People from Carroll Gardens have a few more-or-less affectionate names for the newcomers who have washed up on their brownstone shores over the past few decades: yups (for “yuppies”), hipsters, even “liberals.”
And the metallic invaders might be the yuppiest thing yet.
They are traps for leaves and garbage. They are obstacles, inviting passersby to trip and fall. They are roadblocks, keeping delivery vans from making left hand turns. And, worst of all, they are hoarders of parking spots.
They are the storm gray Citi Bike stands.
With its recent expansion, Citi Bike has come to Carroll Gardens, where residents number the above among their long list of bike-related complaints.
It is an archetypical battle: cars vs. bikes. Tradition vs. change. A quick spin to the subway vs. an extra 20 minutes circling the block looking for a parking spot.
Cars vs. bikes
Parking spots have been sacrificed to the bike-share program.
City Council member Brad Lander said in a statement that there are between 25,000 and 30,000 parking spots in Community Board 6 — the area into which Citi Bike has just expanded. Across that area, Citi Bike now occupies 150-200 spots.
That’s less than a single percentage point, far outweighed by the benefits of the program — some 1,600 trips a day are being logged from the new stands, according to Lander’s statement.
Trip data analyzed by Ben Wellington, founder of open data analysis blog IQuantNY (also a Carroll Gardens resident, car owner and Citi Biker), shows that some 40 percent of September rides in the area stayed within the neighborhood. Those trips also included some 5,000 between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, not always a convenient subway ride.
But that’s all anathema to some of the longtime residents of neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens. They’ve been there for a while, are sometimes dependent on cars and objectively have a terrible time parking on the streets between the Gowanus Canal and the BQE.
The frustration found its champion last month in this gentleman who attended a community board meeting and tried to raise the subject — forcefully — ultimately shouting at board members and doing a pretty good De Niro impression.
Other residents were less vocal but just as opinionated. At another community board hearing addressing the bike-share program last week, more than 100 people showed up and 800 emailed suggestions, according to district manager Craig Hammerman.
In the next few weeks, Hammerman says the board will compile a report with suggestions that the NYC Department of Transportation has promised to consider. One of the most common? Relocate some stations from the street onto sidewalks.
Bridging the cultural divide
That may be enough to satisfy some of the immediate complaints. But it will only be a Band-Aid that covers the deeper cultural differences beyond parking spots.
At one of the neighborhood’s busiest stations on Carroll Street off Smith, some longtime residents said that bikes should be privately owned and stored in one’s apartment or hallway.
“You want to bike privately, go ahead,” said Ken Esposito, 78, adding that Citi Bikers should pay a $10 “road tax.” He thought bikers should pay tolls similar to how drivers contribute to road upkeep.
Biking is for the suburbs or country, said Linda Maresca, 56. Working as a crossing guard on the block, she nervously watched bikers speeding down Smith Street during the morning commute, sometimes not obeying red lights.
Yet the bikes were in high demand Friday afternoon. Often the docks were nearly empty, their bikes in use. Whenever one was dropped off, it was quickly claimed by a resident or visitor coming off the train or heading for errands. One, Beth Gibson, 45, said it was great not to worry about someone stealing your own bike.
Some bike riders who also owned cars acknowledged that the old-timers had a point about the neighborhood’s atrocious parking. But they’d never known any different.
Ahmed Hussein looked with curiosity at the Citi Bike station. Hussein, 40, and his family were new to the area and didn’t know the local feeling toward the bikes. When told that one concern was disappearing parking spots, he said, “Really?”
He counted off the four or so parking spaces that the bikes were taking up. In his opinion, it was worth it to exercise a little more, or contribute to an environmentally conscious city.
“Definitely good for the neighborhood,” he said.