Today’s news:

Here it comes — the inevitable Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit!

The Brooklyn Paper

The politically connected group that opposes the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane is poised to sue the city — at the risk of a marital rift between cycling advocate Sen. Charles Schumer and his lane-hating wife.

Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes — which includes Schumer’s wife, the former Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall, and former Sanitation Commissioner Norman Steisel — says it “plans to file suit” over a cycle path that it says was installed based on incorrect information by an agency that intentionally ignored the facts.

And here’s where the plot thickens: The group’s pro-bono attorney is none other than Schumer campaign contributor Jim Walden, whose name was tossed around in 2009 as a possible U.S. Attorney, though the job ultimately went to another Schumer ally.

Opponents claim that the bike lane was originally proposed as a one-way lane, and that the two-way version that ended up being built last year it is dangerous for pedestrians. Foes want the lane to be reconfigured or moved into Prospect Park.

“Our requests have been ignored,” said group member Louise Hainline, who is also a dean at Brooklyn College. “No alternatives have been broached at public meetings.”

But as the group calls into question lane safety, cyclists call into question the integrity of a well-connected group that represents the lane-hating minority in Park Slope.

“It’s a small group of wealthy and powerful people who don’t like it,” said Eric McClure, of Park Slope Neighbors, which supports the bike lane. “It’s really a shame; it would appear they are trying to play on political connections.”

That accusation is partly directed at Walden, who last year contributed $4,800 to Schumer’s campaign.

Last year, a survey by the neighborhood’s two councilmen found that only 22 percent of residents want Prospect Park West to be restored to its original, bike-lane-free state.

Despite the opposition and threat of a lawsuit, the Department of Transportation has trumpeted the lane. Earlier this year, agency data showed that the lane has made the area safer. Fewer drivers now treat Prospect Park West like a speedway, fewer bicyclists are using the sidewalk, and fewer cyclists are getting into accidents.

Weinshall and Steisel did not return calls seeking comment, and a spokesman for Schumer would not comment on his affiliation with attorney Walden or whether he supports the bike lane.

In 2005, however, the Senator told the New York Post that he and his wife share opposing views on cyclists.

“The bike people drive her crazy,” he said. “But they know they have an ally in me.”

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Reader Feedback

Fred from P. Slope says:
One wonders where these street-loving Park Slope yahoos were when Bruce Ratner and crew were stealing whole streets and blocks in neighboring Prospect Heights.
Feb. 15, 2011, 1:13 am
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
They are fighting to support their right to double park. That is the problem
Feb. 15, 2011, 6:54 am
al pankin from downtown says:
I don't know what took so long for someone to sue the city over these bike lanes, they are dangerous to the biker and drivers and to the people who park their cars and open their car doors into oncomming bikers who speed past parked cars.
chuck schumer doesn't look like he bikes too often.
Feb. 15, 2011, 7:37 am
Resident from PPW says:
Wow, finally some politicians actually listening to the residents of a neighborhood. Thank goodness for the Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes. We can all agree that PPW safety is paramount. This can be accomplished by installing speed bumps and staggered traffic lights. As of now, PPW looks like a parking lot.
Feb. 15, 2011, 8:17 am
Mike says:
Completely ridiculous NIMBYism. The redesigned PPW is a huge success -- slower traffic that still moves efficiently, safer crossings, and a safe place to bike. Anyone opposed to it is trying to return the street to its more dangerous past condition -- and to what end? To drive a little faster? Or for "aesthetics"? I happen to think the new PPW looks great.
Feb. 15, 2011, 9:05 am
Gary from Carroll Gardens says:
I heard they were going to go for an Art. 78 proceeding.

You have a better chance of seeing Jesus double parked in a bike lane than NBBL prevailing on the merits in court, no matter how good their attorney is.
Feb. 15, 2011, 9:06 am
Gary from PPW says:
The law requires that one look before opening a car door. It is not to much to ask. And protected bike lanes like that on PPW insure that a bone-head who opens a car door without looking will not knock a bicyclist under a truck.

To me PPW looks like a normal two lane neighborhood street instead of a three lane highway.

