CB2 Committee Approves “Additional” Prince/Bleecker Routes

The CB2 Traffic & Transportation Committee met at the LGBT Center on Tuesday. 

A crowded and often contentious Tuesday night meeting yielded a compromise on proposed bike lanes through Lower Manhattan, one some fear could come at a cost.

The Traffic & Transportation Committee of Community Board 2 voted 8-1 to recommend the DOT add bike lanes on routes parallel to Houston Street, mostly on Prince and Bleecker. The motion as passed defines the new routes as "additional interim" lanes, rather than "alternate" lanes, as committee members voted to "affirm support" for the DOT to eventually make Houston Street itself safer for cyclists and pedestrians. The motion also opposes construction of left-turn bays on Houston.

The hopeful language and intent of the committee’s motion are cold comfort to those who say cyclists will — and should — continue to use Houston, as it offers a fast, convenient and direct river-to-river route.

"All of you stood on Houston Street and promised a safe street for cyclists,"
said a Time’s Up! volunteer, a city employee who asked that her name not be printed. "Cyclists and pedestrians are going to die on Houston Street because you accept DOT’s plan."

Some spoke against the proposal not for the sake of cyclist or pedestrian safety, but because they don’t want to attract bike traffic to their streets, or don’t want to lose the 186 parking spots the Prince/Bleecker plan calls for removing.

David Gruber of the Carmine Street Block Association said "funneling" cyclists through narrower neighborhood streets would be "a real mistake."

"People have cars to park," Gruber said. "We’re overloaded with cars with just nowhere to go."

Village resident Wendy Dembo had an answer for that.

"This isn’t about free parking," Dembo said. "This is about commuting, biking and living in New York car-free."

For that reason, to many who want to see Houston Street brought under control, the DOT plan is a gift nonetheless. Supporters of the proposal, including Transportation Alternatives, believe an all-or-nothing campaign to tame Houston Street would be doomed as long as Michael Bloomberg remains mayor. They also cite the planned removal of on-street parking, and say that developing the Prince/Bleecker corridors will draw more cyclists to take to the streets, ideally leading to more pressure on DOT to finally calm Houston once the political climate becomes more favorable.

"With DOT you never get what you want at first, but you never give up," said TA Deputy Director of Advocacy Noah Budnick. "This isn’t the end of Houston Street."

Though none of them bemoaned the potential loss of parking, debate among committee members echoed much of the public comment, and included criticisms of "bogus" DOT studies and a call to physically block Houston Street "if that’s what it takes." After about a half-hour of heated discussion, the vote was cast.

The committee recommendation now moves to the full board.

Photo: Brad Aaron