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Park Slope BID Asks NYPD For ‘Help’ with Delivery Cyclists Then Quickly Regrets It

6:54 PM EDT on June 7, 2021

Police stop a delivery rider on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Doug Gordon

Thanks, but no thanks.

A Park Slope business improvement district that had asked the NYPD to get delivery cyclists to slow down on the neighborhood's popular Fifth Avenue restaurant open street now says it will not invite the cops back after they spent much of Saturday ticketing the mostly immigrant and low-income workers just trying to do their job.

"We've asked the police not to not to come back next week, because it just wasn't effective, and was causing problems," Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District Executive Director Mark Caserta told Streetsblog on Monday, two days after "War on Cars" podcast co-host Doug Gordon documented ticket after ticket being issued by police on Fifth Avenue.

Caserta said his organization hadn't asked police to start doing a ticket sting, but merely to encourage the cyclists to ride safe.

"We had asked if the NYPD could help [and] be stationed at the corners and just ask, 'Hey, slow down,'" Caserta said. "That's what we do. But they have a little more force in it [and] were police handing out tickets, which is not something we wanted to see."

Caserta said that the BID is going to try communicating directly with the delivery riders themselves in an effort to avoid involving the NYPD in the issue.

"We're going to try making up some maps of the area in different languages and hand them out to the riders with the cross streets and just see if we can encourage them [to slow down]," he said.

Last year's legalization of e-bikes statewide did require people to wear helmets on Class 3 e-bikes, the type that is favored by the city's delivery riders. But the BID director said he was sympathetic to the time pressure placed on cyclists from the app-based delivery companies as well as the distances that riders are forced to travel to deliver food for impatient customers.

But as Gordon pointed out, there's better ways to communicate that to the workforce.

"If people believe delivery cyclists not wearing helmets is a problem that needs to be solved, there are ways to do it that don't involve sending the police after a mostly immigrant workforce," said Gordon. "Do a helmet giveaway with DOT and the BID."

The crackdown — and reversal — came just days before delivery riders and their allies will rally at City Hall on Tuesday to support a package of bills that will allow them to do their jobs with more protections and benefits. One bill from Council Member Justin Brannan would allow workers to set travel limits in terms of routes and distances when they used apps, and would not prevent the apps from retaliating against any workers who set said limits.

Another bill that would require restaurants to allow delivery riders to use their bathrooms has received a lot of attention, but advocates said that Brannan's proposal could solve the speeding issue, without needing to get the police involved.

"One of the laws that workers support is limiting the distances that they have to travel," said Ligia Guallpa, the executive director of the Worker's Justice Project. "Because of the long distances and the pressures the apps put on you to make deliveries faster, workers are forced to travel faster and at higher speeds."

Guallpa said that for deiveristas, who recently met with NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison, the workers' relationship with the NYPD is moving past the totally adversarial one that existed when e-bikes were still illegal. Now that the bikes are legal, Guallpa said delivery riders are asking the NYPD to take their concerns about organized e-bike theft rings and other violent attacks seriously, without using deliveristas as a cudgel against other New Yorkers.

"One of the biggest concerns that workers have is they don't want to be used as an object of attention just to criminalize communities," she said. "They just want their concerns to be addressed. I think even the chief recognized that e-bikes are legal, that at the end of the day, part of his job is to protect New Yorkers and that delivery workers are New Yorkers who are essential to the city. So they want to be able to work with Los Deliveristas Unidos in addressing the crimes that they've been experiencing, and there was a commitment to do it right."

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.

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