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Jim Walden: Bike Advocate

October 15, 2013

Jim Walden is back in court, this time using his stand-up comedy talents legal acumen to fight a Citi Bike rack in SoHo:

“Funny, you have a duck, and you know it’s a duck because it walks like a duck, it talks like a duck, it introduced itself as a duck, and it’s wearing a T-shirt saying, ‘I am a duck,’ with a corporate logo emblazoned on it,” Walden said, extending the metaphor, “This is not a cow.”

The courtroom, packed with activists who oppose the rack’s placement in Petrosino Square, a triangular sliver of parkland between Lafayette and Centre streets just south of Spring Street, erupted in laughter.

Measuring less than a third of an acre, Petrosino Square is “a park that is too small for cycling,” Walden told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern.

The park has traditionally been used to showcase art installations.

Walden argued that the fee structure — which allows free rides for subscribers cycling for limited time periods — is geared toward commuters, not bikers out on joy rides.

How a judge may rule in this case is anyone’s guess, but I’m not concerned. Walden may win this battle, but he’s already lost the larger war. Why? In 2010 his pro bono clients argued that because few people use bikes for transportation the Prospect Park West bike lane should be moved inside Prospect Park. But fast forward to 2013: cycling has grown so much that the infamous lawyer for Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes is using the fact that bikes are for transportation as an argument against putting a bike share station in a park.

That’s progress.

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6 Comments
  1. The Age of Reason permalink
    October 16, 2013 9:43 am

    Walden – God bless him – is not “fighting a bike rack in SoHo”.

    He is fighting for the restoration of what had for thirty years a dedicated public art space until CitiBank took it over to rent bikes.
    Walden, if you had done your homework, recommended that DOT simply move the bike racks a few feet into the Lafayette Street roadway, just the way over 90% of the bike racks in the city are in the roadways.

    The real villain here is the arrogant Sadik-Khan, who is costing us taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses because she so stubbornly and arrogantly refused to simply just move the bike racks out of a park. She made a further ass of herself, when she claimed Petrosino Square is not a park, but “roadway”. Imagine all those people enjoying lunch and planting flowers in a roadway.

    Sorry, kids. Walden exposed in front of the world that your little friend, Empress Janette, is not wearing any clothes.

    • wkgreen permalink
      October 16, 2013 11:15 am

      I love public art as much as the next person and I’m not sure what all of this is about, or why exactly DOT can’t find space elsewhere. Perhaps it has something to do with the limits of adjacent streets and sidewalks for safe passage by cars and pedestrians when there is considerably more space in Petrosino. But you indicate that this piece of land has been used as art space for the last 30 years, but what’s missing here is any mention that it was doubled in size in a 2009 renovation to about 11,000 sq. ft.

      If they used this park for artwork display for 26 years when it was half the size, surely they can now find 600 sq. ft. (or thereabouts) for 33 bike share bikes in the present footprint and have something left over for art. It seems to me that it has hardly been destroyed for that purpose.

    • commonsense permalink
      October 16, 2013 2:12 pm

      Doesn’t a bicycle share station INCREASE pedestrian activity inside the park; therefore, creating greater opportunity for networking and inspiration for artist?

    • ADN permalink
      October 21, 2013 12:42 pm

      Oh, nonsense.

      Petrosino Square was a decrepit and neglected public space until livable streets advocates working under the rubric of the NYC Streets Renaissance Campaign pushed to fix it up in 2006 and Janette Sadik-Khan’s DOT vastly increased the size of the park in 2009. As noted by wkgreen above, even with the Citibike parking, there is still more space in Petrosino today than there was before 2009. There is still plenty of space in and around Petrosino Square for public art.

      And, sure, it’d be great to set aside even more street space in SoHo for public art and pedestrians-only. Why we allow cars to clog up Prince and Spring Streets on weekends is just completely baffling. The stretch of Lafayette that abuts Petrosino Square could easily be turned into a plaza. Only a very small number of cars taking a right turn off of Spring even use this stretch of street. Unfortunately the same folks who are opposing this Citibike station — Sean Sweeney’s SoHo Alliance, in particular — have also opposed efforts to make these kinds of pedestrian-friendly improvements in SoHo.

  2. October 16, 2013 10:39 am

    Thanks, Sean.

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