Employees from Bike New York recently discovered that all of its 35 bikes it had been storing in Flushing Meadows Corona Park had been stolen from the container above. It is located next to the Worlds Fair New York State Pavilion. Crimes in parks jumped twenty-four percent last year in just the few parks the city keeps statistics for. (Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/ NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.
By Geoffrey Croft
A non-profit bike group which provides free lessons to kids in parks had all of its bikes stolen in a brazen burglary in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Bike New York had thirty-five children and adult Schwinn mountain bikes and accessories— estimated at a total of $10,000 dollars — stolen from a large green container located next to the abandoned iconic 1964 Worlds Fair New York State Pavilion. Thieves also made off with 40 helmets, clothing, and a bike pump.
Bike New York has installed a number of "permanent bicycle education centers" in parks throughout the city. "Each one is becoming a veritable hub of activity, with free classes to kids and adults and 30 to 40 free loaner bikes and helmets available to students," according to their website.
The container's entire contents were cleaned out.
Instructors discovered the theft on July 5th when they arrived on the first day of Summer camp at around 10:30 in the morning to find the lock missing and the door open. The container's entire contents were cleaned out. The thieves left behind official NYC Cycling Maps and waiver forms strewn around the metal box. According to Bike New York, the camp was supposed to run for seven weeks and reach 120 kids per week, ages nine and up. The group hired instructors to provide free of charge two-hour sessions three times daily to area camps and programs including the Parks Department, PAL and the YMCA. Activities were to include bike driver's ed and, group riding and trips promoting safe bike use.
The theft came less than three months after the group began storing bikes in four city park locations and a public school. The four other park locations are Van Cortlandt, East River, Cunningham Park, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Flushing site had only offered three or four public educational classes since May before thieves made off with the bikes. The model of hosting classes from where the group had a container full of bikes was new this season and the theft at this site was the first one to experience any issues.
Emilia Crotty, Bike New York's Educational Opperational Director called the thefts "disillusioning."
"We had a number of bikes stolen— thirty five bikes from one of our camp sites. You try so hard to offer great programing for kids and the general public but then something like this happens."
"But we are committed to providing bike education to New Yorkers despite any setbacks," she continued.
She estimated the loss at more than ten thousands dollars.
"We wanted to provide programs, not just in the fancy parks. It's an expensive lesson to learn, " she said.
Ms. Crotty said they didn't have plans to replace the stolen fleet of bikes this season since they did not budget for it. The organization is able to get the bikes at cost from Schwinn.
Thieves left behind official NYC Cycling Maps and waiver forms strewn around.
The group was forced to cancel the Flushing Meadows Park location and relocate the public program and the camp to other locations throughout the city. She said that some of the camp kids would no longer be able to participate because of the new locations.
"It's too difficult. It would take too long for them to actually get there."
"We're not going to be able to operate this season in Flushing Meadows Park which is a big loss for the people of Queens," said Ken Podziba, Bike New York’s President and CEO, "but we are determined to come back stronger next year."
"Our mission is to get people riding, " he said.
Ken Podziba, a former New York City Sports Commission Commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg praised Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe for supporting the program.
To add insult to injury, evidence existed over the weekend that homeless people were now using the container as a shelter.
"Now we're learning that not only were the bikes stolen but now people are possibly camping out (in the containers), " Ms. Crotty said.
The group is asking asking the public to help cover costs by donating through its website http://www.bikenewyork.org/about/donate/.
Despite repeated attempts the Parks Department press office declined comment and instead referred questions to the bike organization.
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