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'You're Gonna Hit Me?' Angry Citi Bike Protester Shouts at CB6 Member

By Nikhita Venugopal | September 15, 2016 4:37pm | Updated on September 16, 2016 9:47am
 A Citi Bike rider rolls past a station at Henry and Degraw streets in Carroll Gardens.
A Citi Bike rider rolls past a station at Henry and Degraw streets in Carroll Gardens.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

COBBLE HILL — A lifelong Cobble Hill resident angrily disrupted Wednesday night's Community Board 6 meeting, shouting and demanding to know who approved the locations for the neighborhood's new Citi Bike dock locations.

"Is there a bike stand in front of your house? Is there?" 80-year-old Joseph Igneri yelled as he paced in front of the table where CB6 board member's were seated.

At one point, Igneri zeroed in on Red Hook CB6 member Jerry Armer, who admonished Igneri for his outburst.

"What are you gonna do?," Igneri shouted at Armer, who is also a member of the CB6 transportation subcommittee. "You're gonna hit me? What are you gonna do?"

Although the locations of the new docking station have been under public review for almost a year, their arrival in recent weeks in Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope has still taken some residents by surprise.

RELATED: Citi Bike Doesn't Belong in Industrial Gowanus, Businesses Say

The ruckus took place even before CB6 Chair Sayar Lonial could gavel in for the first general board meeting of the year at Cobble Hill Health Center. Police responded to the meeting, but it was unclear who called them. Local precinct officials didn't return a call Thursday to clarify.

"I told the cop, this is a free country," Igneri told DNAinfo New York in an interview Thursday afternoon. Igneri and his wife voluntarily left the meeting early, he said.

"The meeting is for what people want to say," he sad. "Not to shut up and sit down."

Igneri said Thursday he was angered by the board's refusal to listen to his frustrations, the absence of an American flag in the room, and Lonial's use of a gavel and block to maintain order in the room.

Lonial told Igneri and other protesters they could not discuss Citi Bike at the meeting because it was not listed as an agenda item. He promised residents that the board would work to schedule a public hearing at the transportation committee meeting in October. CB6 also routinely allows for off-topic public comment at the end of its board meetings.

"We have a process here. I know you don't like it. I understand you don't like it," Lonial said. "We have rules we need to follow."

Tensions began to rise before the meeting had even officially begun as a group of residents protesting Citi Bike's new stations in the neighborhood started speaking out.

"Who picked out the spots where to place the bikes? Whose decision was that?" another resident asked.

Debbie Ruiz, a longtime Carroll Gardens resident, said in an interview Thursday she has collected more than 500 signatures on a petition protesting the location of Citi Bike stations in the neighborhood.

Though Ruiz said she is not opposed to the bike share system, she argued that the chosen sites hurt local businesses and took away valuable parking spots in the neighborhood.

"You might as well kiss Smith Street goodbye," she said, suggesting a location such as St. Mary's Playground under the Culver Viaduct near Luquer Street would be a more appropriate site.

Citi Bike's expansion into Community Board 6, which also includes Red Hook and Park Slope, began in August, and several bike docks have already been installed throughout the neighborhoods.

Property owners or tenants near upcoming station installations are notified by Motivate, the company that operates the Citi Bike program, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation said Thursday evening. The agency held public meetings — including in October 2015 — in anticipation of the Citi Bike roll-out.

If people at the properties cannot be notified in person, the DOT will notify property owners via certified mail, she added.

The program's expansion is set to bring Citi Bike's fleet to 10,000 bikes by the end of the year, officials have said. The past week, Citi Bike surpassed 60,000 rides citywide, a representative said.