City on PPW suit: Bring it on!

Dueling rallies over bike lane! Supporters out-spoke foes
Photo by Paul Martinka

The city will fight the Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit on its merits, instead of seeking its dismissal on a technicality, lawyers told a judge on Wednesday.

“We want to get to the merits of the case,” said city lawyer Mark Muschenheim. “We’re prepared to drop the statue of limitations defense to expedite the case.”

Muschenheim’s comment came just days after Borough President Markowitz swore under oath that Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told him the bike lane had been installed last year as a trial — a claim that, if true, would have allowed the case to go ahead.

Before Wednesday, the city had been fighting the notion that the bike lane was a “trial” project because opponents’ lawsuit against the bike lane had been filed too late to challenge a permanent city fixture.

Though they’ll now get a chance to argue their case, lawyers for Neighbors for Better Bike lanes, the opposition group that sued the city over the bike lane, slammed the city’s decision to move the case forward, saying that it has less to do with the merits and more to do with covering up foes’ primary contention that the city has fudged bike lane data to make the lane appear more successful than it is.

“Big lies are being told to cover up smaller lies,” said Jim Walden, the group’s lawyer said after the hearing at Brooklyn Supreme Court.

The lawsuit, which was filed in March. Subpoenas were issued calling for testimony from longtime bike lane supporter Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), Sadik-Khan and Markowitz.

This week, Markowitz — famous for his opposition to the Prospect Park West bike path — said in a sworn court statement that the city had lied to protect the controversial path. He testified that Sadik-Khan told him the lane was simply a “trial” project, not permanent one, as the city originally claimed in court.

In the three-page document, Markowitz says he met with Sadik-Khan more than a year ago to tell her he believed the lane would clog traffic on the busy street.

“In response to my concerns, Commissioner Sadik-Khan told me the bike lane would be implemented on a trial basis [and] that if the study proved her wrong, the Department of Transportation would modify it or even take it out.”

Sadik-Khan countered in a sworn statement this week that she had never characterized the lane as temporary project.

Neither the Markowitz nor Sadik-Khan was in court on Wednesday. Norman Steisel — a member of Neighbors for Better Bike lanes, who worked with Sadik-Khan when he was Sanitation Commissioner — said afterwards that he doesn’t believe city lawyers simply want to speed up the case.

“There’s been an effort to intentionally misinform,” he said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”