By Scott Etkin
Following a two-hour discussion over Zoom on Tuesday evening, the Community Board 7 Transportation and Parks & Environment Committees passed a resolution against the proposed hub for deliveristas — the workers who use electric bicycles to make food deliveries — on the traffic island between W. 71st and W. 72nd Streets and Broadway. The resolution will next go to the full community board for a vote, then onto the appropriate government agencies, where it will be taken under advisement. (See our discussion of cb resolutions here.)
In October 2022, Mayor Eric Adams and Senator Charles Schumer announced that $1 million in federal funds would be allocated to build three rest stops/charging stations across the city, including one at a defunct newsstand on the traffic island south of the 72nd Street 1/2/3 subway station, for delivery workers who operate as independent contractors for apps like DoorDash and GrubHub.
The majority of speakers who joined the Zoom call on Tuesday night – from both the public and CB7 – voiced objections to the hub in the name of safety, saying it would bring more traffic to an already overcrowded intersection.
The committees decided in a vote (9 in favor of rejecting the hub, 4 against and 2 abstentions) that the location would be “wholly inappropriate for an e-bike charging station and rest area due to vehicular and pedestrian congestion, and the fire risk posed by an assemblage of electric bikes charging in one location.” The resolution concludes by urging “the Mayor’s office to consider an alternate location for the e-bike Hub.”
It was 6:30pm on Valentine’s Day when the Zoom meeting started, but there was no romance in the cards. Before the call started, 203 members of the public submitted testimony to the committees, of which 177 were “overwhelmingly negative,” said Parks & Environment Committee co-chair Natasha Kazmi.
The call began with a brief presentation by the Worker’s Justice Project (WJP), which supports the Delivery Workers United labor group. Representatives explained how the hub would be used not only as a charging station for e-bikes, but also as a venue to educate delivery workers about how to charge their lithium-ion batteries and navigate the streets safely. It’s common for delivery workers to drive for 12 hours a day for around $7.87 per hour, well below the $15 minimum wage in NYC.
Dozens of residents were then given a chance to share their opinions. While many expressed their support and appreciation for delivery workers, saying they perform an essential service and deserve safe and fair working conditions, most speakers were against the hub at the proposed location. Using the traffic island on W. 72nd Street as the spot for the hub would be a hazard for the thousands of people who cross the intersection every day, they said. The traffic island* is already too congested with people, cars, buses, and bikes; the addition of the hub would make it especially unsuitable for seniors and children.
The proposed hub “would make a dangerous intersection even worse,” said Caroline Contiguglia, a representative from the 71st Street Block Association. Several residents said more focus should be on enforcing the rules for driving e-bikes, which are often unlicensed and unidentifiable. Many said they were afraid to cross the street because of e-bikes going too fast or not stopping at red lights.
Another common refrain during the meeting was that the proposal lacked details. The hub is in its early stages of development, so representatives from Worker’s Justice Project did not have answers to questions such as: how many chargers the station would have, how many workers would use the station, and how long it would take each bike to charge. The WJP said they were committed to working with the community to find solutions that addressed their concerns.
“We need a lot more information,” said Rita Genn, a representative from the West 72nd Street Block Association, who said they would be open to discussing a different location that worked for everyone’s needs. Several speakers from the public suggested alternatives, including Columbus Circle, vacant storefronts, Citi Bike docks, and parking spaces.
Other speakers expressed exasperation that public funds and space were being used to subsidize a service (supporting delivery workers) that should be the responsibility of the tech companies that run the delivery apps. Deliveristas work as independent contractors, so they’re not considered full employees of these companies.
No representatives attended the meeting from any of the major delivery service companies – DoorDash (which owns Caviar), GrubHub (which owns Seamless), Uber Eats (which owns Postmates), and Relay. GrubHub did send WSR an email stating that it “is grateful to the City and federal government for its support of our delivery partners with these new worker hubs, and…ready to work with them in any way we can to make sure this initiative is implemented and expanded successfully.”
The proposed delivery hub, if implemented, would be the first of its kind in the country. But it faces many hurdles, not the least of which is push-back from the community.
*The proposed location for the hub is south of Verdi Square. There is another vacant structure, which used to be a Le Pain Quotidien cafe, near the north Subway entrance, which is not being considered as part of the proposal.