But more to the point of the article-why should a handful of politically connected cranks think they should be able to override the overwhelming majority in the neighborhood who recognize the proven safety benefits of the current configuration and waste a lot of the City's money defending a lawsuit? Why should a law firm be able to claim this is Pro Bono work when it is just a political favor to represent a handful of well connected well-off nimbys.
Feb. 15, 2011, 9:25 am
Steve from PPW says:
There is no marital rift between Iris and Chuck. He is working to remove the lane too. His hands are as dirty in this fight as hers.

Louise Hainline, by the way, is an embarrassment to academia. The way NBBL has massaged its own "data" should cause those who employ her to question every paper she's ever authored.

Every community in this city can thank NBBL and their frivolous lawsuit for making it even harder to get so much as a new crosswalk installed on a street.
Feb. 15, 2011, 9:26 am
Jacob from Prospect Heights says:
This story nails it. The small group of politically connected NIMBYs think that their convenience supercedes the safety and overwhelming preference of their neighbors.

The pro-bono legal work just tops it off. They trade political favors so they can screw the community and not even have to pay for it, despite their deep pockets?

Shame of Senator Schumer. Shame on Marty Markowitz. This shows the contempt they feel for their citizens. This shows the contempt they feel for the democratic process and grass roots political participation.
Feb. 15, 2011, 9:40 am
eliot from park slope says:
What are the grounds for the lawsuit? Does anyone in NBBL have legitimate grounds to sue? Are they claiming discrimination, economic harm, personal injury? I can't imagine a legitimate case being built out of the asinine public claims they've made to date.
Feb. 15, 2011, 10:03 am
Steve from PPW says:
The thing is, when Steisel and Weinshall were in positions of power in the city, they did things their way without consideration for data or even what local communities wanted. That's why they don't believe a word coming from the DOT and they've suckered the little old ladies of NBBL into not believing it either.

Now that the current DOT is actually working with community boards [the PPW bike lane grew out of a request from CB6] and using studies and data to make plans, Norman and Iris simply can not believe that's how it's done. You think Marty ever looked at a study about Atlantic Yards? He only looked at money. Why would he ever believe that some govt. officials actually are interested in the truth?

These corrupt, cheapskate millionaires can not fathom that sometimes the democratic process and community organizing works.
Feb. 15, 2011, 10:05 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
down with Putz Schumer. Iris Weinshall was the worst DOT head ever! All she did was fight to keep cars driving in Prospect Park. She is a complete disgrace.
Feb. 15, 2011, 10:27 am
Marty Barfowitz from An Outer Borough says:
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Brooklyn Paper, for finally focusing on the *real* story about what's happening on Prospect Park West. This is not just a local story. This is a citywide and even a national story -- a U.S. Senator and some of the most politically-connected and powerful people in all of New York working their hardest to kill the city's sustainable transportation agenda. That's what's happening right now, folks. Iris Weinshall, Norman Steisel, Randy Mastro and friends must not be allowed to prevail.
Feb. 15, 2011, 10:33 am
ilovebrooklyn from PPW says:
Speed bumps on PPW? So all PPW residents can fall asleep nightly to the sound of ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk as cars drive over them? No thanks. I'll take the bike lane any day.

Why, do you suppose, did the bike lane opponents choose a name that seems designed to fool people into thinking the group is actually pro-bike-lane? A pretty cynical ploy that demonstrates awareness that they're actually in the minority.
Feb. 15, 2011, 10:36 am
Lois Carsbad from PPW says:
Exactly! If I were in an ambulance on a gurney, I wouldn't want to go over a speed bump every block. I'm sure the EMTs don't want that either.

But there is good news! Thanks to the new street design, there's a life-saving bike lane on the side of PPW, allowing ambulances to get around all the car drivers who refuse to pull off to the side. Cyclists are typically more than happy to yield to ambulances.

