Female bicyclist in Hudson Park is handcuffed for disobeying rules

By Jessica Mintz

A Chelsea woman went to court Nov. 18 after being charged with the violation of riding her bicycle in a restricted area — in this case, on the waterfront esplanade in the Hudson River Park. That charge, along with a charge of disorderly conduct, was dismissed, but Nanci Simari hasn’t felt much like riding her bike since.

The incident occurred on Oct. 9 near Pier 40, when according to Simari, at least five Park Enforcement Police officers took her bike, roughly handcuffed her and brought her to the 6th Precinct.

Simari, who said she suffers from anxiety and panic disorders, became extremely distressed when confronted by the officers, one of whom she identified as Lee Addison.

“He grabbed my arm,” wrote Simari in a letter to The Villager. “I tried to wrangle away, and when I realized that he wasn’t letting go, I started panicking and screaming, ‘Let go of me!!’”

Simari said that ultimately five officers responded to the situation; in the midst of a panic attack, she was handcuffed, patted down and her pockets searched before she was taken to the precinct. There, according to Simari, she was repeatedly threatened with a night in jail before walking away (her bike had been impounded) with two criminal court summonses.

Chris Martin, the Hudson River Park Trust’s spokesperson, said that he investigated the incident, though he couldn’t confirm the names of the officers involved in the arrest. “She refused to get off her bike despite repeated requests, then proceeded to resist arrest,” Martin said.

Park Enforcement Police are Parks Dept. employees contracted by the Hudson River Park to provide security. It is within the scope of their powers to arrest people, according to Martin, who said, “In regard to that situation, they acted appropriately.”

A Parks Dept. spokesperson said, “According to our reports, she was asked at at least three different locations to ride in the designated area. There is a path that runs parallel to the pedestrian path, about 20 feet away.”

And, said the Parks spokesperson, who also supported the actions of the enforcement squad, the bicycle restrictions are important for public safety. “Park Enforcement and the police have a challenge in enforcing the regulations, and we rely on the public to follow the rules established for the safety and enjoyment of everyone,” said the Parks spokesperson. “What if a bicyclist hit a child riding on the wrong path?”

After a bit of detective work on Simari’s part, she tracked down and retrieved her bike the next day, but, she says, “I haven’t ridden my bike since.” She still questions the rationale of allowing rollerbladers to use the esplanade walkway, but not bicycles. “The bike path is right next to the highway, where you’re breathing in the highway fumes, versus being in between trees and the water.”