Crown Heights Debates Bike Parking on Franklin

A bike corral that takes up one parking space on the street on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights has sparked a heated debate, reported The New York Times. The bike parking, which sits in front of the cafe Little Zelda, was installed there at the request of the owners of the cafe. They went through the standard approval process, including asking permission of the community board. But now longtime residents and other retailers on the street say they were not consulted. The corral, which has become a symbol of newcomers and gentrification, according to the article, will be a topic on the agenda of a town-hall meeting next month planned by the Crow Hill Community Association.
Parking Spot Causes Fight (No Drivers Are Involved) [NY Times]
Photo by Amy Sara Clark for Prospect Heights Patch

51 Comment

  • parking for one car —-> parking for several bikes. what’s the problem?

  • dnk

    The article says that the corral “has become a symbol of newcomers and gentrification” —– this is just plain silly. Gentrification? Yuppies moving in and mowing down the locals in their fancy Audis and BMWs and…. oh yeah, their bicycles.

    I use my bike to get just about anywhere in NYC, including daily commute from home in Brooklyn to work in midtown Manhattan (I doubt I fit anyone’s profile of newcomer — I’m well into middle age, lived in NYC for most of my life). The bike allows me to patronize businesses much more than I would ordinarily be able to if I had to rely upon public transpo (often a nuisance for getting from Point A to Point B within Brooklyn) or on a car (parking nightmare).

    Allowing 8 bikes to lock up within a single (“auto”) parking spot is good for business. Whoever the “old timers” are that are whining about this should wake up…

    • megazoid

      Completely agree (I’m also heavily reliant on my bicycle and I don’t have a car). The only exception I can see is based on my experience with my neighbors in Bed-Stuy – most of the houses on my block have elderly members which depend on car transportation or Access-a-ride. For these folks every parking spot counts and losing these spaces makes them less likely to go out of the house and has a big impact on their lifestyle. As for me, I never have problems finding a place to chain my bike to, so in the grand scheme of things gaining a new bike rack might be less valuable than losing a car spot.

    • No they should ride by and throw paint on em. You folk have no respect

  • dittoburg

    Part of President Obama’s class warfare plan to distract us while he tries to turn us into an Islamic Scandanavian communist state with medical help to whomever needs it. Or another of billionaire Bloomberg’s get-rich-quick schemes from his investments in designer-bike rack manufacturing companies. Or a bunch of people complaining that they didn’t hear anything about this at the community board meeting they didn’t go to.

    • expert_textpert

      This is clearly a result of Obama’s blatant class warfare. Cyclists are a small percentage of motorists, but yet they’re GIVEN lanes and bike corrals. When will his socialist agenda end? Those parking spots should be reserved for the 1% that pay the majority of taxes in this country.
      - DIBS

  • It’s1 parking space for chissakes! And in many intersections, that spot is marked ‘no standing’ for visiblity/access reasons, which many people want (more visibility, that is.) So it’s a win-win.

  • According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, fewer than a third of households in this neighborhood own cars, and just 12% of people commute by car.

    This is a bunch of cranky people with nothing better to do and no real understanding of their neighbors wanting to preserve the special privilege of free, on-street parking.

  • BoerumHill

    Bikes and breeders.

    Mr. B knows which side his bread is buttered on.

  • This isn’t about losing a parking spot. It’s about race, I mean “gentrification”. I drive and park around here and it’s not an issue. You find a parking spot in seconds.

  • expert_textpert

    By the looks of it, you can get TWO cars in there.

  • daveinbedstuy

    “This isn’t about losing a parking spot. It’s about race, I mean “gentrification”.”

    So let me try and understand. The longtime residents (code for blacks?) all own cars and the lowlife scum nere-do-wells (code for hipsrters) gentrifiers only own bicycles????? I’d be pissed if that sort of element was coming into my neighborhood as well.

  • It definitely looks like two spaces.

    What is that thing behind the fence at the sidewalk on the left? Trash cans? I don’t think code allows placing a permanent trash can or dumpster on the sidewalk. That looks like a better spot for bike parking.

