Another week, another Citi Bike dilemma. As the bike share program blows past the 250,000 rides mark, the placement of stations has become the subject of contention since its Memorial Day inauguration. The reasons are varied: The streets are too narrow to fit them; the streets are too packed with them; the streets are too ugly because of them. But, as it turns out, the physical response by the Department of Transportation has created a more income-based controversy.
In a New York Post exclusive, it was discovered that the DOT agreed to move at least 10 Citi Bike stations either right before or just after the program’s initiation–all of which are nearby a concentrated wealth epicenter. Ritzy spots include the IAC Building in West Chelsea, designed by Frank Gehry and housed by Newsweek/The Daily Beast; a loft on Spring Street; the Milan Condominium on East 55th; and a handful of other expensive locations.
A few of the angry 1 Percenters were represented by Manhattan attorney Steven Sladkus. As the stations push uptown, “you won’t see a Citi Bike station in front of Mayor Bloomberg’s town house,” he argued to the Post. “Maybe the same [courtesy] should have been given to all other property-owners in the city.”
Keywords: “should have.” Running in contrast to these sites, populist attempts have tried and failed to convince the DOT to fulfill the same requests. For example, the SoHo hub, Petrosino Square, is home to an embattled Citi Bike station; over 600 signatures and nearly 150 letters from neighbors have been collected, demanding the station be moved. The result: the (silent) bureaucratic treatment.
“You would think [the city] would want to avoid even the appearance that struggling artists would be treated differently than highfalutin financiers,” Jim Walden, the SoHo residents’ attorney, said. He filed an injunction on behalf of them last week.
But at least these neighborhoods have something to argue about. As former Voice scribe Sydney Brownstone pointed out last month, public housing residents are offered a discount to ride the bright blue wheels around town. Except there aren’t many stations near where these residents live, providing them with a gap between the offered illusion and apparent reality of the Citi Bike program. A discount only matters if it can be used fittingly.
The Citi Bike stations have stirred the pot of class aggression simply by placement. It may not be the fault of the Department of Transportation, who’s dealing with thousands of riders every day, among countless other things, but the program has run into the ever-present tension of income inequality in New York City. And to think they’re just bikes.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 24, 2013