The fact that the delivery companies didn’t bother to show up for this tells you everything. It’s a complete joke that even time, let alone $, was spent allocating “federal funds” to this. Schumer should really re-assess his priorities, or whose interests he’s serving.
Canned PR statements about “partners” mean nothing, but, of course, I wouldn’t expect anything else from those companies.
Peter, It’s really tough for folks to think outside of a box and see innovation, it seems. This is what I see and I was wondering if it makes sense to you… The federal funds would be innovation for the public sector by creating an open air third place. Think ‘we work’ for the outdoors for folks who are independent contractors or serving the UWS/Manhattan.. The genius or group of genius’ who suggested the funding probably thought since the UWS folks likes to eat out or have food delivered as takeout or functions as an eating mecca point of interest for many folks well then of course support of said workers (servers on bikes) would naturally be a given to the UWS. However, not so according to last night’s participation online. I am saddened to know the UWS is no longer as innovative as touted or interested in supporting the independent contractors at a main point of access in the name of safety. What is exactly going on now in the name of safety? Are the drivers safe? Are the drivers delivering safely to the UWS now? To be more innovative, I wonder does anyone have a list of possible other locations in the UWS amongst the dismal retail emptiness of Broadway?
I believe we can do better than eating and forgetting those who feed us, restaurants and drivers alike, in tandem on the UWS. II would say this is an opportunity for a change to our previous thoughts: fingers crossed 🤞
Obstructing a subway entrance is not innovation; it’s sheer lunacy.
If you want to enact human-centric usability innovations, start with the mountains of trash lining the streets 5 days a week, the scaffolds blocking the entire city for decades, the giant delivery trucks snarling traffic every single day and increasing pollution.
All kinds of regulations are forced on the delivery and ridesharing companies. Force them to buy/invest in their own hubs.
I’m not against supporting delivery workers – however I was against the city agreement that now sees us taken over by motorized vehicles of all kinds – deliveristas are now moving onto electric scooters/motorbikes – so now we are subsidizing chaos. I was perfectly happy with pedal power delivery time
exactly Schumer is to busy kissing the presidents…. He goes where the opportunities are for him. He thinks getting millions for ny thats all that’s necessary to make him look like he’s really working for the people who voted for him
Why do these delivery guys ride on sidewalks, run red lights, and go the wrong way down one way streets? Because they’re bad people? No. Because they’re barely paid at all, and will lose their jobs if they can’t go ever faster and faster and faster. The companies demand that they work at unsafe speeds if they want to keep their jobs and make enough to survive. And we as pedestrians pay the price.
Given that, I’m not impressed by the idea that the city would use the hub to “educate” deliveristas on safe riding. They’re smart guys. They know how to ride safely. But they also know that riding safely means your kids go hungry. You can “educate” them until pigs fly, but unless you change that economic reality you won’t change their riding. And you can’t change the economic reality without changing how the companies work. Simple as that.
The answer is force the companies (restaurants/pharmacies/grocery stores) to make them what the are – employees. Once you do that you can ticket them for breaking the law and have an entity you can go after for t he fine. Real quickly scoff-law riders will have no where to work.
The reason delivery people routinely, break traffic laws, is not because it necessary, but because there are no consequences. For a variety of reasons the NYPD does not enforce “minor offenses ” as they once did. Running a red-light ect. is minor until you hit a pedestrian.
Actually no. Unless the pedestrian dies or is severely injured (disabled permanently), there is still 0 consequence as the NYPD can’t/won’t do anything about it. Happy to tell you alllll about it.
Absolutely! And we keep REWARDING them for it! Higher wages, special protections, etc. I say that they should get NOTHING until they show some respect for the traffic laws, and stop endangering themselves and others. They are among the greatest menaces to public safety in the entire city. Yet there are ZERO consequences for their actions. It boggles the mind.
Why not just make a mandatory minimum wage while they’re available for deliveries on the app? Tech companies have the talent to optimize for number of drivers their algorithm slots in for available work slots. Charge customers a more reasonable delivery fee ( $10 instead of the 90 cents I see on DoorDash right now) and minimize tip expectations. That way they’re basically making the same whether they’re speeding through two deliveries versus taking their time to bike carefully on one.
Oh please that may have been true several years ago but there has been a severe labor shortage for over a year now and these workers are not replaceable.
Other stores like chick fil a are opening rest stops for delivery workers on the East Side using retail space. Retail space that is vacant can easily be used for such a purpose. No need to take up public space near a busy subway station for this.
