SoHo Residents Sue DOT Over Citi Bike Station in Petrosino Square
SOHO — Irate SoHo residents are suing the city and the Department of Transportation for refusing to move a Citi Bike station from Petrosino Square.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning in state Supreme Court, came after local residents, community groups and elected officials objected to the bike station in the park at Spring and Lafayette streets, saying the space should be used for public art, as it has been in the past.
A crowd of about 30 people gathered in Petrosino Square to announce the lawsuit Wednesday morning, chanting, "Move the bikes!"
“The days of asking nicely are done,” said Jim Walden, a partner at Gibson Dunn, who represents the residents. “The law is clear — you cannot eliminate a public park for a commuter program, no matter how worthy the commuter program.”
Walden described the lawsuit — filed by groups including the Friends of Petrosino Square, Sons of Italy in America, SoHo Alliance, Chinatown Civic Association and NoHo Neighborhood Association — as "a slam-dunk case."
The city's Law Department released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying, "It is unfortunate that these groups are resorting to litigation, but we are confident this location is completely proper and will withstand a court challenge. DOT has also been working with elected officials on this issue."
The DOT previously defended the Petrosino Square location, saying it "resulted from the community-planning process last year."
The 33-bike dock takes up 20 percent of the northern end of the park, an area that previously displayed public art, including the "Survival of Serena," an ultra-lifelike sculpture of a tranquil woman wearing a pink bathing cap, from May to September 2012.
“We worked incredibly hard for years to fix this park up,” said Georgette Fleischer, of the Friends of Petrosino Square. “And they came in the middle of the night to put up this kiosk."
A Rikers Island jail cell replica called "The Glass Sea" installed in the park in October and November 2012 was blasted by local groups as an "insult" to the Italian-American heritage of the square's namesake, Lt. Giuseppe "Joseph" Petrosino, an NYPD officer who fought organized crime at the turn of the century.
Before filing the lawsuit, community groups proposed moving the Citi Bike station to either the east or west side of Lafayette Street, but the DOT decided against it.
Those who filed the lawsuit said they are not against the city's bike share program, which launched last month, and many said they use it regularly. Nonetheless, they said they want the Petrosino Square station moved.
“It’s unfortunate that you have to file a lawsuit for people to respond,” said Mary Hurlbut, who has lived in SoHo for 16 years.