Here’s What the NYPD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Its ‘No-Bell’ Crackdown

An NYPD lieutenant tells kids why some of them got tickets for not having bells. Photo: Terry Barentsen via YouTube.
An NYPD lieutenant tells kids why some of them got tickets for not having bells. Photo: Terry Barentsen via YouTube.

The NYPD has denied a Streetsblog freedom of information request seeking information about police officers’ targeted harassment against cyclists back in April — enforcement that stopped what police merely believed would be an unruly bike ride, the city’s top cop later admitted.

But police don’t want the public to know what led to the crackdown, which advocates charged was “punitive and racist.”

Dozens of armed officers swarmed Tompkins Square Park, and later Union Square Park, where riders were gathering for the sixth annual “Race and Bake” bike event on April 20 — a ride that had nothing to do with marijuana besides the pun, according to organizer Shardy Nieves.

Nieves ended up being arrested for a four-year-old open container warrant that was immediately dismissed by a Bronx judge. He said police showed him pages from his social media account, and indicated that they had stalked him to the event.

Police handed out tickets and even confiscated some kids’ bikes for not having bells on their bicycles — the latest crackdown against cyclists, many of them working men of color. The targeted enforcement enraged advocates who called out the de Blasio administration for having “misplaced priorities and racist policies,” though Hizzoner touts New York as “America’s fairest big city.”

The mayor declined to comment after the crackdown. But a few weeks later, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill confessed that he had deployed dozens of officers to stop the bike ride from happening — an apparent misuse of power to harass people for a crime they had not even committed, critics charged.

And even local pols were left scratching their heads as to why police would use so many resources to stop a bike ride before it happened and what led to the decision.

So on April 26, Streetsblog filed a Freedom of Information Law request seeking “NYPD communications … related to bike bell operations at Tompkins Square Park on April 20, 2019, and all correspondences related to officers assigned to Tompkins Square Park on April 20, 2019.” Our goal was to review the advance planning conducted by the NYPD before the operation.

On June 20, police denied the request, citing multiple reasons, including, “Such records/information would endanger the life or safety of any person”; “If disclosed, would reveal non-routine techniques and procedures;” “These records are sealed under court order, pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law Section 160.50 and can only be requested by the arrested person or their representative”; “Records/information are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not final agency policy or determinations.”

Streetsblog plans to appeal.