Business owners and local residents turned out to tell a subcommittee of Community Board 3 and the Department of Transporation’s Colleen Chattergoon what they think about the month-old Citi Bike share program.
Shareholders of the East River Housing Corporation, a complex of 1,700 apartments along Grand Street near the FDR, applauded the program, saying it is a “lifestyle changer” and that they would like to see more bicycle stands in the “transportation-deprived area,” according to Jeff Super, chair of East River’s Housing Committee. The closest train stations to the apartments are at least 10 minutes’ walk away, at East Broadway and Essex St., and recent cuts to bus service make getting around more difficult, he said.
According to the map on the Citi Bike website, there are only two operating stations within the three blocks of the apartments: the Cherry Street station and one at Bialystoker Place and Delancey Street, offering a total of 39 docking stations and an inconsistent number of bikes.
“The bikes are very well used,” Super said. “Bikes leave in the morning and sometimes it’s hard to dock them in the evening.”
The station at Henry and Grand streets, shown above in gray, had been removed but will be put back up, according to District Manager Susan Stetzer. Residents were worried that it was moved because of the complaints and petitions from supporters of Frank’s Bike Shop, but the DOT and Stetzer assured the crowd of its return.
“It was not moved at all because of the bike shop,” Stetzer said. “It was a temporary move because of utility work and was brought back.” With this location back, it will add 28 more docks to the neighborhood.
Business owner Linda Martella said she, too “likes the idea” of the program– just not in front of her store. Martella, owner of Veniero’s Pastry on East 11th Street, said the street is already narrow, and the Citi Bike station across the street took over seven parking spaces and impedes the flow of traffic, especially when there are delivery trucks on the commercial street.
“We are especially concerned with the holiday time when [customers] come to pick up their orders,” Martella said. “We now have lost these parking spaces, making it difficult for the customers to carry these orders out.” In addition to those issues, she also worries the winter weather would pose problems for her and the bikes with snow removal and snow collecting around these bikes. “We are not opposed to bike rack program, we just feel the bike racks are not at the best location.”
Other store owners, such as Lillian Kwok of P&S Trading Inc., and Sophia Ng of Po Wing Hong Food Market, have voiced their concerns about the bike stations as well. The Hester and Elizabeth streets bike station, which is part of Community Board 2, however, was said to be hazardous for both cars and pedestrians as it is a busy, narrow street.
According to Chattergoon, the department is still “working out the kinks” and fixing stations based on rider feedback. The stands were built to be moved, so stations are not permanent, she said.