Monday, February 16, 2015

Court To Hear Citi Bike Petrosino Square Appeal

"The trial court erred in failing to acknowledge the distinctions between recreational bicycling and bike-share commuting, which, though similar in instrumentality, serve completely different purposes." - Plaintiffs

July 2012. Aren't Communities Supposed To Have A Say?  Admirers photograph Carole Feuerman’s Survival of Serena an exhibition in the artist space located at the northern part of Petrosino Square on Lafayette Street and Cleveland Pl. between Kenmare & Spring Streets at the intersection of SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown.  Before the City surreptitiously installed a Citi Bike docking station in Petrosino Square in the middle of the night on April  27, 2013  the park space had been dedicated to art installations since 1985.  


By Geoffrey Croft

The City's 1st Dept., Appellate Division will hear oral arguments tomorrow on whether or not using public parkland to install a Citi Bike docking station is a legitimate park use.   

On April  27, 2013 the Department of Transportation installed a 32-dock Citi Bike docking station on the northern tip of Petrosino Square,  a Parks Department owned property, over the objections of the community.  The installation blocked a popular artist exhibition space in the tiny city park and took away a 1/3 of the park's length.  According to the Parks Department,  Petrosino Square, formerly known as Kenmare Square, was one of the most programmed parks in the city  for art with 35 exhibitions of temporary public art since 1985. 

Plaintiffs filed suit in 2013 arguing that the city ignored state "parkland alienation" law and its own regulations when they installed Citi Bike racks in tiny Petrosino Square, a Parks Department owned property on  Lafayette Street in SoHo.  Corporation Council had absurdly tried to argue that the Square belonged to the Department of Transportation. 

The suit alleged that the Department of Transportation and the Parks Department improperly failed to get necessary approval from the state Legislature to use parkland for a non-park purpose.

A 32-dock Citi Bike docking station replaced the art area in Petrosino Square on April 27th in the middle of the night over the strong objections of the community.  

State Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern ruled in favor of the city but also acknowledged that it was a public park. 

The appeal will be heard tomorrow at 1st Dept., Appellate Division - at  27 Madison Avenue at 2:00.  

Plaintiffs are reasserting that the Bike Share Program and Kiosks are specifically designed to facilitate transportation, not recreation and are therefore not a legitmate park use.

"The short rental period, fee structure, and functional, uncomfortable build of the Program’s bikes all demonstrate that its design goal is transportation, not recreation," court papers state.

"The trial court erred in failing to acknowledge the distinctions between recreational bicycling and bike-share commuting, which, though similar in instrumentality, serve completely different purposes."

City lawyers argue that legislative approval wasn't necessary because the docking station is a recreational use for park-goers. 


According to the Parks Department's own rules bike riding is prohibited in Petrosino Square.   

Section §1-05 Regulated Uses states that, "No bicycle...shall be ridden or otherwise operated in a pedestrian way, park path, sitting area..."

"This is not a legitimate park purpose for Petrosino Square. It's an outrageous violation of law," said Randy Mastro, Gibson Dunn's senior managing partner who is representing the plaintiffs.

"You can ride bikes in public parks, but you can't ride bikes in Petrosino Square. You can't alienate precious parkland for a purpose that has nothing to do with park uses at that park," he said.

"Under their own rules, bike riding is not permitted in pedestrian walkways like Petrosino Square. The fact that the Parks Commissioner made an exception speaks volumes about how they ignored the law here," said Mastro, who served as Chief of Staff and then New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Operations under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

There are no signs indicating that bike riding is permitted in Petrosino Square which would be required under law. 

The community has been trying to get the city to relocate the station to the roadbed a few feet away (east side of Lafayette north of Spring) so the space could once again be used for public art installations.  The suggested relocation site had the support of areas residents,  all of the area elected officials, the  community board,  and FDNY Battalion Chief Ed Kiernan, according to Georgette Fleischer. 

"This principle is particularly compelling in a case like this one which has to do with the sanctity of public parkland as protected by the Public Trust Doctrine.

This is not a park for bicycle riding," she said.

"I want everyone to know how significant culture is in this neighborhood- high and low culture, a depot is a function not a piece of culture," said artist Minerva Durham who has lived in the area for 34 years.  

"The ads on the bikes and the kiosk are inappropriate for park space.  I personally feel unsafe while walking daily through the park. I am 76 years old and I walk with a cane. Cyclists speed by me from behind in a hurry to get their bikes parked," she said, noting she has never owned a car and used bikes for most of her life.

Durham's Spring Studio has been hosting outdoor drawing sessions in Petrosino Square for two years to protest the presence of a bike depot in the park.

"The community was not listened to. There is a disrespect for neighborhoods. 

I'm so angry, I can't bear it, that's why I write." 

The Parks Department wasn't immediately available for comment.

For years the community fought to improve Petrosino Square which was finally renovated.    (Photo:  Georgette Fleischer/Friends of Petrosino Square)  

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - October 15, 2013  - By Geoffrey Croft 

 A Walk In The Park - May 28, 2013 - By Geoffrey Croft 

A Walk In The Park - December 3, 2012 - By Geoffey Croft 

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