East Harlem Bike Lane Plan Crosses Finish Line

By Jeff Mays on March 22, 2012 9:08am 

The city's growing network of bike lanes has angered many residents across Manhattan.
The city's growing network of bike lanes has angered many residents across Manhattan.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

HARLEM—After hitting a major speed bump, protected bike lines are officially back on track for First and Second avenues in East Harlem.

Community Board 11 approved the lanes by a vote of 21 to 14 with two abstentions Tuesday night after withdrawing its support late last year.

"Community Board 11’s decision demonstrates that our community is committed to protecting bikers," said East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who pushed for the lanes to be extended uptown.

In September, the board voted overwhelmingly to support the protected lanes. But in November, the board withdrew their support after two business owners— Frank Brija of Patsy's Pizzeria on First Avenue and Erik Mayor of Milk Burger, on Second Avenue — argued that the lanes would increase traffic and aggravate the area's already high asthma rates.

After a couple of informational meetings where board members got answers to questions about asthma, emergency-vehicle accessibility and traffic, several board members said they changed their minds. CB 11's Public Safety and Transportation Committee approved the lanes on March 6.

The committee also questioned the DOT about the possibility of using the bike lane installation to provide jobs for residents.

DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione said they don't hire assistant highway repairers on a project-by-project basis, but said the DOT would inform the board about employment opportunities.

That may have accounted for some of the no votes against the plan.

"We need to look at the chance to get our people local jobs," board member Diane Collier said earlier his month.

Mark-Viverito said the objections that led to the project's delay came from a few people who wanted to derail the proposal.

"Given that....East Harlem has one of the highest rates of asthma in the city, this is an accomplishment to be celebrated many times over," she said.

First and Second avenues would lose a combined total of 166 parking spaces from East 96th to East 125th streets, according to the DOT. A few changes to the plans are also in the works, including reducing the length of left turn cutouts so that an extra parking space or two may be saved.

The installation of the lanes is expected to begin this spring.

"East Harlem can now enjoy the health benefits that many other neighborhoods are sharing in," Mark-Viverito said.

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