By Carol Tannenhauser
In what Chairperson Roberta Semer called “the rudest meeting I have ever presided over,” Community Board 7 approved the Department of Transportation’s plan to create a northbound protected bike lane on the east side of Central Park West, from 59th Street to 110th Street. In the process, it will eliminate 400 parking spaces.
The vote at Tuesday night’s Full Board Meeting, held at Goddard Riverside Community Center, was 27 in favor, 7 opposed, 5 abstentions. So ended two hours of impassioned rhetoric by the community, punctuated by angry outbursts, constant interruptions, boos and jubilation. According to Semer, it’s a done deal, and according to representatives from the DOT, implementation will begin right away. They expect to be halfway finished by the end of the year.
The details of the plan are here. The only change to the original resolution was that the DOT will conduct quarterly assessments of the new bike lane, and report data back to CB7.
The meeting revealed deep wounds and passions. A grandmother held a laminated photograph of her 12-year-old grandson, who, she said, might be alive today had there been a protected bike lane on the street where he was killed. And there was a photograph of Madison Jane Lyden, the 23-year-old Australian tourist who was killed last August on the current unprotected CPW bike lane, galvanizing CB7 to go to the DOT and request a plan for a protected one.
‘But who does it protect?’ those on the other side demanded. Not pedestrians, they argued, not children, old people, the disabled, who, they said, are terrified of “deranged” bikers, who “disregard the rules of the road,” and, besides, already have access to the Amsterdam Avenue northbound bike lane. “Why not make the bike lane in Central Park two way?” several people demanded.
And there was the issue of parking. Where would those 400 displaced cars go; cars owned by middle class workers, one testified, who couldn’t afford garages; cars that would flood the neighborhood with congestion and exhaust, leading to rancor, one opponent warned, such as was on display at the meeting. Board members expressed sympathy, but in the end, the fear of another death—in a week when three cyclists were killed throughout the city—won out.
Central Park West, referred to as “iconic throughout the world” by one opponent of the bike lane, is about to undergo a major change.