Brooklyn is getting a bigger share of the city’s private bike-share program two years after Hurricane Sandy soaked much of the inventory intended for the borough.
A big-time real estate developer bought Alta Bicycle Share, the troubled parent company of the Citi Bike program, and is pumping $30 million into expanding the footprint of the blue New York bikes, according to a Capital New York report. The system is adding 6,000 bikes and more than 375 stations, per a Citi Bike blog post. Brooklyn neighborhoods first in line for stations are Greenpoint and Bushwick, and also on the list are Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Gowanus, Crown Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Docks were originally slated to go further into Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant, and into Greenpoint, but those plans were dashed when saltwater from Sandy surged into the Navy Yard, where two-thirds of the gear for the program’s initial rollout was being stored, according to a DNAinfo report. Following through on those installations won’t take much heavy lifting now that the money has appeared to pay for it, a company rep said.
“In many places, we have already done the work,” said Dan Simons, spokesman for NYC Bike Share, the freshly minted Citi Bike management company run by new owner Related Companies. “We just need to go back there and make sure that nothing major has changed with land use.”
Now that the stations are back on track, and headed even further afield, reactions among Brooklynites are decidedly mixed. One Greenpoint resident freaked out by rising rents said that the arrival of the bikes heralds further Disneyfication of her beloved neighborhood.
“They are going to put these in the streets and that is going to kill the whole Old Brooklyn thing,” said Zuhal Danyildiz. “This neighborhood gets more gentrified by the day.”
Another resident said the bikes are not meant for real Greenpointers.
“The people who live here have bikes of their own,” said Barbara Wyskoswki. “This is going to be a thing for tourists and bring more of them here. We do not need that.”
But one resident we polled said the influx of blue steeds would be a boon to her when she is hosting out-of-town guests.
“I have a bike, but sometimes friends come to visit and I have had to take them very far away to get Citibikes. I had to take my dad to Park Slope to find one,” said Emily Laue. “This will be easier.”
In other neighborhoods, such as Red Hook and Carroll Gardens, the city will have to start from scratch to plan locations for docks.
One Carroll Gardens resident who, along with neighborhood activists and outgoing Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens), lobbied for a dock at Union and Smith streets, said the more stations there are in the area, the merrier Brooklyn cyclists will be.
“I think you will see a lot more usage within Brooklyn,” said Gary Reilly, a member of the local community board.
Compared to Manhattan, Brooklyn has had low levels of CitiBike ridership, and data from the beginning of the year showed all of the least-used docks were in Brooklyn, according to the New York Post. But Reilly and other bike advocates say the demand is there and just needs a larger and more convenient network to be tapped.
“We haven’t really had the same level of saturation here as in Manhattan to really make it an intra-borough option,” Reilly said. “That is going to change as they add new docks, open new spaces, and expand the network.”
The ability to saddle up around the corner from his house would cut out the hassle of hauling his wheels up and down the stairs of his third floor walk-up. It would also give him a quick way to travel between geographically close areas — Carroll Gardens and Prospect Heights, for example — which require roundabout public transit trips, he said.
“Citi Bike would really open up an option for some people to get across town,” he said. “The extra bit of effort of moving your bike can dissuade people from hopping on a bike, but with Citi Bike they would be off to the races.”
The car-centric areas below Prospect Park, the borough’s proverbial Mason-Dixon line, will be spared the bike-share program, for now.
Announcement of the Alta sale coincided with the naming of Jay Walder as the company’s new head. Walder abruptly left his post as Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman in 2011 to run Hong Kong’s transportation system, then resigned there this summer after a high-speed rail project he was in charge of ran over-budget and two years beyond-schedule.
The first wave of expansion will take place in 2015 and the rest is set to wrap up in 2017, Citi Bike said.
But all the new equipment comes with a price. Citi Bike is increasing the cost of an annual membership from $95 to $149. Public housing residents and members of certain credit unions will retain their discounted $60 rate.