On Tuesday, Community Board 11 withdrew its Sept. 20 vote in favor of the New York City Department of Transportation’s proposal to install protected bicycle lanes on First and Second avenues in East Harlem, said Judith Febbraro of the board’s transportation committee.
Since July, the Department of Transportation has planned to extend protected bicycle lanes on First and Second avenues up to East 125thStreet and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, with hopes to begin construction in the spring. The protected bicycle lanes would be separated from traffic by a lane for parked cars, reducing traffic lanes from five to three and removing up to 19 percent of parking spaces.
Erik Mayor, a 31-year East Harlem resident, business owner and Community Board 11 member was instrumental in getting the vote rescinded. Mayor said he had collected 61 signatures from business owners opposed to the bicycle lanes.
“We feel the information wasn’t presented in the way it should have been,” he said, adding that the Department of Transportation presented to the board the “positives, but not the negatives,” of the plan. He disputed the Department of Transportation’s claim that it had communicated with East Harlem business owners before the proposal was brought before the Community Board.
Mayor said he was also concerned that protected bicycle lanes would cause increased congestion, worsening air pollution in East Harlem. He said, “Stop-and-go traffic is going to create much worse air quality than what we have now, and bike lanes will exacerbate conditions.” The New York City Community Air Survey reported high levels of air pollution in East Harlem, and the area has some of the highest asthma hospitalization rates in New York City. Mayor suggested that the Department of Transportation should provide air quality reports from before and after the implementation of protected bicycle lanes in downtown Manhattan.
Mayor said he was not against bike paths in general. “It’s not about getting rid of bike lanes,” he said, “it’s about coming to a real conclusion as to whether bike lanes will benefit or make the situation worse for East Harlem.”
Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito called the board’s move a “misunderstanding,” saying that the action was the result of “a select few who were disingenuous in their efforts.” She and the Department of Transportation plan to coordinate efforts to regain the Community Board’s support. Mark-Viverito still believes the plan for the bike paths will go forward. “We’re going to coordinate efforts so that the correct information is shared,” she said. “I believe this is a temporary setback, but not a permanent setback.”