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“No one ever spoke to me.”

January 15, 2013

Karen Granville who lives a few doors down from the Little Zelda cafe on Franklin Avenue, wants the bike corral in front of the shop gone.  Why?  For reasons mainly dealing with a loss of one car parking space and fears of gentrification, but also because she wasn’t told directly about at least two community board meetings that preceded its installation.

“I live in that community no one ever spoke to me,” Granville said at a Community Board 8 meeting last week.

This is a common complaint of opponents of livable streets.  It doesn’t matter that community boards post their schedules and agendas online and make them available through a number of other channels for those with limited web access.  Never mind that it would be an unreasonable burden for any state or city agency to notify all affected parties over every single project.  The community process, as a friend once told me, begins when “I” hear about it.

Here’s Louise Hainline [PDF] in 2010, writing three years after the lengthy community-driven process that preceded the installation of the Prospect Park West bike lane:

…the community has been strangely left out. I don’t know who the City Council speaks with, but there was no warning to any of the buildings on PPW about this, and as president of the coop at 9 PPW, I probably should have received something.

And, of course, a very recent example comes from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who admitted that DOT worked at the request of Community Board 4 to install bike lanes in Chelsea while failing one crucial test:

“It was put in on ninth avenue without notification to my office, and I was speaker at the time.”

I always take comfort in the fact that while the arguments for complete streets are many, the arguments and tactics used to stop such changes are few.  Of all the reasons one might use to remove a bike corral, “no one ever spoke to me” seems like the worst.  Democracy requires participation.

If I’m leaving out any other notable examples of people who claimed ignorance about a very public process, please leave them in the comments.

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5 Comments
  1. January 15, 2013 11:43 pm

    The comments over at Patch are heartening, especially the people who don’t cycle cheering on bike corrals because they help keep sidewalks clear. They also make it easier to cross the street. That regular New Yorkers are voicing support for street improvements without the usual cynicism and behavioral axe grinding seems like a very good sign.

    Also have you noticed how many people are cycling right now? It’s like January 1 was April 1.

    • January 16, 2013 9:31 am

      I agree. People are starting to see the logic of these improvements, which is great.

      And, man oh man, are cycling levels high. Even with today’s gloomy weather I saw a lot more people commuting than I normally do.

  2. Hilda permalink
    January 16, 2013 12:55 pm

    This *need to be told personally* is being taken seriously however. DOT did door to door canvassing of residents to survey the Fowler Square Pedestrian Plaza. They literally knocked on doors around the pedestrian plaza area, and found upwards of 95% approval. What other government agency is required to do this as part of a data study, and when has there ever been 95% approval rating for anything in NYC?

  3. January 21, 2013 1:34 am

    Just as bad in the UK. People only seem interested if it affects them adversely or they think it does. Even if you do letter drop them, they moan that “this is the first I have heard of it” – yes, that is why we have written to you!

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