    While there may be extra parking in this particular area, I think that lack of parking hurts store owners, especially as concerns delivery, and it hurts the frail. Otherwise, many people who drive should take public transport, walk or bike.

  • mrsmansonmingott

    Losing a parking space to cyclists is racist? I thought we were in a post-racial America? Is our utopian paradise so fragile that a few bikes can tear it apart?

  • CB8 has an interesting mixture of people, as it spans Crown Heights North and Prospect Heights, two very different neighborhoods with different needs, and certainly different demographics. Interestingly enough, most of the people on the planning board and in leadership positions are from Crown Heights. They are old timers, homeowners from way back, who take the time to be on this board, and in committees, because they know that if they are not actively guiding the inevitable spread of gentrification, they will be run over by it.

    That doesn’t mean they oppose every new change that comes along. They’ve (I can’t say we anymore) been trying to get new businesses to invest in Crown Heights for decades, and if it takes a mass influx of young, mostly white kids moving in to get some action going, then that’s what you work with. We also patronize these shops,bars and restaurants, and are happy to have establishments within walking distance at last.

    Not every business on Franklin Avenue is white owned, either. Lily and Fig is black owned, Breukelin Coffee Shop, and others are proudly minority owned. Everyone wants the same thing, to be able to have a successful business, and make money. It’s really hard, and some of the other new and old black owned businesses on these blocks have failed. The same can be said for similar white owned businesses. The market is fickle, and unless you build a steady customer base, no matter what kind of business, you aren’t going to make it.

    I think what dittoburg said was right, a lot of people are upset about this because they didn’t go to any of the meetings where these things are discussed. I know some of the people mentioned in the Times articles, and I also know the people who tend to show up at landmarking meetings, and other community forums, always upset because someone else took the bull by the horns and did something. But are they going to get off their butts and do anything? No.

    • MM – interesting post. Do you think some of the black-owned businesses who don’t seem happy about this are reacting to the sense that to install something for bicycles is preferential to white business owners? I guess I could see that on a surface level. But digging deeper, when it’s one parking space that represents 8 potential new customers who might not go over to Franklin at all otherwise…it seems to me the cost/benefit analysis should lead all merchants to support it.

    • This is exactly what i keep saying about this Every. Time. I. Read. It. (this has been going on for how long now?)
      If you want to be part of how the neighborhood is shaped then show up don’t just complain about it after the fact and say no one asked you.
      What is this handful of people who are trying to steer the neighborhood into a livable direction supposed to do? Go door-to-door to ask what each person thinks?

      • That is what some of the people who are upset about this seem to think. I would guess that when Michael and Kate petitioned for the bike parking they had no idea anyone would care much about it, and therefore didn’t take the trouble to petition outside of the cafe — they got the signatures they needed and then pursued the appropriate process with the community board. Really, who could have predicted this firestorm over ONE PARKING SPACE? Now that the firestorm has happened (due largely to the efforts of two people to drum up resentment among others) it is too late for the perceived slight to be remedied.

        I’m just thinking now about how no one came to my door to ask me how I felt before they moved a bus stop directly across the street from my house. Sometimes people waiting for the bus are noisy, and it removed parking convenient to me, but I accept that I need to share DOT real estate with public transit (and bikes).

      • “What is this handful of people who are trying to steer the neighborhood into a livable direction …”

        So Crown Heights wasn’t “livable” until this specific handful of people arrived?! It’s this very perception of the neighborhood that has longtime residents at odds with gentrifiers. Obviously Crown Heights was good enough to move there and existed for decades as a viable neighborhood before now, but all of a sudden it isn’t livable. If that’s truly the case, then either don’t move there or when you do, don’t try to fix what isn’t broken.

        • I didn’t take landry’s comment quite as harshly, and God knows I’m oversensitive to anti-Crown Heights comments. But you are certainly correct. Crown Heights has been a stable working class community, in spite of poverty, crime and other social ills, for generations. The blocks so in demand around Franklin wouldn’t be in demand otherwise, and neither would the rest of the neighborhood.

