Tensions were high in the auditorium of P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village last night, where hundreds of SoHo and Village residents gathered to kvetch about and, alternatively, defend Citi Bike and its arrival in New York. Anti-Citi Bikers bickered with supporters, and some refused to mingle with anyone but their own.
"Are you for Citi Bike or against it?" SoHo resident Ronnie Wolf asked me, pointing to the open seat to my right. "I don't want to sit next to anybody who's for it."
The forum itself, though, was generally civil, with speakers given two minutes (later, 1.5 minutes) to share their opinions. Interestingly, few residents opposed the actual concept of Citi Bike so much as where DOT had opted to place the racks. Herewith is a sampling of the statements made:
- "I'm in support of the bike share program. I'm not in support of how outrageous it is."
- "It's not like the streets are pristine now. The streets are full of trucks, and cars. You talk about a historic district—look what's parked in the historic district."
- "We have absolutely no beef with the bike share program, but it was such a clueless implementation."
- "We are literally, completely cut off. People who are disabled, in wheelchairs, have no access to curbside drop-offs or pick-ups, everyday things like off-loading luggage, or going to the airport, the kinds of things that people do on an everyday basis."
- "They moved it into Petrosino Square. This is a very small park, for those of you who don't know—it's a little triangle. It was enlarged in 2009... and that triangle was created and dedicated for the display of public art. You will see that it has been usurped by a very large bike rack that dissects this public space and leaves, when the bikes are in...2 feet for a pedestrian to move along the eastern edge of Petrosino Square."
Two men argue about Citi Bike before the meeting. Lauren Evans/Gothamist
- "Too bad DOT isn't here—we pay their salary."
- "I don't believe anyone in our building knew about this location on Bank Street. I think some of the earlier meetings, in fact, it was going to be at a different location, and the location changed somewhere along this process. Besides that, I think that the scale and the size of these units are just inappropriate for historic districts. I think when you put these bike racks in a historic district, they've got to be smaller units, and they've got to be more appropriately located."
- "You should see what happens when the garbage trucks come down the block, and block the street to pick up our garbage, and it takes them so long to negotiate those bike stands, what a traffic mess it creates all the way up 13th Street east of 6th Avenue. I don't know how green that is, but in my opinion it's contributing to pollution."
- "This is the next stage of transportation in the city. It's important to remember that although these stations are going in now, the process isn't over. These stations aren't there to stay. We can still take public input—they're very modular, very easy to move. Obviously as more public input comes in and more people have a say, it will be refined."
- "There are thousands of New York City taxpayers who dedicate several hours a week already to finding parking, and in West Village, we in the last 5 years, we've probably already lost 25 to 50 percent of our parking."
Only one person we spoke with—Jeff Prant, a Park Slope resident—opposed Citi Bike outright. He held a sign that read "Bike Share But Not in My Parking Space."
"When I drive into the Village it's going to be harder to park. I would rather not have them at all," he said. "It takes parking spots away from people like me. I just don't like it."
But perhaps the most telling line of the evening came before the meeting even began. "Can't we all just get along?" one Citi Bike supporter asked another. She shook her head. "We wouldn't be in New York."