Yes, yes, yes. That is the gist of what I posted a few minutes ago. We have LOTS of available retail space. Rent that FIRST before taking up public walking area.
This should be 100% paid for by the delivery and internet companies, not the city or tax dollars. Make that building into a coffee shop.
Other cities around the world are converting disused kiosks into nice coffee bars and high end magazine shops. Even small cocktail bars. I have seen them in Lisbon, Barcelona and of course Paris continues to have lovely newsstands as well. They are civilized spaces that add a lot to the cities in question. The powers that be in NYC have no vision or political will to make things like this happen.
Until e-bikes are regulated and illegal batteries are taken off the market, there is no rush to find a hub for them. Let them go back to riding regular bicycles until the laws are in place!! These machines are causing hundreds of serious fires throughout the boroughs . And whoever thought of using “vacant storefronts” must be out of their mind!! Does this person realize the danger this poses to the tenants who live about the vacant storefronts? Where oh where has common sense gone!
This is why I was shocked that Gale seemed to be nominally in favor of it, since she is the one leading the charge vis-a-vis all the fires – and injuries and deaths – being caused by charging these batteries. But the City wants to put a station that would charge a dozen or more of these batteries at the same time? Really?!?! What could POSSIBLY go wrong? Like a fire with acrid smoke in a public space traversed by hundreds of people per day. In a history of bad ideas, this may well be at the top.
I like the proposal. Opposition to it seems to be pure NIMBYism, unadulterated. There honestly isn’t a ton of existing road traffic imo here as northbound drivers keep going up Amsterdam and will turn towards Broadway at 75th or further uptown. (Though I’d love to see actual traffic counts of course.)
If there’s no government or community hand guiding where hubs like this are set up, they’ll spring up bottom-up and be harder to manage.
My family does not order delivery.
That said, there is a need for a facility – but not this obviously complicated dangerous location.
How about situating where there is space – such as 62nd Street, the north sidewalk at the edge of Damrosch Park/Lincoln Center which is spacious with few pedestrians?
Or 61st between Central Park and Broadway?
Or at a charging station that already exists in a garage?
Or around Gracie Mansion
I agree, Matt. There’s a real need for a facility, but that space is narrow, and it’s already impossible to maneuver in it when a train lets out – which is every few minutes. There are better options – like you suggested.
You know, I was confused about where this was. I was visualizing the LPQ location, not the point of the prow here. Article was clear on this; my mistake.
It still makes sense to me, but would have to be paired with some traffic calming & reallocation of road space away from cars. Otherwise deliveristas aimed at the hub and pedestrians coming to/from the subway will be fighting for the same scraps of space, I agree.
It’s doable, though! The CB recommendation makes me think of that Simpsons line “we have tried nothing, and we’re all out of ideas.”
Why do you keep focusing on “existing road traffic” and “traffic calming,” when the issue is not CARS and VEHICULAR traffic, but the pedestrian traffic that crosses that point every day? Hundreds, possibly thousands of people. It is THEY who would be most at risk if a battery blew up, or a fire started. You seem not to take this into account. ???
You must know that the avenues are critical bus routes as well.
There is no way to reduce street space without complete gridlock.
No reason to locate this facility here.
Road traffic, eh? Yeah, there better be little road traffic in front of the pedestrian entrance of a busy train station. But no, let’s block that entrance with a few dozen bikes and trash, just in case we ever need to evacuate the station. And have those bikers jet in and out of the space into traffic at will as they’re prone to do.
When you claim the moral high ground of distributing labels on others, consider using basic logic first.
It’s not just road traffic but pedestrian traffic coming out of the subway. There are already a ton of people going into and out of the subway at that entrance, adding bikes to the mix is a recipe for accidents. Due to the fencing off of the triangle, the bikes would have to enter and exit the same narrow space that people are. Even if all of the delivery people got off and walked their bikes into the triangle (which let’s face it, isn’t likely), it would still just cause a traffic jam. Not to mention crossing Broadway to get into the triangle to begin with can be risky, adding a bunch of e-bikes to the mix isn’t safe. I’m not against a hub in general, but this is not the place for it. Since they are on e-bikes, it can be slightly off the beaten path, where there isn’t as much pedestrian traffic.
Wouldn’t the former coffee shop in Verdi square have made more sense?
