Amtrak Joe Biden took time out of his busy schedule yesterday to give Mayor Bloomberg an award for "Leadership in Public Service" at the Sheraton Hotel in midtown. It was truly a proud moment for all New Yorkers—all except for computer programmer Stephen Arthur, whose bike locks were destroyed when the NYPD tried to seize his ride in the name of national security.
"When I walked out of my office after work, my blue Bianchi of over 14.5 years was missing, and two of my locks were cut laying on the ground," Arthur writes in an email. "I froze! But I figured that the NYPD cut my bike locks because Vice President Joe Biden was next door speaking—though when I parked my bike just before 9 a.m. that morning, there was no indication of any police or fencing on the street that day."
Arthur, who you may recall got hit in the face with a brick while biking through Brooklyn a couple of years ago, says his bike was locked at 53rd Street, close to 7th Avenue. (The Sheraton is at 7th and 53rd.) You may also recall that the NYPD has done this in the past, most memorably in 2010 when Obama came to town and the NYPD drove around clipping bike locks and tossing bikes into the back of a truck like so many bales of hay. Because terrorism. In response to an outraged email from Councilman Peter Vallone, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly issued this statement:
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. 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. I also believe that more could been done to provide specific instructions on how confiscated bicycles could be reclaimed.
Arthur says he went to the Midtown North Precinct first, and officers there sent him back to the Sheraton. It's unclear if there was a stockpile of dangerous bicycles being guarded by the NYPD somewhere at the hotel—before Arthur had a chance to ask police, a doorman at luxury condo Tower 53 recognized Arthur and flagged him down. The doorman, Richard Martinez, had seen police sawing through bike locks, and persuaded them to just give him Arthur's bike, because he said he'd hold onto it for him. Here's his story:
As Martinez explains, he told police and the Secret Service that although he didn't know the bike owner (Arthur) personally, he's seen him lock the bike there frequently and knows what he looks like. So they let him take the bike based on his promise to return it to its rightful owner. Hey, he looks trustworthy! Done and done.
"This is crazy," Arthur says. "The NYPD said three bicycles had been taken to their precinct the day before. When I arrived that morning just before 9 a.m, there was no NYPD, no tent, and no fencing on 53rd Street, so I thought I was cleared. The doormen said the fencing only went up around 4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m. that afternoon when I was still in the office."
An officer who answered the phone at the Midtown North precinct declined to comment, and the NYPD press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The "contact" page on the Vice President's website doesn't work.