          In the long run, it behooves everyone if we can figure out how old and new can co-exist, as both need the other for continued success.

        • dnk

          I’m pretty sure that by “steer[ing] the neighborhood into a livable direction,” landry was referring to the “Livable Streets” movement. It’s a term coined by urban designer Donald Appleyard some 30 years ago and the aim of the movement is to reduce the number of cars on city streets and to increase the amount of pedestrian traffic, neighborly interaction, bicycles, and yes even kids playing outside in urban areas. So in this context, trying to get Crown Heights more “livable” is not in any way to denigrate the character of the neighborhood. The same effort is being made all over.

          It’s a shame that in the three decades since the term was introduced —- in fact, check that. It’s been more like 60 years, with activists like Jane Jacobs advocating for the same thing —- it is a shame that in all this time, people are getting so worked up over a couple of bike racks and a parking spot. Seriously? Less than half the people in this neighborhood even own a car.

  • yeah! and why wasn’t i consulted when my neighbor decided to buy a car and park it in front of my house all the time. nobody asked me!

    i mean, i get it. the community board is an imperfect mechanism, limited in part by funding. every month, they approve liquor licenses “without consulting” everyone, and often with input from no one other than from the business owners and the CB. bloomberg shuts down local schools and replaces them with his pals’ charter schools without consulting the community all the time – at least 4 such proposed changes in crown heights over the past year. That some folks are focusing on the bike corral makes it plain that the supposed outrage has far less to do with process – which was fine here, totally typical, totally public and transparent, and really the only way the City can function – than it does with hurt feelings. Probably an equal measure of NIMBYism, too.

    the community meeting sounds like a step in the right direction. more comminication is always better, but i am sure that you will have people for whom, it becomes clear, no amount of communication will be enough. (and, surely on the other side, people who will not be willing to compromise in order to assuage understandable feelings of disenfranchisement.) my favorite part is the lady who **is on the Community Board** **and voted for the rack** and is now complaining that she wasn’t consulted? what to do with that??

    • Phed, I know the woman in question, and that is typical of her. Thank a reporter’s inherent ability to find that one person on the entire CB who would make a statement like that.

      This really isn’t about race, it’s about class. There are plenty of black people, old and new, who frequent these establishments, and as I said earlier, own them. For what it’s worth, I also see more and more middle-aged, as well as younger, black folks riding bikes in the community, myself among them, and there have been people around here riding bikes long before the first young white hipster chained his bike to a lamppost.

      But class is the bigger divide than race here. Just down the street from all of these shops, right on Franklin, are low income apartment buildings, some of which have had a lot of problems because the landlords see the future, and it doesn’t include poor people in their buildings. Poor services, rent control problems, and the usual pattern of making it so bad that people will leave, these issues have also come up before the CB, as well as with other Crown Heights community groups. Ditto for a lot of the apartment blocks around this gentrifying area.

      I fully understand why these people feel they are not included, or are not wanted. I understand why they are angry, and feel hopelessly without control of their futures. This is a fight that’s not even begun, but the store owners are not the ones causing the battle.

      • I get the general dynamic and the larger context, absolutely. But with respect to this corral as a “symbol,” it seemed from the coverage that the people who are leading the charge are actually middle class, including some longtime owners of large rental buildings and businesses (e.g., Lily & Fig complained). Is that not true? Or is it your perception that they believe they are representing the interests of the poorer folks?

        • I think this may be of an example of the larger context (fear of displacement — physical and cultural) overrunning the actual issue at hand. It really doesn’t make sense for a class issue to pit poorer people against bicycle parking in favor of car parking. But then, I don’t think it makes sense, in terms of self-interest, for working class people to vote Republican, but many of them do.

  • East New York

    Yeah as long as they went through CB8 and had it approved, there shouldn’t be a beef. On a block as long as Franklin it shouldn’t be a big deal.

