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Battery Park City Authority Chief objects to Bike Share Sites

By Jessica Terrell, The Tribeca Trib

The city’s big bike sharing program is coming this summer. But not next to the Irish Hunger Memorial or West Thames Street, if Battery Park City officials have anything to say about it.

More than 40 bike share stations are planned for installation throughout Community Board 1’s district this summer as part of the new CitiBike program. The authority is objecting to two of the five stations slated for Battery Park City. One of them would hold 31 bikes in a painted median in the middle of West Thames near South End Avenue. The other is slated for 39 bikes on a side street adjacent to the Irish Hunger Memorial, near Vesey Street and North End Avenue.

Battery Park City Authority CEO Gayle Horwitz called the West Thames Street location “bewildering from a safety point of view.”

“While I acknowledge that the traffic engineers and Bike Share programmers have approved of this site,” she wrote in a letter to Luis Sanchez, the Department of Transportation’s Lower Manhattan Borough Commissioner, “I think it deserves another round of analysis.” She and members of Community Board 1 say they already are concerned about the mix of traffic and pedestrians in the area, and conditions will be made worse by the addition of the large bike rack.

“West Thames is a very dangerous road at 8 in the morning and between 2 and 4 p.m. because you’ve got all the kids,” CB1 Battery Park City Committee member Tammy Meltzer said. “My concern is that there are cars that U-turn there. It’s a very wide location and there are no crosswalks.”

George Calderaro, the committee’s new acting co-chair, noted that the stations are not permanent and can be moved if the conditions warrant it.

A station in the No Standing zone beside the Irish Hunger Memorial is “problematic,” according to Horwitz, because the space is used for dropping off and picking up passengers.

Horwitz also told Sanchez she has “serious concerns” about the logo-emblazoned bikes and bike station violating the the authority’s design guidelines. “Please be advised that nothing can move forward without [our] approval,” she wrote.

The DOT spent months holding public meetings and soliciting input from community boards, business groups and the public about where to place the bicycle stations—including eight meetings with Community Board 1, DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said. But despite outreach efforts, objections Downtown have been raised in Tribeca as well as Battery Park City.

Sixty-nine residents living near Duane Park have petitioned the DOT to change its mind about placing a 23-bike station on the western end of the historic district park.

Victoria Weil, president of Friends of Bogardus Garden, had opposed a bike station planned for Bogardus Plaza, a block-long, car-free stretch of Hudson Street, between Chambers and Reade, that the group maintains. She said she fears cyclists will ride across the pedestrian space, creating a hazard for children and park-goers.

“I foresee accidents,” Weil said of the 23-dock station slated for the southern edge of the pedestrian plaza. “It’s a small space. There are pedestrians, there are small children, there’s tables. [The DOT] suggested that maybe we designate a bike lane or a bike area through the plaza and I said, ‘That’s impossible.’”

The Authority has yet to hear back from the DOT. However, DOT officials are meeting with community Board members on Wednesday to discuss the concerns. A DOT spokesman declined to say whether the program was still on track to begin this month.

“The whole concept of the bike share is good, it’s just a question of where to put it,” CB1 public member Justine Cuccia said.