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L’Chaim! DOT Will Begin to Close Citi Bike ‘Hole’ in Hasidic Williamsburg

The Department of Transportation is will close what the Daily News once called "the black hat black hole."

12:01 AM EDT on August 16, 2023

Docks like these will be coming to a portion of Hasidic Williamsburg that has long been denied them (red hole in inset map) even though many residents of the neighborhood use Citi Bike. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The Department of Transportation is bucking long-standing opposition from Hasidic Jews to bring Citi Bike racks to South Williamsburg and close what some have called "the black hat black hole."

This is the existing gap in Citi Bike racks.

DOT workers have begun outreach in the neighborhood to install seven new Citi Bike docking stations and fill a large gap in the bike share coverage area that Citi Bike fans have long bemoaned since the system came to Williamsburg in 2013 (see map).

Members of the Hasidic community say that residents of Williamsburg don't want Citi Bike — at various times claiming, falsely, that "no one" in the neighborhood bikes and also that they don't want scantily clad outsiders cycling through their traditionally minded enclave.

But the few Citi Bike racks that have been installed in the neighborhood are among the busiest in the entire Citi Bike coverage area outside of Manhattan, as this map shows. And 67 percent of residents of the neighborhood do not have access to a car.

The city won't fully close the hole. According to a map that it will share with local community boards this fall, only seven new racks will be added. There will still be a large gap in the area bounded by Kent Avenue, Walkabout Street, Lee Avenue and Ross Street (see map below).

The new Citi Bike locations are the orange triangles. Map: DOT

The hole in the network has infuriated cyclists who rely on Citi Bike, yet the elected leadership of the neighborhood has consistently declined to discuss its failure to break the logjam. Current Council Member Lincoln Restler and his predecessor Stephen Levin strongly support Citi Bike, but neither would discuss the Hasidic community's opposition to bike share. The Hasidic community tends to vote as a bloc.

Restler issued only a statement.

"I have been working with DOT to help expand access to Citi Bike for South Williamsburg residents," the statement said. "DOT has been engaging community stakeholders to solicit feedback and I am pleased to see this process move forward."

He said he began discussions with DOT to add more Citi Bike docks upon entering office in 2022.

The decade-long delay in closing the hole is the fault of DOT and the political establishment for allowing a small community to use its political power over City Hall to upend policy previously supported by City Hall, said one source familiar with siting Citi Bike docks.

The data, after all, show that Williamsburg needs much more Citi Bike capacity.

Rabbi David Niederman of United Jewish Organizations did not respond to an email request for comment.

The siting of Citi Bike in the largely Orthodox Jewish enclave has vast repercussions as Citi Bike expands. Currently, the southern end of the Citi Bike zone in Brooklyn reaches Borough Park, but does not extend into it.

That neighborhood has also long been hostile to cycling, as this 1997 New York Post column reveals:

This reporter wrote this column in 1997.

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