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DOT Milestone Announcement Interrupted by Residents Angry About Bike Lane

By Lisha Arino | September 22, 2015 3:55pm
 Elected and city officials, bike advocates and community leaders celebrated the transportation milestone as residents protested a new bike lane nearing completion in the area.
Officials Announce City's Completion of more than 1,000 Miles in its Bike Network
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LOWER EAST SIDE — The city has created more than 1,000 miles of bike lanes to date, officials announced at a press conference Tuesday morning.

But as elected and city officials, bike advocates and community leaders celebrated the transportation milestone near a Citi Bike station on Clinton Street near Grand Street, locals spoke out against the new bike lane nearing completion in the immediate vicinity, expressing safety concerns and calling attention to what they said was a lack of outreach.

The city’s bike network now measures 1,010 miles, announced Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. The DOT is on track to install more than 12 miles of protected bike lanes throughout the city this year, the highest number completed in a calendar year, they said.

Later this year, the DOT will also start the planning and outreach process for installing a protected bike lane on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, between 14th Street and 33rd Street, officials said.

Residents from the surrounding Seward Park Co-op however, were not impressed by the news. They raised their hands to ask questions and, at one point, interrupted the press conference.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” said Marc Albaum, interrupting Trottenberg as she answered a reporter’s question.  He ignored a city official who asked him wait until members of the press had finished their questioning.

“I’m a member of the [Seward Park Co-op] board of directors and I think I have the right to say something and ask a question,” Albaum said angrily. “I don’t have to wait, the press has to wait.”

“I want to know who’s going to take responsibility when someone is hurt or seriously injured or killed because they’re crossing the street,” he continued before another resident yelled, “The blood is on your hands!”

“She addressed safety already,” a staffer said, trying to move the press conference along.

Officials, including Trottenberg, said the protected, two-way bike lane would increase traffic safety for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists, but residents were skeptical.

Street crossings are now more dangerous than ever, they argued. They said pedestrians now have to mind bicyclists in addition to vehicles accessing the Williamsburg Bridge and doubled-parked delivery trucks that block their line of sight.

The conditions are especially risky because the community has a large population of young families and elderly residents, locals said.

“We’re trying to dodge cars, dodge bikes and getting across the street, it’s really, really difficult for pedestrians,” said Debbie Finston who has lived at the apartment complex for 14 years.

“It’s way to crowded on this block. They need to move the bikes to another block or they need to move the access to the bridge on another block.”

Trottenberg said the DOT planned to create a mid-block crossing on Clinton Street.

“We know there’s a community concern here and we’re going to be working to figure out how to do a pedestrian crossing that will be safe. We want to make sure we’re working with you all and we’ll get that right,” she said.

Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, also addressed residents’ concerns, saying that city officials have been working with police, educating bicyclists and being “mindful” about the lanes.

“We are all being mindful of the complexity of putting down a bike lane and how it impacts pedestrians, particularly seniors, as well as the biking community, the bike delivery guys, cars — it’s very complicated but I think you’ll find that people are being very mindful about it,” she said.

Although they were promised a chance to address officials after reporters, residents were not able to ask questions, although some approached DOT officials and State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents the area, after the press conference.

“I think it was horrible," said 72-year-old Norma Ramirez, who has lived on the block for the past 15 years, about the press event. "They ignored the community.”