Thursday, May 9, 2013

Parks Dept. vs. DOT In Bike Fight As Soho Residents Blast Bike Share Station Installed In Artist Exhibit Space In Park

May 2013.  A 32-dock Citi Bike docking station was surreptitiously installed in Petrosino Square in the middle of the night on April 27th blocking a popular artist exhibition space in the tiny city park and taking away a 1/3 of the park's length.  According to the Parks Deparement,  Petrosino Square, formerly known as Kenmare Square, is one of the most programmed parks in the city  for art with 35 exhibitions of temporary public art since 1985.  

The parks commissioner for Manhattan wrote to DOT Manhattan commissioner Margaret Forgione and the Director of Bike Share program last year saying this was not an appropriate location for a bike station.  The original site was switched and the DOT installed it in Petrosino Square.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) click on images to enlarge

There are also rumblings of a possible property dispute with DOT claiming the property belongs to them.  Angry residents have claimed this was yet another Bloomberg initiative that was rammed down their throats and lacking in community input. The City hopes to have the program up by Memorial Day weekend. 

July 2012.  Carole Feuerman’s exhibition Survival of Serena in the artist space located in the northern part of Petrosino Square, a public park located on Lafayette Street and Cleveland Pl. between Kenmare & Spring Streets at the intersection of SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown. The bronze sculpture was unveiled in May 2012.  The space has been taken over by 32-dock Citi Bike station (above).  The commemorative park honors Lieutenant Joseph (Giuseppe) Petrosino, an Italian-American hero of the New York City Police Department who gave his life to fight organized crime.   

State Assembly members are firing off a strongly worded letter today demanding bike station be removed.


By Geoffrey Croft

Soho residents and the local community board aren't the only ones against the location of a Bike Share station that was installed in Petrosino Square, the DOT also ignored the wishes  of the land's owner Parks Department, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

On April 5,  2012 Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner Bill Castro wrote to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione and the Director of Bike Share through their chiefs of staffs that the front triangle of Petrosino Park designed for public displays of sculpture was not an appropriate location for a bike station.

"Colleen: Please let DOT Borough Commissioner Forgione and the Director of Bike Share know that Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro agrees that this is not an appropriate location for a bike station,"  Bill Casto's chief of staff Steve Simon wrote to Colleen Chattergoon, DOT's Manhattan community liaison.    

There are also rumblings of a possible property dispute with DOT claiming the property belongs to them.  Repeated requests seeking comment from the DOT and the Parks Departemnt were ignored.    

Fresh off winning a battle that prevented a high end French food vendor from setting up shop in the tiny Petrosino Square,  park protectors and community activists now finding themselves fighting another battle but from a much larger adversary.

Residents are demanding the city remove a 32-dock Citi Bike station that suddenly sprang up in the location in the park that is reserved for public art exhibit space.

According to Friends of Petrosino Square founder Georgette Fleischer the DOT had originally planned to place the Citi Bike station in Petrosino Park's art installation space but that plan was eventually abandoned after community pressure. The DOT rejected alternative locations that were suggested at the February 6, 2012 public review session, and instead settled on a No Parking Anytime lane in dangerously congested Cleveland Place north of Kenmare. 

That location still appears on the DOT's website. 

On the evening of April 25th installers had posted signs,  outline markings were painted on the asphalt indicating where the bike racks were to be installed and orange cones were set up in the street while the racks sat in nearby trucks. 

According to Ms. Fleischer while they were preparing the site representatives from Alta Bicycle Share - the company contracted to install the racks,  were met by several community residents who objected to the parks location. 

The community residents told the Alta representatives they were not going to move and the police would have to be called.

"I have been instructed to install it here, " the Alta representative reportedly said,   "whether the police come or not."

"He told us that the order to install it there came straight from the top from Janette Sadik-Khan," Ms. Fleischer said, referring to the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.   

After one of the representatives made a phone call the truck with the racks suddenly took off.

Less than 30 hours later however the community awoke to find the bike station installed in the northern part of the park's boundaries. 

The bike station, critics charge, was installed against the wishes of the community and with zero notification or community-based consultation.   Last May Community Board 2 unanimously passed a resolution stating it objection to installing the stations in parks.

Community Board 2, "does not favor locating Bike Share docking stations in any of the parks, large or small, within the CB#2, Man. district ...  Be it further resolved that CB#2, Man. asks that consideration be given to avoiding locating Bike Share docking stations in any of the parks, large or small, within the CB#2, Man. district and instead locating such stations across from such parks,"  


The DOT's Citi-Bike Station Map on its website continues to show the approved location on the East Side of Cleveland Place in a no-parking area of the street and not in Petrosino Square. 

The DOT however continuously maintains in media statements and in their literature that the locations were determined with thorough community involvement.  According to the official DOT Bike Share website "New Yorkers picked these sites, submitting their ideas in the tens of thousands on the online suggestion map, in community workshops held throughout the service area, in community board feedback sessions and in hundreds of meetings that neighborhood and other organizations held directly with NYC DOT." 

Not so say angry residents who are furious the city went back on its word and secretly installed the racks.

People pose in front of Carole Feuerman’s exhibition Survival of Serena last Summer.  

A few months ago residents fought to protect what little park space there is when they publicly objected to the Parks Department's plan to allow Canele by Celine,  high-end purveyor of "pre-packaged French pastries," to install a food cart on the park land.  The idea was finally dropped after public pressure.