Thanks to the Brooklyn Paper for doing some of the only real reporting on this story. When this thing breaks big, we'll have the BP to thank.
Feb. 15, 2011, 10:44 am
Pat from Park Slope says:
Shame on a bunch of rich millionaires on PPW using a Pro-Bono highpowered attorney to sue the city, and cause the city to have to spend $$$ to represent itself against this stupid claim. If anyone's got money to spare to pay for their own attorney, or not have to care about getting less services due to city budget cuts that frivolous lawsuits will cause to get deeper, it's these NIMBYs.
Feb. 15, 2011, 11:11 am
Pete from Park Slope says:
I'm soooo sorry that Schumer’s wife is soooo inconvenienced by the bike lane that she needs to take it away from the people who love it. The Ratner analogy is a good one. Park Slope is a crunchy feel good town until someone at the top reminds us that they'll take whatever they want from everyone else because their best interests are what is important.

We love the bike lane and we love the slower cars on PPW.

The traffic conditions could be improved further if people would stop with the illegal parking right near GAP. Additionally, if three parking spaces closet to GAP on the park side were removed the transition for cars onto PPW would be smoother. There are lots of other incremental changes we could try rather than taking down the bike line in total.
Feb. 15, 2011, 11:14 am
Marty Barfowitz from An Outer Borough says:
Resident from PPW:

If you think speed bumps are such a great solution, maybe you need to ask the folks in Brooklyn Heights on Henry and Hicks Street how they liked their traffic-calming speed bumps installed in the late-90s. Ask them what it sounded like as trucks and taxis jounced over them every few seconds. Ask the home owners who lived closest to the speed bumps how the constant bouncing and vibration on the street in front of them effected the brickwork of their 150-year-old homes. Ask them how quickly they got the speed bumps removed. While you're at it: Ask them if the bike lanes on their local streets have harmed their neighborhood quality of life or property values in any way at all. I think the answers you get to these questions will be instructive and helpful to you.
Feb. 15, 2011, 11:18 am
joe from WB says:
bikes shouldn't have their owns lanes, only cars! clearly bike lanes endanger me when I'm driving my car in my own lane. Why should bikers have their own lane separate from me speeding down the road? I want to be able to have to veer into the next lane almost hitting another car to avoid a biker rather than having a clear pathway for my 2 ton vehicle that I drive alone to the market down the street. Oh yeah, these lanes are ugly too. I'd much rather have another lane chock full of pretty exhaust spewing automobiles.
Feb. 15, 2011, 11:29 am
Liz from Park Slope says:
As I waited last weekend to snake around a Fresh Direct truck, avoiding a bike careening in front of me in my one "car" lane, I got to a red light. There, I looked down this once beautiful avenue and saw yellow lights blinking in as far as I could see, signs on every "historically reproduced" lamppost, more signs on poles stuck in our new cobblestone sidewalk.
Ugly. Really ugly. And yes, the destruction of the PPW aesthetics and the DOT manipulations of the data are disgraceful. I used to see the trees and the stone wall when I waited at a red light. Now I am tense and it is like driving through a cattle chute.
Feb. 15, 2011, 12:18 pm
Gary from PPW says:
Liz,
Get out of your car and walk (or ride a bike). It might give you a different perspective on what is ugly. And I am not sorry that you now have to pay a little more attention when you drive down PPW because it makes you a safer driver.
Feb. 15, 2011, 12:27 pm
Doug from Park Slope says:
As a father of two kids under 2, daily dog walker, cyclist to work, pedestrian, and occasional driver, I find the reconfigured PPW just about the best thing that's happened in the 7 years I've lived on PPW. It's far safer crossing with kids/dog, the sidewalks are safer and more pleasant w the bikes now in their lane, northbound cycling is way better, and traffic is far calmer, yet almost never clogged. Would that every city project were this kind of success.
Feb. 15, 2011, 12:29 pm
Lois Carsbad from PPW says:
Liz, you are totally right. What has happened to this once beautiful avenue is a complete disgrace! Aesthetics can not be ignored and I'm behind you completely. I think we should restore Prospect Park West to its original historic configuration.

We must get rid of the bike lane. Then we should get rid of the traffic signs and blinking yellow lights! While we're at it, we can get rid of the traffic lights, and then all those cars along the park side of the street should go. After that, bring back the trolley that used to run on PPW!

