they can afford to live on CPW, they can afford a spot in a garage. And most of them probably do. Do you really think these people sit in their car for hours twice a week for the alternate side parking dance? Or that there are even enough on-street spaces for more than a small fraction of them?

  • gmoney

    Why do people think they have a right to park their private car on a public street? There is no law that says when you get a car, you automatically get a free spot on a public street, especially in NYC. The amount of selfish entitlement is mind-boggling. We do have the right to use our streets safely, not park on them.

  • Zach Katz

    The realistic answer (and I 100% agree with your sentiment) is that they don’t read Streetsblog, and simply aren’t aware of any of that. Most people—even people who aren’t selfish—have a hard time imagining things outside of the status quo, and when a status quo that serves you is taken away from you, it’s hard to let it go.

  • gmoney

    I definitely thought before my initial comment that “these CPW residents don’t read Streetsblog, so why bother writing.”

  • William Lawson

    Is this the same Richard Leland who represented Bike New York in its lawsuit against the NYPD in 2013?
    https://gothamist.com/2013/04/01/5_boro_bike_tour_may_be_crushed_und.php

  • If I recall, members of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes did something similar in their fight against the Prospect Park West bike lane. They didn’t use maintenance fees or shareholders’ money from 9 PPW to pay for their suit, but they did seek donations.

    It’s incredible to see history repeating itself and a bunch of entitled NIMBYs seemingly unable to do even the most basic of Google searches to learn from it.

  • Joe R.

    What’s really shameful about this is they’re not even trying to hide the fact it’s 100% about parking. They’re trying to couch lost parking using an environmental angle but in the end it’s really about the lost parking spots.

    “Plaintiffs believe that drivers will spend more time cruising around the mostly residential neighborhood — belching more toxic exhaust into the air — if there are fewer spaces for them to store their cars in the public right of way.”

    This incorrectly assumes that the number of car owners is immutable. People can and will give up owning a car if it gets more difficult to park. The adjustment period may take weeks or months, but eventually there will be no more cars cruising for parking than now. Hopefully a smart judge will understand this.

    If projects like this end up being blocked, can the families of those who get killed or injured as a result sue these co-op boards? The rich only understand money. If it costs them money in the long run to oppose these projects maybe they’ll stop.

  • Nicholas L

    There has been a study done that shows rich entitled people are unable of showing empathy.

    It was related to expensive car owners running through crosswalks when anyone but a white man was crossing. They bullied women and women of color the most.

  • Nicholas L

    There are a lot of creepy Whitepages and NeighborWho, Spokeo sites that will tell you this by address.

    You want to be sure to opt out your personal data.

  • Nicholas L

    It is likely a case where elders would be better served to use a nonprofit rideshare or coop cab vs car ownership.

  • Elizabeth F

    A lot of these people have a property upstate somewhere and use their car only to drive to/from it on the weekends. Now how do I know that…?

  • Andrew

    To expand on this, it’s a lot easier to latch onto the actual loss of something of value (or even potential future value) to you than onto a hypothetical gain that somebody, even an expert, will tell you that you’ll see in the future. A loss of parking is a lot easier to grasp than future safety improvements that the loss of parking will bring.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk

    Is that a floating parking lane? And if so, why was that not included in the DOT plans for the entirety of CPW instead of maintaining two southbound lanes??

  • Joe R.

    In a lot of people’s minds the fact they pay a lot to buy a car, then have to pay insurance, registration, and licensing, makes them think they have a right to free curbside parking as some sort of compensation. Of course, all these costs are just the cost of owning a car. They entitle you to nothing any more than buying expensive clothes or an expensive house would. In fact, if car owners additionally paid for the damage their driving causes, they would be paying a lot more. Unfortunately, not too many people understand this.

  • Lori Levin

    Who gave Steve Ross the right to free parking for his Citibikes on public streets?

  • J C

    Madison Lyden died because the City installed a fake “bike” lane that she supposed afforded her protection.

    The protected lane on CPW should be built, and daytime (7AM-9PM) parking should be done away with, BUT not until daytime parking has been done away with on the 9th avenue “bike” lane side. (There can be say 60 feet of loading zone in the middle of each block, but not during evening “rush hour”.)

  • Gazelle4567

    Losing parking spots from 59th st to 110 st is not only affecting the “ellite” resident of the UWS but all social economic classes resident in that area. Those commenting fail to acknowledge the housing projects in those areas as well as the non elite residents surround CPW. How come the DOT does not use the bike lane method used on Columbus Avenue which cars are used as a barrier for cyclist? Win win cars have their space and bikers aren’t hit by cars or are thrown into incoming traffic. But also let’s be real a majority of these cyclist fail to use these expensive bike lanes. I live in the UWS and yes with a car and how many times I have to yell at cyclist to use the bike lane that is not even filled with other cyclist. Also, the lost of parking will affect surrounding businesses on Columbus to Broadway from local coffee shops and restaurants, retailers and even doctor offices. This prevents also non UWS to visit if parking becomes a commodity. Trust me it already is without this conversion. I’ve spent hours looking for parking and praying a spot opened up and have even been turned away from garages that do not have space (yelling that part to the people in the back) or even ending up sleeping in my car due to the lack of public parking. No parking isn’t a right for private vehicles nor are for private cyclist who I would like to point out have no cost to the individual themselves who we are using our tax dollars to implement these lanes for. Cyclist only pay for their bikes and they are off. They do not register their bikes or have insurance for when they hit pedestrians or even damage vehicles. I commend that building advocating for these “spots” and the environmental impact. They should appeal to other buildings to see if they would also like to donate and stamp their name to this suit or a silent backer. It does not only affect their own residents but also their visiting guests and the entire UWS. No foot or car traffic affects also businesses including the little vendor selling hot dogs and water on the corner. Citibike already take up parking spaces but I do not see why they cannot put these stations on the sidewalk to prevent these customers from backing out into oncoming traffic. I would rather the monies invested from the DOT to correct the bike lane and shift it to the curb side and use vehicles as a barrier for cyclist than lose these parking spots. Please do not comment and say oh but what about the buses. CPW does not have such a traffic issue for the MTA buses. The only traffic is near the turning lanes to go from CPW to the east side via the transverses.

  • J C

    The CPW car/truck lane count isn’t changing.

    That’s work starting on a normal protected “bike” lane.

    I have no idea what a “floating lane” is.

  • Vooch

    Until around 1950, it was illegal to park overnight in Manhattan.

  • Vooch

    I also think curbside parking is used by the building staff. They save spaces for each other.

  • Joe R.
  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    The Equinox partnership no longer owns Citibike.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Equinox no longer owns Citibike, and in any event sharing is a lot different than leaving individual vehicles on the street. There probably should be on-street car sharing spaces in Manhattan.

  • Dave

    Would be a shame if anything happened to those nice cars parked in front of the rich folks’ apartment building…………………….

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