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‘Re-cyclers’ will plead not guilty in bike lane repainting

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The bike-lane vigilantes who allegedly repainted the Bedford Avenue cycle path two Fridays ago will plead not guilty to the charge of criminal mischief, the two “re-cyclers” told The Brooklyn Paper.

Suspects Quinn Hechtropf, 26, and Katherine Piccochi, 24, wouldn’t comment on the record, but their lawyer Gideon Oliver said that the pair will fight the criminal mischief charge next month.

“There are a lot of factors here, and I’m investigating who else might have been involved,” Oliver said.

The story that has gripped the city began on Dec. 1 when the Department of Transportation removed a 14-block stretch of bike lane between Flushing and Division avenues.

A band of at least four rebels promptly repainted the lane with rollers, paint and homemade stencils — there’s a YouTube video to prove it (naturally).

“These people are community heroes,” said Baruch Herzfeld, an Orthodox Jew and owner of the Williamsburg shop, Traif Bike Geschaft.

According to his retelling, a South Williamsburg Shomrim security force intervened and called police when the bikers returned to the scene of the alleged crime three days later.

An NYPD investigation revealed that at least four other Williamsburg bikers and two Hasidim were among the suspects, though it’s unclear whether more arrests will be made.

Herzfeld claimed that the Shomrim overstepped its authority.

“They saw somebody that was suspicious and grabbed some people,” Herzfeld alleged. “The Hasidic community watch groups, while good, have some thuggish influences.”

Shomrim representatives wouldn’t comment on the incident or shed light on their authority in relation to the police.

Beyond the involvement of the neighborhood patrol group, the bike lane’s removal and repainting has once again revealed deep divisions within the Hasidic community of South Williamsburg.

Some Hasidic leaders claim that the Bedford Avenue bike lane hindered buses dropping off children at nearby religious schools — yet other Hasidim were apparently involved in the effort to restore the lanes.

The timing of the lane’s removal was not without some irony, Herzfeld added. After all, Mayor Bloomberg went to Copenhagen to speak at the climate-change summit.

“He gave a speech about how green he is,” said Herzfeld. “But it’s hypocritical to remove a bike lane and then talk about what an environmentalist you are.”

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Reader Feedback

Nick Collins from Prospect Heights says:
I used to live on Flushing between Marcy and Nostrand, one block away from the Flushing-Bedford intersection. I'm surprised to read that the Hasidic community is divided on this issue of the lane's removal, since it was clearly evident, especially during spring/summer months, that the Hasidic community as a whole opposed a bike thoroughfare where scantily clad women whizzed through. Needless to say, bike lane or no bike lane, this isn't an officially segregated community, and I hope bikers continue to travel along Bedford Avenue. With regard to Mayor Bloomberg, I suppose that this is yet another example of the visible 'clout' the Hasidic Jewish community is able to wield within local politics.
Feb. 9, 2010, 9:02 pm

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