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Ray Kelly Admits NYPD Fault in Lower East Side Bike Confiscations

Police sawed through bikes locks on Houston Street in April in advance of President Obama's visit to the Cooper Union.
Police sawed through bikes locks on Houston Street in April in advance of President Obama's visit to the Cooper Union.
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By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — The NYPD offered a rare mea culpa for not notifying cyclists prior to sawing through bike locks and confiscating dozens of bicycles on the Lower East Side as a security precaution for President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the city.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, responding to an inquiry from Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. about the April seizures, recently acknowledged that the department did not inform cyclists that their rides would be removed along Obama’s East Houston Street motorcade route to prevent possible threats like pipe bombs.

On April 22, in advance of the president’s visit to the Cooper Union to speak about Wall Street, police hacked through the locks of dozens of bikes chained along East Houston Street and hauled them off to an unknown location.

There was no advance notice of the sweep, and sign later appeared taped to a fence on the thoroughfare telling owners they could retrieve their bikes from a local police precinct.

“While I believe that it was appropriate to remove the bicycles as a security precaution, I acknowledge that more could have been done to notify members of the community in advance that this action would be taken,” Kelly wrote to Vallone, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety committee.

“While signs warning that vehicles would be towed off of Houston Street were posted several days in advance, the signs did not specify that bicycles would be removed as well.”

The department said it collected only 30 bikes, as well as towing 165 vehicles from the street, but other reports put the number of cycles in the hundreds.

Kelly added that the police also could have posted signs to inform cyclists where to collect their bikes, which “could have lessened the subsequent level of frustration that apparently took place.”

The NYPD previously provided a detailed list of incidents around the globe where bike bombs were used, including separate 2008 attacks in India that killed 135 people.