Here's are the architectural renderings for my plan:

http://bit.ly/hFV0eC

Liz, when would you like to meet with your fellow like-minded PPW residents to discuss our aesthetic concerns?
Feb. 15, 2011, 12:30 pm
BS from Park Slope says:
One clarification to an otherwise excellent piece of reporting.

Louise Hainline claims that “No alternatives have been broached at public meetings.”

Hainline is either mistaken or lying.

During the last CB6 meeting, at which many NBBL members rose to spoke, many tweaks and suggestions for changing the lane were addressed by the DOT representatives, Council Member Brad Lander, and people from the community.

Some of these suggestions, which were also described in Lander's PPW survey, included adding rumble strips to alert cyclists of pedestrian crossings, changing signage and lights, installing raised concrete islands near crosswalks, and more. A community member also brought up the idea of changing the configuration of the Prospect Park loop to accommodate two-way bike traffic, but this has never gone over well.

This is a matter of public record. If Hainline had been there, she would know this. If she wasn't there, I'm sure someone from CB6 would be happy to supply her with the meeting's minutes.

Hainline simply does not like the alternatives that have been proposed, because the only alternative she wants is for the lane to be removed. That is not the same as such suggestions not being "broached."
Feb. 15, 2011, 1:29 pm
Dave from Park Slope says:
@ Liz,

What "DOT manipulations of the data?" That's a crock, and you know it. Because the data proves that the redesign is working – reducing speeding while not affecting throughput, increased cycling while reducing sidewalk riding, reduced crashes and injuries - it doesn't comport with your worldview, and so it must be "manipulated?" You'll have to do better than the NiBBLers half-assed bike counts.
Feb. 15, 2011, 2:13 pm
Tom from PS says:
I still see the bikes careening down the parkside.

They feel safer on the sidewalk, perhaps?
Feb. 15, 2011, 2:27 pm
Steve from PPW says:
I still see the cars running red lights.

They feel safer breaking the law, perhaps?
Feb. 15, 2011, 2:31 pm
jooltman from Park Slope says:
Walden's firm Gibson Dunn prides itself on pro bono work "to serve those in need" and "protect the environment." I guess the U.S. Senate doesn't pay what it used to, but I don't see Schumer, Weinshall & friends as being in need. Maybe Gibson Dunn's pro bono hours for Neighbors for a Better Bike Lane shouldn't count towards the firm's commitment to the Pro Bono Institute to provide x hours of pro bono work per attorney each year?
Feb. 15, 2011, 2:36 pm
Anne from South Brooklyn says:
I'm really distressed to see all these personal attacks. What's the point?

People are entitled to their opinions, but it doesn't really help the public discussion to reduce everything to this low level.

If I'm reading this story correctly, it says that the groups want the lane reconfigured or moved into the park. That doesn't sound, to me, like they are opposed to bike lanes. It sounds to me like they want to make sure all the data is right, etc. Again, sounds like a good idea. I think that process is important, and having all the data, etc. and then hearings or whatever would be the best way to judge whether this lane is safe or not.

I love bikes and bike lanes. But I do think that safety comes first. I, for one, would have no problem with a "regular" bike lane, if it turns out that would be less problematic.

And please - let's debate the issue, not the individuals.
Feb. 15, 2011, 3:53 pm
Gary from PPW says:
Apparently it is not the first time Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has provided "pro bono" services to connected politicians that has nothing to do with serving the needy:

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/gibson_dunn_worked_pro_bono_seeking_to_block_troopergate_probe/
Feb. 15, 2011, 4 pm
Steve from PPW says:
Anne, correct me if I'm wrong, but your comment makes it sound as if you're only just now entering this story. Everything NBBL is asking for has been discussed at countless community board meetings and hearings. Some of these go back to 2008. There have already been hearings at which community neighbors have been able to judge whether this lane is safe or not. Democracy requires participation, and had more members of NBBL mobilized earlier in the process they might have been able to effect change. They were not closed off from this at all.

NBBL doesn't like the bike lane, which is their right, and they don't have to like the data, which is their right too. Liking it and believing it are two different things, and NBBL simply doesn't believe the data. As the saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

There is simply no amount of information or data that NBBL will believe if it doesn't support moving or getting rid of the bike lane.

