Mag Claims NYC’s Transit Dept. Strikes “Backroom Deal With Satmars”


williamsburgThe following article by Marissa Brostoff of Tablet Magazine claims that the Williamsburg bike lane disappeared after months of complaints and a “backroom deal”:

This week, New York City’s Department of Transportation abruptly removed a 14-block stretch of bike lane that ran along Brooklyn’s Bedford Ave., a major thoroughfare that at this particular stretch goes through an ultra-Orthodox enclave. The lane had been hotly contested between the well-organized cyclist community and the Williamsburg neighborhood’s Satmar Hasidim, who complained about having to see immodestly dressed bikers ride by. The DOT’s decision, which came with minimal explanation, has sparked rumors on the street and in the blogosphere that city government officials struck a backroom deal with Satmar leaders. Thing is, the rumors may have some truth to them.

“During his re-election campaign, Mayor Bloomberg struck a deal on several issues of special significance to Hasidic leaders,” the urban planning site Streetsblog said. “Whether the Bedford Avenue bike lane was part of the bargain, we can’t say.” Commenters on that blog and others are convinced that it indeed was the quid to some quo. Occasionally, the discussion has verged on what we hope was joke-anti-Semitism, as when someone wrote on Gothamist, “It appears some people are being Jewed here.”

As we noted back in June, the New York Times reported that Leib Glanz, a Satmar leader, had scored meetings with New York’s deputy mayor about bike lanes. Additionally, Bloomberg campaigned hard in the Satmar community this year. “The bike lane is used very, very often, it’s a very important artery,” Baruch Herzfeld, a Modern Orthodox hipster who acts as unofficial liaison between Williamsburg Satmars and bikers, told Tablet Magazine. “The fact that this bike lane was taken away smells fishy.” The DOT declined to discuss these allegations, offering only a brief statement: the lane, it said, was removed as part of “ongoing bike network adjustments.”

Statement from the City

In removing the 14-block bike lane along Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, the city’s Department of Transportation said the lanes between Flushing and Division Avenues are being removed as part of an ongoing adjustment. The DOT would not comment further.

Wiley Norvell of the group Transportation Alternatives says it’s part of a crucial bike route to the Williamsburg Bridge: “Bike lanes are only as good as they places they take you to, point A to point B, and this definitely fills a part of the network that we think is necessary.”

Norvell says cyclists have the same rights as motor vehicles and they’re allowed to take a full lane of traffic if that’s what they need to feel safe. He adds that on the whole the city has done a good job of creating more bike lanes and doesn’t expect to lose more lanes in the future.

{Tablet Magazine/Agencies}