Letters to the Editor

Grand bike thoughts

To The Editor:

Re “Lane isn’t ‘grand,” cry some in Little Italy and Soho” (news article, Nov. 21 -27):

The Department of Transportation commissioner is to be congratulated on the opening of even more bike lanes, as well as the redesign of motor-vehicle traffic lanes. Both of these measures will increase the safety of cyclists by separating the two modes of transportation and will encourage the use of bikes in New York City.

But would it not be wonderful if cyclists were encouraged, maybe possibly forced, to have all bikes equipped with headlights and taillights? I would have thought that the mere thought of self-preservation would make cyclists do so. Do they know how nearly imposible it is to see bikers at night, both for motorists and pedestrians? We have all, unfortunately, gotten used to bike riders going through red lights and putting themselves and pedestrians in danger. Having lights on their bikes would really help.

When I lived in England, I once got a ticket for going through a stop sign on a bike. I don’t expect the N.Y.P.D. to go that far, but now that bikes are a larger part of our traffic, a little cooperation from bike users and enforcement by the police would be useful. I am assuming that the use of headlights and taillights on bikes is part of our traffic code.

William Gross

To The Editor:

I am a regular bike rider who finds the highhanded nature of how the Deptartment of Transportation installs bike lanes totally wrongheaded. I know because we are fighting D.O.T. Downtown for insisting on imposing, by fiat, a bike lane through upper City Hall Park, despite Community Board 1’s disapproval and outrage from park users and neighbors. D.O.T. insists bike riders will only use this small, narrow path one-way, but we have months of photos showing two-way bike riding. Yet, nothing has been done.

A planned meeting with our group has never happened. This mayor listens to no one but those who agree with him.

Grand St. businesses don’t want this new bike lane. Grand St. bike riders can’t really use it. How could Community Board 2 approve it? Did they? What follow-up actions are they allowed? Even a good idea can go horribly wrong in the execution. Sounds like the Grand St. bike lane needs a do-over fast.

Jean B. Grillo

Public member, Community Board 1

To The Editor:

The merchants who complain about the new Grand St. bike lane are really complaining that they can no longer double-park. Grand St. has been a single lane for several years, but the bike lane used to be a de facto double-parking zone. Now that it’s protected by parked cars, it’s actually a safe place to ride a bike — a much better use of the space.

Once the commercial loading zone on the north side of Grand St. is implemented, these merchants should have an easier time receiving deliveries, and will have even less reason to engage in the un-neighborly act of double parking.

I look forward to implementation of a similar, protected bike lane going westbound on a nearby street, and further pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly street innovations all over the city.

Mike Epstein

To The Editor:

The bike lane on Grand St. is a dismal failure on many levels because it benefits no one except bike riders; frankly, the majority of them do not deserve this preferential treatment. I live on Grand St. and from what I’ve witnessed so far, this is a disaster in the making.

For one thing, bikers still do not respect traffic signals. The bike lane does nothing to stop them from ignoring red lights — they just pedal through them. I have witnessed some of them speed down the street with no regard for pedestrians attempting to cross the street. Some bikers completely ignore the designated lane they demanded and ride down the traffic lane, again with little to no regard for traffic lights and pedestrians. It has become impossible to be picked up and/or dropped off at your door, because to do so means stopping traffic in the one and only lane open to moving vehicles, resulting in loud, continuous horn honking.

Loading or unloading groceries and such is also an impossibility now, causing further hardships — to seniors, in particular. Having a parking lane practically in the middle of the street makes it difficult, if not impossible, for larger vehicles to make a turn from Mott St. onto Grand St. I won’t even bother to comment on the stupidity of it. As falsely stated by Community Board 2’s Ian Dutton, cars are parked legally, not illegally. The failure of the design is not the fault of illegally parked vehicles — it is the fault of the design itself.

Also false was Dutton’s statement that Grand St. was always a one-lane street. There was room for two lanes of traffic. That is why it was possible for one lane to keep moving despite double-parked vehicles in the other. Contrary to what the community board and the Department of Transportation have said, they both failed to properly inform the community of this drastic and unwelcome change in our neighborhood. Most of us were totally unaware that this was happening. I regularly receive C.B. 2’s monthly calendar — perhaps this item somehow escaped notice.

Parking was scarce in Little Italy and Chinatown. Eliminating what little parking we had shows a complete disregard for the residents and businesses of these communities by both C.B. 2 and D.O.T.

Emily DePalo

Chelsea’s no sap

To The Editor:

Al Amateau wrote a very accurate description of what occurred at the Nov. 14th City Council sanitation garage hearing, except that he was reporting on two different hearings in separate rooms at the same time (news article, Nov. 21 – 27, “Council approves sanitation garage tower for Hudson Square”). He missed the speeches that explained why Chelsea is opposed to the movement of District 5’s sanitation garage to Chelsea. I will try to summarize the key argument fueling Chelsea’s opposition to yet another sanitation garage in Chelsea and why we believe it is only fair that it be located on Spring St. as part of a three-district garage.

Please do the math with me (“vehicles” mean D.O.S. vehicles, not private cars). Community Board 4 will have three districts located in its new 57th St. garage, projected to open July, 2009: C.B. 4’s 58 vehicles, C.B. 7’s 61 vehicles, and C.B. 5’s 27 sweepers, totaling 146. We also house 47 vehicles for C.B. 6 on 30th St. C.B.1 and C.B. 2 combined have only 74 vehicles; adding C.B. 5’s 51 vehicles would increase the number to 125, still fewer than will be in C.B. 4’s 57th St. garage. Moving these 51 vehicles to 30th St., where incidentally C.B. 6’s 47 vehicles are also located, would mean C.B. 4 would house more than three times the number of vehicles that C.B. 1 and C.B. 2 have combined.

C.B. 4 also has the Manhattan & Bronx Maintenance & Repair Shop, four blocks away from the present C.B. 6 and the proposed C.B. 5 garages. No community wants to have a sanitation garage, especially one that is not theirs. C.B. 4 now has two that aren’t ours, and we will not take a third. As Humphrey Bogart said to Mary Astor in “The Maltese Falcon,” “I won’t play the sap.”

Robert Trentlyon

Robert Trentlyon, a former publisher of Downtown Express, is a member of Community Board 4.

Soho stories

To The Editor:

In your excellent coverage of the City Council hearing on vending (“Vendors don’t buy arguments for new laws,” news article, Nov. 11 -27), Councilmember Gerson repeats a story I have heard him tell many times to justify proposing more than 16 new vending laws. The details vary — sometimes it’s a baby carriage, others a wheelchair — but the basic scenario is that artists and vendors block the sidewalks, preventing a local resident from making his or her way down a Soho street.

It sounds pretty convincing, unless you have ever walked through Soho. While artists and vendors take up sidewalk space legally for a few hours a day — mostly on weekends — the giant planters Gerson’s Soho Alliance patrons have illegally installed all over the place to prevent legal vending obstruct these sidewalks 24/7/365.

Soho sidewalks and crosswalks are among the most broken and treacherous in the entire city. Trees are surrounded with sharp metal fences with points sticking up that can impale anyone unfortunate enough to trip on them. Curbs suddenly drop off unexpectedly. The other day, I was unable to cross West Broadway because a giant steel garbage can with an ad for Councilmember Gerson completely blocked the pedestrian crosswalk, a location at which not even the dumbest vendor would set up a stand.

If Mr. Gerson is so concerned about mothers with baby carriages and those in wheelchairs, instead of crafting 16 absurd new laws, none of which will survive a court challenge, he could just enforce one existing law about landlords installing illegal objects on the public sidewalks.

Robert Lederman

President of Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics