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“All we wanted was what we had.”

February 22, 2011

Credit: Zoe Schlanger/Gothamist

After reading the NBBL/SFS press release I was curious about some of the people quoted in it, especially Jasmine Melzer, who attributes a position to City Council members Christine Quinn and James Vacca that they do not have.  A quick Google search turned up a short article from the 3/31/1984 edition of the New York Times, titled NEW YORK DAY BY DAY; Of Precincts and Parking.

”It’s no picnic living in the city,” Jasmine Melzer said. ”This is a quality-of-life thing.”

Mrs. Melzer was talking about the right to double-park, a battle she and a group of other residents in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn have just won with the Police Department.

It started in January, when the police precinct boundaries were changed in Brooklyn. Mrs. Melzer and her neighbors were shifted from the 72d to the 78th Precinct, whose officers promptly began giving tickets to residents traditionally accustomed to double-parking.

Mrs. Melzer said it was an outrage because mothers couldn’t get their children to school and elderly people couldn’t get to the doctor if they had to park 10 blocks from home.

She organized a letter-writing campaign to the Mayor. The word filtered down to the precinct commander, Capt. Hugh Dunleavy, who agreed to ”enforcement with discretion.” His men, he said, would henceforth issue tickets only if someone was trapped at the curb by a double-parker.

”All we wanted,” said a pleased Mrs. Melzer, ”was what we had.”

“All we wanted was what we had.” If they ever make a documentary about the Great Bike Lane Battles of 2010 and 2011, I hope this is the title.

Twenty-seven years after fighting for the “right” to double-park, Melzer now lends her name to a press release that states, “When drivers need to drop off elderly and disabled passengers and local small businesses need to access their customers on PPW, traffic is reduced to a single lane.”  I guess you can file this under unintended consequences.

UPDATE: Here’s one from the comments.  In an April 2009 letter to the Brooklyn Paper, Melzer admits that she’s aware of PPW redesign proposals and agrees that traffic there “goes too fast.”

  1. Mike permalink
    February 22, 2011 1:37 pm

    Oh my god.

  2. Elise permalink
    February 22, 2011 2:27 pm

    There’s also this gem…

    She really cares about parking.

  3. February 22, 2011 4:02 pm

    Thanks for that one. The common theme seems to be that the NBBLers think “their” neighborhood was just fine, thank you very much, until some group of outsiders came along and ruined it, whether it’s a new police precinct, outsiders who want to park their cars, or bikers from elsewhere in Brooklyn. They do not seem to enjoy sharing.

  4. Jonathan R permalink
    February 22, 2011 4:16 pm

    One of the insightful Sadik-Khan quotes goes something about how streets are like consumer products and need to be given a new look from time to time. Apparently the ’84 fix was to allow double parking; why should it be this particular configuration that is canonized?

  5. Marty Barfowitz permalink
    February 22, 2011 10:38 pm

    Can’t these folks move to Florida already? Plenty of room for parking down there. And they probably won’t live long enough to experience what climate change has in store for the Sunshine State.

  6. February 22, 2011 11:20 pm

    Marty, when their front yards are flooded and FEMA tries to save them Jasmine Melzer will form Neighbors For Better Boat Docks and then claim that no one ever told them about this whole global warming thing.

    I wonder the same thing as you. If Melzer hates her neighborhood and neighbors so much, why doesn’t she just get the heck outta here?

  7. Dave 'Paco' Abraham permalink
    February 23, 2011 10:56 am

    “local small businesses need to access their customers on PPW, traffic is reduced to a single lane”… what businesses are on PPW? it’s just about all residential aside from the movie theater at the Pavilion where the bike lane ends. how do u claim its for easier access to businesses, when there aren’t any around?

  8. Jayco permalink
    February 23, 2011 11:27 am

    Melzer (she’s the lady on the right in the pic) must mean such local small businesses as FedEx and UPS which double park up and down PPW, blocking traffic. Who knows how they have suffered since the bike lane was put in????!??!

  9. BicyclesOnly permalink
    February 23, 2011 11:32 am

    Excellent bit of research–thanks for digging it up!

  10. February 23, 2011 11:34 am

    The degree to which this bike lane has exposed the suburban/urban divide within liberal Brooklyn is really interesting to me.

  11. Chris Mcnally permalink
    February 23, 2011 11:43 am

    They are right. when cars double park traffic backs up. In order to fix this problem we need the whole side of the street to be a no parking ‘loading zone’ from 7 am to 7pm . Then the delivery vehicles can park where they should be, at the curb. The senior can be dropped off at the doctors office and there won’t be any traffic.

    The problem is not the bike lane but the curb hogs who park there all day for free.

  12. February 23, 2011 12:27 pm

    If Melzer is the lady on the right, then she’s also the woman who asked Ryan Russo at the last CB6 meeting how a regular citizen such as herself could contact the DOT, suggesting that ordinary bike lane critics don’t have the leverage that the radical bike lobby has. Never mind that her group has Weinshall, Schumer, and Steisel working politicians, editors, and producers.

    I wonder if she knowingly lied about Quinn and Vacca’s positions on the so-called bike lane moratorium or if she was provided with false info by someone at NBBL and took it at face value. Neither option makes her look very good.

  13. February 23, 2011 10:46 pm

    Let’s be generous and say that Jasmine Melzer was 30 when this story was published. That would make her near 60 now, but she’s probably older. Lois Carswell is 78, according to a few reports where she’s quoted. Norman Steisel is pushing 70. Louise Hainline graduated from college in 1969. If she was 22 when she graduated she’d be about 64 right now. Marty Markowitz is 66. Chuck Schumer is around 60. Iris Weinshall is a spring chicken compared to them all at just 57 years old.

    How selfish to waste your golden years fighting against the future.

  14. mike permalink
    February 24, 2011 8:24 am

    NBBLer Jasmine Melzer admits PPW traffic “goes too fast”:

  15. February 24, 2011 8:36 am

    Great find!

    So there she is in 2009 saying on paper that she knows all about PSN, is a member of the PSCC, and is aware of petitions and the proposal for a street redesign. She wonders that April if there will be “public hearings where we will all have the opportunity to express our views.”

    Cut to two years later. She gets up at a January 2011 CB6 meeting to complain that the community did not have ample opportunity to provide input to the DOT and is a member of a group that claims the PPW project was more or less laid down in secrecy overnight. What happened?

    If she was so concerned about speeding traffic and the 78th precinct’s sudden lack of enforcement, why didn’t she volunteer with the PSCC to remount her successful letter writing campaign, which so decisively convinced the 78th that PPW residents had a right to double-park?

    Democracy requires participation, not just complaining.

  16. Marty Barfowitz permalink
    February 24, 2011 8:51 am

    Meanwhile the 4-year anniversary of Iris Weinshall’s last gasp attempt to turn Park Slope’s avenues into PPW-style one-way traffic movers is nearly upon us. You want some ironic entertainment? Dig up the data, analysis and justifications the Weinshall/Primeggia DOT used to try to jam that project down the community’s throat. 700 people showed up to a Community Board meeting to tell her to fuck off. I can’t believe she’s back for more.

  17. Jonathan R permalink
    February 24, 2011 9:20 am

    Judging from her 2009 letter to the Brooklyn Paper, Ms. Melzer also seems to be unaware that u-turns are legal on noncommercial streets in New York City.

  18. Jerisbad permalink
    February 24, 2011 1:38 pm

    If you think this a lack of consistency will stop NBBL from trotting Jasmine out whenever they need her, think again. They’re headed by Norman Steisel, who loves getting donuts in the middle of the night.

  19. Elise permalink
    February 24, 2011 1:56 pm

    She also doesn’t like people barbecuing in her park.

    Funny ’cause she was so concerned with all the people unloading barbecue stuff and what they’d do now that the bike lane had taken away some parking spots.

  20. February 24, 2011 2:17 pm

    This woman needs to move to the suburb she thinks Park Slope is.


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