It was quite a scene on a sweltering street corner in Chinatown this afternoon. City Council member Alan Gerson rallied with Chinatown business owners and senior citizens, who are fed up with the Grand Street bike lane. While Gerson stressed his support for more bike lanes throughout the city, he said the configuration of the lanes along Grand Street is not working. He complained that the Department of Transportation has refused to meet with residents about their concerns.
Some of the speakers at the rally said the lanes had cut back on parking along the congested corridor, and hurt local businesses. Others said the shifting of the parking lanes to the middle of the street made Grand more dangerous for pedestrians. Gerson has introduced legislation in the City Council that would require the DOT to follow a "comprehensive community engagement process" before major changes are made to city streets.
One of Gerson's challengers in next month's Primary, Margaret Chin, released a strongly worded statement, following this afternoon's rally:
When the Grand Street bike lane was installed by the Mayor’s Department of Transportation, Councilmember Gerson did almost nothing to oppose it. There was limited community consultation, with only one major hearing and a vote by the Community Board. The hearing was poorly publicized and attended, and Gerson did little to make the debate over the bike lane public or engaged. The one tepid protest that Gerson managed to organize failed to prevent the construction of the bike lane, the entirety of which falls within Council District 1. Now that his prospects for election to a third term are in serious jeopardy, he has taken a position with the community, and against the bike lane. Combined with his changing stance on congestion pricing (he voted in favor in the Council, but now claims to oppose it) this position raises questions as to whether his positions on the issues are driven by principles or the desire to be returned to office for a third term.
The rally lasted for almost an hour. On Monday. we'll have extended excerpts from Gerson, as well as Chinatown residents. Below is a short exchange at the end of today's rally. As bicycle advocates grilled Gerson, he tried to reassure them by saying he was trying to prevent the scaling back of bike lanes in New York due to opposition from communities who feel they've been left out of the process.