“No one ever spoke to me.”
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.