Just to be clear — the CB7 opposition to this ultimately has no bearing on whether it proceeds, right? I mean, other than that the deciding government agency will “take it under advisement”?
Community Board resolutions are advisory only. City agencies can accept or reject them. It has always been so. In a “good” City government, the agencies do put more weight on local feedback and CB resolutions. At other times, you may as well spit into the wind.
Correct, these CB meetings frequently take hours when the average person has other responsibilities to attend to and then the proposals have no bearing on what happens.
These giant companies are squeezing both the workers while they make billions. They should be paying for their own damn infrastructure – and not STEALING the precious public spaces from taxpayers. In addition, I wholly agree that this location is a catastrophe waiting to happen for pedestrians. How many more people will get run over at this busying crossing? Vision Zero ? I don’t thinks so.
Totally warming to the suggestion that every delivery company, or a coalition of them should rent storefronts or similar and provide bike charging, bathrooms, respite/ break areas for their contractors.
There is definitely a need…
Everyone loves the delivery service, but no one wants to give the low paid drivers any facilities.
I disagree. Everyone doesn’t love or use delivery services. Perhaps n those who do should foot the bill for a charging station. No need to use s crowded subway entrance.
A perfect example of how quality-of-life issues are being driven from the bottom up rather than top down. Instead of enforcing basic traffic laws (top down), we are building a culture driven by individuals who, while deservedly trying to make a living, are endangering law-abiding pedestrians through their reckless behavior on unregulated e-bikes. My sympathy for their economic plight takes a back seat to the need to have a decent level of enforcement of existing laws that are meant to protect the public.
Why are these delivery drivers allowed to be paid so much less than minimum wage? I know they get tips but Googling shows me tipped service workers minimum is $11.85
Actually there’s’ an informal stop for deliverypeople at the coffee cart behind Apple Bank, NW corner of West 73rd St. and Amsterdam — cart owners have put out very small table and couple of high chairs for temporary use by customers; many deliverymen can be seen there daily. maybe cart people should get something of funds to pay for that furniture. seems to work well. Invite Chuck and Eric to visit…
Who manages the site and will there be penalties for misuse of the site by individuals? It’s complicated. The foot traffic alone at the subway stop would pose problems for e-bikes. Who has the right of way, for example? The issues of congestion – foot v bike, plus two busy intersections at 71st and 72nd , put me in mind of the 96th St stop and the accidents that have occurred there.
Drones and AI robots are coming sooner than you think, perhaps in a few years. They will eventually render delivery bikers obsolete. It is simply more efficient and cost-effective to use machines instead of humans for delivery purposes. They will be faster, more accurate, and cheaper than human delivery bikers. I think this will be a major change in our society as I already work with them. I am excited to see how it will impact the way we live our lives.
I am curious to see a drone or AI robot deliver green curry tofu to my 3rd floor walkup.
Wherever this would have been proposed, there would have been opposition. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “already too congested” at a CB meeting, I’d be living in a penthouse right now. It’s code for “we don’t want change and we don’t want those people/outsiders/anyone else” — even if, in this case, we’re just talking about a handful of immigrant delivery workers re-charging their bikes in unused space in a public plaza. One hopes City officials understand this very familiar resistance to change and will proceed with the planned project.
How can you call this space unused? The newsstand is unused but the triangle is very much in use. Would the charging station and bikes and the waiting drivers take up only the square footage of the newsstand? We don’t know. There is no actual proposal, no drawinggs, no estimates of usage.
I, for one, am glad. They should put it back to being a newsstand. What is all this delivery hub nonsense about? I’ve never heard of such a thing. You pick up the phone, place your order, and they deliver. What hub? The world has gone mad in my opinion.
“You pick up the phone, place your order, and they deliver.” Unbelievable. Do you have any idea that it is actual human beings who deliver your food to you? “They deliver” – exactly, and these brown immigrants should then just disappear after getting your precious food to you on time – they are not allowed to have any needs or be considered worthy of any consideration.
And, BTW, there is a de facto staging area between 71st and 70th Street on the downtown side of Broadway where trucks are being loaded and unloaded with packages that are clearly going to be delivered in that neighborhood. I walk down this block several times a week so it’s not a one time fluke. This is just one more spot where they set up regularly with impunity. I don’t remember if it’s Whole Foods or Amazon or one of the services like FedEx or UPS but somebody is using that and there’s a big truck idling for hours at a time and lots of gigantic plastic bins that are holding all of these Goods to be delivered. Why don’t you write about that?
