Williamsburgers: Surprise Citi Bike station ruining parking, business

Park it: Phil Fontana of Tony’s Pizzeria claims his business is suffering because of a poorly placed Citi Bike Station taking up space outside his storefront on Graham Avenue.
Photo by Jason Speakman

It is hell on wheels.

The city must rip out a new Citi Bike station that is crippling local businesses and snarling traffic at a busy Williamsburg intersection, say nearby residents and business owners.

“It’s created havoc on this block,” said Vincent Gangone, the owner of medical supply store Salerno Surgical Supplies, which is three doors down from the troublesome bike-rental dock at the corner of Graham Avenue and Conselyea Street.

Local businesses say the one-month-old station replaced much-needed parking space on the heavily trafficked commercial stretch, and the ensuing shortage is driving away customers and creating traffic jams that back up the streets for several blocks.

“There are people who used to park their car, run in, and run out,” said Phil Fontana of Tony’s Pizzeria, who claims his patrons now constantly bemoan the lack of parking. “Now you see less of that. Now they go around twice and they just go home.”

Gangone said the parking paucity is especially damaging to his business, because most of his clientele are not able-bodied and need to park close by.

“There are a lot of people in wheelchairs and a lot of people who can’t walk too well, and there’s no place to find spots,” he said.

Locals say the city never consulted them about the bike berth, which is one of around 90 new Citi Bike docks the city installed across Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bedford–Stuyvesant last month.

Transportation officials told residents the terminal would be at Metropolitan Avenue and Humboldt Street when it shared upcoming station locations at a community board meeting in March. But a construction site usurped that spot in the intervening months, so the city decided to slide it over a few blocks — and residents and store owners say they didn’t find out until the blue bikes showed up in August.

The Department of Transportation claims its hands were tied — it is obligated to find new locations when planned sites fall through, and the intersection at Graham and Conselyea was the only viable alternative that fit city guidelines and worked with the local Citi Bike network, a spokesperson said.

But the disgruntled community members say the city should have asked their opinion beforehand, and hasn’t responded to their complaints since.

“We asked the city Department of Transportation, if we had any issues with certain stations, to please respect the community and have dialogue with us and to find alternative locations, and that didn’t happen,” said Karen Nieves, the outgoing transportation committee chief for Community Board 1.

The community board says it is now going over the department’s head — panel members voted unanimously at a meeting last Wednesday to send a letter to Mayor DeBlasio demanding he remove the station, and are drafting a second letter raising complaints about a handful of other docks in the neighborhood they say have been causing similar issues.

The transportation department chose many of the station sites based a series of community meetings it held in 2013, but the residents say so much time has passed that the city now needs to reevaluate all of the locales and ask nearby businesses how they have been affected.

The city says it is still reviewing all letters and e-mails about the new stations.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.

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