A bike lane in the park does nothing to calm traffic on PPW, which was the original purpose of the redesign. In fact, Park Slope Neighbors and other neighborhood groups considered making 8th Avenue and PPW two-way streets for cars in order to slow things down before the current bike lane plan was introduced. The current two-way bike lane plan was seen as the least disruptive and most effective.

A "regular" bike lane, which I assume you mean is a painted lane on the side of a traffic lane, is not all that safe, is constantly blocked by double-parked cars, is in what's called the "door zone" of opening car doors, and also does nothing to calm traffic. It also wouldn't stop people who feel unsafe from riding on the sidewalk. I wouldn't want my kids riding in that kind of lane, but I'm perfectly happy with them riding in the current PPW lane.

None of these are personal attacks. NBBL has called the DOT liars. Marty Markowitz has called the DOT head a zealot. Norman Steisel has accused the Community Board -- volunteers -- of lying as well. I think there are enough personal attacks going around on all sides.

I think the biggest personal attack of all, however, comes from a group that, seeing how popular the bike lane is with thousands of people, decides to go ahead and sue anyway. That's no way to treat your neighbors.
Feb. 15, 2011, 4:07 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I hope that NBBL wins that lawsuit as I wish the very best for them. Many have seen PPW as if it has became a parking lot when that used to hardly be the case. For the record, I have nothing against those that want to use bicycles, and if they chose to, I won't stop them. Honestly, cyclists can do better if they just wore helmets and followed the traffic laws rather than acting as if they don't apply to them. Ironically, cyclists call to have a right to use the roads as they are getting, but they don't want the responsibilities that come with it. I don't see why that is something so wrong except for the complaining by rogue cyclists crying foul to that.
Feb. 15, 2011, 6:08 pm
Tom from Park Slope says:
I am a supporter of more bike lanes, but dislike PPW. First, it seems unnecessary given the parallel route inside the park that is actually much more pleasant. Also, even now, the park route continues to be more well traveled. I also never encountered the 'problem' with bikers on the sidewalk. Lastly, due to lane cars are now parked 1/3 into the street which diminishes the views on this otherwise grand Brooklyn street. This lane was really not needed and one has to wonder that with all the places to such lanes are needed such as access to bridges and other crowded roads (with no abutting route), why here?
Feb. 15, 2011, 8:33 pm
eliot from brooklyn heights says:
Tom, the park loop is one-way with few entrances, and therefore not convenient for many cycling trips. A resident of 13th Street traveling to the Food Coop would have to go miles out of their way -- or else ride against traffic, or on the sidewalk, to save time.

The new configuration is direct and safe. You may not have experienced sidewalk cycling as a problem, but many people did -- and the data shows that less people are biking on the sidewalk. That's something you'd think NBBL would be happy about.

I guess opinions differ, but I don't view an extra lane of pavement as "grand." I live on Flatbush Avenue, another "grand Brooklyn street" and I would happily trade my current view for one that includes slower traffic, wider sidewalks, and a safe bike route.
Feb. 15, 2011, 9:11 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Does anyone know the basis of the law suit. What are they asking for? Who has been damaged?

Some reporting here please!
Feb. 16, 2011, 8:15 am
Steve from PPW says:
Tom, the park closes at night and doesn't open again until morning. It's also unsafe to ride in after dark. (Would you even want to walk there?) I wouldn't want the women in my life to ride there when it's dark, and many people I know ride to and from work late at night.

Even if you could add two-way bike traffic into the park, that would create its own chaos. If the old ladies of NBBL are worried about crossing a bike lane on the street, imagine what would happen with all of the joggers, strollers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, bikers, and walkers trying to figure out two-way bike traffic! It's bad enough when one or two random people go the wrong way in the park!

Plus, it's fine to put bike lanes near bridges, but you need a network of bike lanes throughout the city. This bike lane connects to bike lanes on 9th Street, 2nd St, etc.

I find that walking on the Park side of the street is much more pleasant, now that the cars are farther away!
Feb. 16, 2011, 8:54 am

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