Now that’s a good place to put this hub.
It is FreshDirect.
They also used to have their truck there with the engine running, fumes all over.
I’m all for for a hub for underpaid overworked delivery people. But definitely not there.
What about some space in Riverside Park or Central Park.
If we can make room for dogs, etc. we can make room for the delivery drivers which will get them off the streeets when not working
Why should we give up some.of our parkland so that the employers of these delivery people don’t have it rent space and solve their own problem?
In ref to: The consensus was the proposed hub “would make a dangerous intersection even worse.”
I was knocked down in the middle of Broadway by a cyclist who sped off the sidewalk and into the street in front of an oncoming bus. He obviously had no regard for safety, but luckily for both of us the bus was able to stop. That was 8 years ago. I’ve heard of similar incidents happening on Broadway btwn 68-72, but I’ve never once heard anything about improving conditions at that ‘dangerous intersection.’ Why not focus on that situation instead quibbling over whether or not there should be a charging hub?!
Let’s not forget there’s a big bicycle hub barely a block away right in front of McDonald’s on 70th St., where there have been incidents of bad behavior, fights and even crimes that have not yet been contained. You can barely walk or navigate there safely, and Councilmember Gale Brewer even visited and commented on this problem area in the recent past. So how is this not going to spill over on both sides of the street?
I do not understand why it is not the responsibility of the delivery companies to get together and rent one of the MANY vacant storefronts in the neighborhood. They could have a storefront every 25 blocks easily, with restrooms and electricity already available. It makes no sense to me for the City to subsidize these stations. Yes, I think they are a good idea, for the sake of the workers, but they should be paid for by the delivery companies who contract with the workers. Seems to make sense that each restaurant that uses the services also chips in something towards these storefronts. Using City property goes against all logic.
Goodbye Hub….Hello ebikes and cannabis under every scaffold throughout the UWS!!!!!
How would a hub stop that from happening?
I’ve lived on the UWS for most of my life. I must say that I find it utterly amazing that NO ONE has addressed in any meaningful way how dangerous those riding motorized bikes, mopeds, etc. are to our pedestrians! I know I have narrowly avoided them coming at me on the sidewalk on CPW, almost hitting me going the wrong way on Broadway when I am crossing legally in a crosswalk! There is absolutely no regulation of these riders as if they have special dispensation by the City and the NYPD. They are also unlicensed, unregistered and uninsured as they are rushing through lights and are quite menacing.
I want to make clear that I have written half a dozen letters to Gale Brewer, Shaun Abreu, the Mayor and CB7 on this not to get a single reply. And yet here we have major resources of the city uniting to create charging stations with federal and state monies in a public pedestrian plaza ignoring those who have been killed and injured.
The lithium batteries catching fire is another major danger that is real-not imagined. How can we proceed to designate a charging station in the middle of one of the busiest traffic areas the UWS without addressing these battery fires and the fact that batteries which are not U/L approved are being used frequently?
This is so putting the cart before the horse. While the deliveristas certainly serve a purpose in NYC they are being exploited by the corporations they are working for who should be providing them with charging stations, bathrooms and a decent wage.
I increasingly wonder if tax-paying pedestrians have any rights at all in this city. Maybe we need to form a union.
Good. We dont need that hub.
A serious question (and not intended to be leading): Is there any reason that the stretch of street just to the west of this island wouldn’t be considered for this hub? I mean on the downtown side, in front of the McDonalds, Little Italy, Starbucks etc.
That space already has a sizeable bike rack and while it does get significant pedestrian traffic, it’s wider and much less of a bottleneck.
I realize that may not be ideal either, but if this hub is inevitable then … why not there?
Did any delivery workers speak? Did the community board attempt to reach out to them or just hold a meeting when most of them are working and unable to attend? Why was the sign advertising the meeting posted on the newsstand in English only? It feels like the community board only represents a narrow slice of the community and is not making much of an attempt to include the people who can’t take two hours out of a weeknight to have their voice heard.
Per the article, the Workers Justice Project attended.
Presumably they could have advised the delivery workers they are representing?.
BTW I only heard of this issue because of WSR – had not seen any other mention.
Changing topics a bit, are you also aware that Amazon and other gig e-commerce delivery workers are also working in the cold, have no bathroom resources etc?