Citi yikes! City transportation reps won’t attend Park Slope Citi Bike meeting

Shout of the blue: Next CB6 Citi Bike meeting could have police protection
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The Department of Transportation has infuriated members of a Park Slope panel by declining to attend a hotly anticipated meeting over the controversial rollout of the Citi Bike bicycle rental service in the neighborhood.

Members of Community Board 6 sent a letter lashing out at transit commissioner Polly Trottenberg for declining an invitation for agency reps to attend the emergency meeting set up to alleviate concerns over new Citi Bike stations, which have stripped drivers of more than 150 free parking spaces in the area.

“We were deeply disappointed when we received word that no one from the Department of Transportation was planning to attend the Public Hearing we have scheduled for Oct. 20,” read the letter signed by Community Board 6 Chairman Sayar Lonial, and the two co-chairs of the board’s transportation committee, Thomas Miskel and Eric McClure.

Several dozen critics of the bike-rental program stormed a general meeting of Community Board Six (should be 6) in September, where they attempted to hijack the assembly, which had no plans to discuss Citi Bike.

Lonial at one point demanded that 80-year-old Cobble Hill resident Jospeh Igneri leave the meeting, after the octogenarian launched into a tirade fueled by his hatred of the program.

CB6 (acronym) District Manager Craig Hammerman later said that the group would consider inviting police to attend future meetings where Citi Bike was on the table and, ultimately, decided to host the transportation committee where Citi Bike would be discussed at the 78th Precinct’s Sixth Avenue station house.

Board members invited the transportation department, which decides where Citi Bike docking stations are located, to record and address gripes by locals steamed over safety issues, loss of parking, and a perceived lack of government outreach related to the bike sharing program.

“To hear that your department declines to attend a public hearing to hear testimony on how Citi Bike has both positively and negatively affected our district, is disappointing,” the board’s letter read.

Not only does the board feel like community members are being shafted, but the local advisory group seems to be taking the city agency’s rebuke personally, claiming that the board has always engaged with and often supported city transportation policies, including installing a protected bike lane on Prospect Park West and redesigns of Fourth Avenue.

“When it comes to transportation planning and advocacy, we have ample street cred,” the letter read.

Furthermore, the agency seems to be making a habit of ignoring the board, which had sent letters to the department regarding a discussion of the Union Street Bridge, which was never returned, the letter stated.

The board isn’t ready to call the two incidents a pattern, but hopes that this administration’s transportation agency will take it as seriously as past transit leader’s have, according to Hammerman.

“I don’t know if two incidents suggests a pattern, but we’re mindful and hopeful that it’s not becoming a pattern,” he said. “I think our expectation from past tenures at DOT has been one of a close working relationship and it’s our preference to see that continue.”

Commissioner Trottenberg responded to the board’s letter late on Oct. 17, outlining how the board should act as the department’s proxy, and pass on suggestions for the five locations of critical concern.

“While we will not be attending Thursday’s meeting, we will of course take CB6’s feedback and work with you all to potentially make adjustments to bike stations as needed,” Trottenberg wrote. “We recommend that after the meeting you send us the top five locations of concern and any suggested alternatives and we will evaluate them expeditiously.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.