New Bike Share Dock, Installed without Notice, Raises Safety and Parking Issues
Residents, community leaders, and elected officials are raising concerns about a new Citi Bike rack that was installed on South End Avenue between Albany and Rector Streets during the middle of the night on April 13. There was no prior consultation with the community about this, which breaks with years of precedent, during which the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT), the Battery Park City Authority, and Community Board 1 would discuss the possible placement of Citi Bike docks, usually several months in advance.
The move also breaks with precedent in second way: Prior discussions about Citi Bike placements in Battery Park City reached a consensus that these facilities were best located alongside or near West Street, where the Greenway draws thousands of riders each day to dedicated bike lane. These same deliberations yielded an agreement that Citi Bike stands on South End Avenue or along the Esplanade were undesirable, owing to safety considerations.
City Council member Christopher Marte said, “this is unfortunately a pattern from Citi Bike, who despite receiving a massive government contract, refuse to be accountable to anyone. I am committed to working with residents to demand DOT and Citi Bike respect previous conversations and site docks in a way that makes sense for the local community.”
CB1’s chair Tammy Meltzer said, “in the past the agency has come to our Transportation Committee to discuss such sitings in a public setting. This is not what happened here. I welcome a discussion on how to expeditiously find a more appropriate location for this docking station in our community.”
Pat Smith, the president of the Battery Park City Homeowners Coalition, said, “if the people responsible for this decision had consulted with the community, they would have learned that there is an excellent bike path just one block away. They would have placed the Citi Bike dock on a well-used bikeway at Albany and West Streets, rather than on a city street which has no bike lane.”
Also at issue is the fact that the new Citi Bike dock has effectively obliterated eight legal parking spaces on South End Avenue. A 2021 analysis by SpotAngels, a smartphone app that aims to soothe parking headaches by offering users real-time data about available street parking options nearby, cites three Downtown neighborhoods as among the worst in the City, as gauged by a pair of metrics.
The first yardstick is the number of parking tickets issued each year (in this case, the 12-month period ending last September), for each 100 legal parking spaces in a given neighborhood. By this standard, Battery Park City tallied second worst in Manhattan (with a ratio of 12.3), while Tribeca and the Financial District were tied for the fourth-worst, each with a ratio of 10.3.
A second criteria used by SpotAngels is the total value of tickets written in each neighborhood. By this benchmark, Battery Park City parkers were fined a comparatively modest $39,645 between October 2020, and September 2021, while those parking in Tribeca forked over $1,060,075, and drivers seeking a place at the curb in FiDi were charged $1,192,135. Battery Park City, however, earned the sad distinction of the highest average price per summons, at $101, tying with the Theater District for this title.
And if parking in Lower Manhattan is generally difficult, within Battery Park City it borders on the impossible. The neighborhood is, in statistical terms, the most parking-deprived community in the five boroughs of New York City. With a residential population of more than 16,000 (and another 10,000 reporting here for work each day), it has just 201 parking spaces available to the public, of which 58 are metered and 143 are unregulated, except by alternate-side parking rules. (These figures come from a City Department of Transportation study, issued in 2008, the last year for which detailed numbers are available, and do not reflect the loss of eight spaces taken up by the new Citi Bike rack.) While there is ample curb space within the community’s 92 acres (enough for more than 1,600 parking spaces), 59 percent of it falls within zones that are signed “no standing” (785 spaces) and “no parking” (581 spaces). Much of the rest is set aside for commercial vehicles, buses, and vehicles displaying government placards.
Making matters worse, as many as half of these spaces that remain are commandeered each day by police officers and other government officials displaying credentials that effectively make them immune from parking tickets. This problem became worse in 2014 when the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force (an arm of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration) rented 56,000 square feet of office space at Brookfield Place. This unit brings more than 250 law enforcement personnel from a dozen-plus agencies (including the NYPD, FBI, DEA, Customs, U.S. Secret Service, New York State Police, New York City Department of Corrections, and New York State Division of Parole) to Battery Park City each day. Because the cars they use for undercover work need to be concealed, these are stored in 130 garage spaces within 250 Vesey Street. That means, however, that the personal vehicles these officers and agents take to and from work are invariably parked (often illegally) on the streets nearby.
Adding insult to penury, City parking enforcement sometimes tickets legally parked cars in Battery Park City. A 2016 study by Ben Wellington, a professor at the Pratt Institute’s Graduate Center for Planning, found that over a 30-month period, the NYPD wrote 116 tickets, carrying fines totaling more than $19,000, for a legal parking space on Chambers Street in front of Stuyvesant High School.
More recently, parking got scarcer still in Battery Park City when the garage in the Cove Club residential building abruptly ceased operations, apparently because spiraling costs made it unprofitable. This development pushed another 69 cars onto the street and into competition for the dwindling number of curbside spots.
Ms. Meltzer urges residents to share their concerns. The DOT accepts comments on Citi Bike via email at www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/contact/contact-form.shtml. (Select “Bike Share” under the dropdown menu for “What’s the general topic?”) Residents may email CB1’s District Manager, Lucian Reynolds. Finally, Ms. Meltzer suggests documenting objections by calling 311, which creates a record that CB1 can use in negotiations with City government agencies, such as DOT.