And now this.

"Citi Bike Share racks take up the vast majority of the open space at Petrosino Square, an area dedicated to the presentation of public art," said Pete Davies of Friends of Petrosino Square and Broadway Residents Coalition.   "An important point to note is that the open exhibition space has always been part of Petrosino Square, even before the recent enlargement of the park area. 

Mr.  Davies, who had lived around the corner for 33 years said as that far back as 1924 when Petrosino Square was called Kenmare Square, the area north of the currently fenced-in portion of Petrosino, the narrow triangle running between Lafayette Street & Cleveland Place, has always been part of this public park land. 

Ms. Fleischer began raising the alarm last month as soon as she found out.

"Dear Friends," an April 27 email warning began.

"It is almost unimaginable that a year ago we welcomed Carole Feuermann's Survival of Serena as the inaugural public sculpture installation in our newly expanded and renovated Petrosino Park.

Today we awaken to find a hostile corporate takeover of our art installation space, which happened under cover of darkness sometime last night, quite possibly in the middle of the night.

As residents and businesses on or near Cleveland Place know, we spent the past six weeks fighting a dangerous siting for the 43-dock Citi Bike station on Cleveland Place north of Kenmare. As soon as we won that battle, what did DOT turn around and do? It did NOT place the station on the east side of Lafayette north of Spring as we have been requesting for the past several weeks, with endorsement from FDNY, CB2's Chair, and all our local elected representatives.

Instead it took over our art installation space, even though we and the Parks Department had urged already a year ago that it should not do so. In 2008 $2 million of our District 1 discretionary funds were allocated for the Petrosino Park capital project: sponsoring an advertisement for Citi Bank that takes up a third of the length of the park is not what we contracted for. We are not alone in our grievances."

Ms.  Fleischer is urging everyone to write to DOT's Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione at

"Tell her where you live or run a business, and if you and others you observed enjoyed the quiet rapture of Carole Feuermann's Survival of Serena," Fleischer wrote.

Flyers raising awareness of DOT's land grab began appearing on lampposts adjacent to the park.   

The newly renovated Petrosino Square which the community fought for years to improve. The park - formerly Kenmare Sq. - was renamed to honor Lt. Petrosino who was the city's first New York police officer to be killed in the line of duty outside the United States. Lt.  Petrosino died while on assignment to Palermo, Sicily.  According to the Parks Department the property became parkland as a result of the City Charter of 1938, which turned over all public places and squares to the Department of Parks.  (Photo: Georgette Fleischer/Friends of Petrosino Square)  

"DOT and Citi Bank cannot be allowed to stamp out art in SoHo, nor to usurp public parkland, nor to cut by 1/3 of its length a commemorative park that honors Lieutenant Joseph (Giuseppe) Petrosino, an Italian-American hero of the New York City Police Department who gave his life to fight organized crime. 

We live in one of the most park-starved neighborhoods in the City of New York. We worked hard, for years, since 2005, to get our park expanded and renovated, it is our tax dollars that underwrote the $2 million from District 1 discretionary funds for the capital project, and we will not allow this treasure to be taken from us. We will fight this with everything we've got."


"We always felt by the way it's been presented (Bike Share) that it is a marketing device," said Pete Davis.

Residents around Petrosino Square aren't the only ones who have raised strong concerns about the program.  Numerous lawsuits have already been filed with several more in the works.

Last week residents of 99 Bank St. in the Village filed a lawsuit seeking the removal of a 31-bike dock in front of their building.

Community Board No. 2 meeting at P.S. 41 about Citi Bike - May 2, 2013 (credit: Peter Haskell / WCBS 880)
Over 300 people showed up last Thursday night for a Community Board 2 meeting held on the Bike Share Forum in Greenwich Village on the Citi Bike program. The evening's orginal program had to be scrapped after the Board was inundated with complaints for the controversal program. (Photo: Peter Haskell /WCBS 880 Radio)


Bronx Need Not Apply. Citi-Bikes the rolling advertising bike initiative eventually aims to install 10,000 bikes.   During the first phase the 6,000-bike fleet will be parked at 330 locations.  In the first phase, bikes will be available in Manhattan below 59th Street and in the Brooklyn neighborhoods closest to Manhattan.

The second phase will bring the number of bikes to 10,000 at 600 stations in select neighborhoods, including areas north of 59th Street in Manhattan and in Queens.  The GPS and radio-­frequency tag transmits data for every trip, much like the GPS system for the city’s yellow cabs. 

Read More:

ArtInfo - May 10, 2013 

New York Daily News - May 9, 2013 - By Pete Donohue, Robin Rodgers and Jennifer Fermino  

DNAinfo - May 9, 2013 -  By Andrea Swalec 

SoHo artists say bike share ruins public art space
Metro - May 2, 2013 - By Allison Bowen

Bike-share backlash

The Villager - May 2, 2013

May 2, 2013 -  By Lincoln Anderson

Time to roll! Memorial Day bike-share debut Memorial Day bike-share debut

New York Post May 7, 2013 - By David Seifman 

New York Times - April 27,  2013 - By Ginia Bellafante 

New York Magazine - June 17, 2012 By Courtney Balestier 

Food Fight In Soho's Petrosino Square
A Walk IN The Park - December 3, 2012

1 comment:

  1. I was just at the Boca Beach Club in Boca Raton, and Carole Feuerman’s exhibition Survival of Serena from last Summer lives there now, right next to the beach.