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The More Things Change

March 17, 2014

In a story by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein with additional reporting by Kate Briquelet, the New York Post describes the extraordinary efforts to prevent a Citi Bike docking station from being installed in front of Manhattan’s Appellate Courthouse on 25th Street and Madison Avenue.

Susanna Rojas, the clerk of the court, “threw a tantrum” when she saw “No Parking” signs indicating the station would be placed just outside the courthouse doors, an insider told The Post.

The station would displace prime parking for Presiding Justice Luis Gonzalez — who has his space blocked off daily with orange cones by a court officer — and other workers.

Rojas ordered court officers to take down the Department of Transportation’s “No Parking” signs, the insider said. Then signs went up again across 25th Street from the courthouse.

While ordering officers of the court to remove legally installed traffic signs is an audacious move — not to mention the selfish entitlement of reserving an on-street parking spot for a private individual every day — give Susanna Rojas credit for admitting her motivations honestly. It’s rare that the true reason for most anti-bike sentiment shows up in a story like this, since it’s typically masked by false claims about safety or by the idea that bike lanes ruin the historic character of a New York City neighborhoodblock, or landmark.  If I had a nickel for every time someone claimed that bicycles “don’t fit the neighborhood,” I could afford to expand Citi Bike and rename it for myself.

Of course, later in the story this claim does come through from an unidentified employee of the court.

A court worker said the issue was less about lost parking spots than about the bright blue bikes emblazoned with the bank’s logo marring the look of the landmark courthouse.

“In this particular debate, the court is on the side of good, truth and justice,” the staffer said. “This is about desecration.”

“Desecration.”

Construction on the Appellate Courthouse building began in the mid to late 1890s. The building opened in 1899. Here’s a picture:

appellatecourthouse1899 (1)

Image via Daytonian in Manhattan

Note the brownstones that surround the courthouse on every side. But flash forward to 2014 and here’s what you’ll find:

appellatecourthouse2014

The brownstones are gone, replaced by office towers and high-rise apartment buildings. The streets now have traffic and pedestrian signals, parked cars, electric streetlights, and, of course a heavy dose of motor vehicles.

But at least there’s no Citi Bike station desecrating this 19th-century landmark.

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3 Comments
  1. Brian permalink
    March 18, 2014 8:25 pm

    Maybe the judge could bike to work! A bike station would hopefully increase foot traffic near the monument and thereby bring more attention to it. That skinny little sidewalk in front of the courthouse certainly doesn’t invoke a feeling of contemplative public space. If we are going to preserve something we need to let people slow down and enjoy it.

  2. Maris permalink
    March 19, 2014 10:01 am

    Love your blog. Alas, you missed the Rabinowitz shot. The last sentence should have been:
    “But at least there’s no Citi Bike station begriming this 19th-century landmark.”

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