  • This is all part of the people believing that, as a result of being in the neighborhood for a long time, that they must be consulted before “bad” changes occur.

    Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. People only need to involve others as required by the law. It works both ways,

  • You should check out the thread on Brooklynian. This was started by a commentor named choleroyale who was outraged at the loss of this parking spot because her husband is disabled. She seems to have a real big chip on her shoulder and I find her to be racist in a good deal of her posts towards whites. You never see her post her about her outrage on threads regarding crime and shootings but god forbid a bunch of biking riding young people have a bike parking spot and she flips out. She makes veiled threats to a lot of the posters on Brooklynian.

  • miami_residence_realty

    We should be catering to the public. And if the public likes to ride their bikes, and obviously they do, what’s the problem? What makes more sense: A customer or two in one vehicle, or from the looks of it, three or four customers on bikes? City planners will have to take the biking community and its need for parking into consideration before constructing commercial property in the future.

  • Depending how you define race, this about way more.

    The new comers are different in that they OFTEN don’t have have children, are younger, are more educated, have a higher income, don’t have mortgages, are somewhat transient, are new to NYC, like different food, enjoy beer more

    …and, some of them like to park their bikes near coffee shops.

  • Hopefully CB8 sees beyond the xenophobia and thinly veiled racism that is going on here and will continue to do what is right to affect positive change in Crown Heights. I am very disappointed in the attitude of Lily & Fig’s owner, a business that didn’t even exist before gentrification started in the area, and am just embarassed by Diana Foster.

  • Plus with bikes the turnover for customers will be higher. This stretch of Franklin doesn’t have parking meters so the space ends up being free parking for an area resident that will only move the for alternative side of the street cleaning.

  • The bike rack is objectively a good thing for the neighborhood. But it’s problematic symbolically. As are all things in Crown Heights, Bed Stuy, etc., that ultimately attract more young white people. I can understand why people who have been in the neighborhood forever would feel affronted by the changes, but I don’t know what the solution is. I’m white, and I would frankly feel similarly if the neighborhood where I spent my whole life were suddenly overrun by people from a different culture from my own. It would be alienating. And that’s without any of the historical reasons that black people in particular have good reason to feel resentful about gentrification.

    I do think that the coffee shop owners, perversely, ought to be grateful for this experience. Now they know what a lot of people in the community are thinking about them and their business but rarely voicing. The bike rack just gave people a socially acceptable canvass on which to project their frustrations with the larger changes in the area.

  • I wonder how long the NYT photographer had to wait for that fixie with a Brooks saddle to roll up to complete their hipster-baiting mise-en-scene.

  • East New York

    “I wonder how long the NYT photographer had to wait for that fixie with a Brooks saddle to roll up to complete their hipster-baiting mise-en-scene.”

    Probably not long.

  • While I understand the anxiety fueling this debate. The irony to me of calling it a class issue is that I think of owning a car in New York City as a luxury few can afford and that making more bike parking would actually be serving a wider demographic.

  • pierre de taille

    This seems like a classic case of envy and jealousy being masked into a concern for parking space!

  • why not install them nearest the store front or closer to the curb? It would not hamper pedestrian traffic, and allow all to coexist. Just seems like a deliberate push back on cars, I thought about one in front of my store until I realized it was going in the street.

    • We asked DOT to install racks all up and down Franklin in 2012 and we did not get any new racks. The rules for placement of a rack on the sidewalk make it difficult. They are too numerous to mention here. Besides, bikes should be parked on the street to leave more room for pedestrians. Franklin Ave is a very busy corridor for walkers to and from the subway.

  • Cyclists can be inconsiderate. Bicycles do not belong in hallways where they pose risks. How many bikers have taken a look at the wall damage in common areas they’ve done

  • This is why we don’t want your hipster asses in bed stuy. The other names can’t be wrong about you. Stay out!

  • Why can’t you just move in and chill?

  • Why must whites always alter tragically wherever you go?

  • I only wonder why are these bike racks in the street, rather than on the sidewalk, like everywhere else I’ve seen them in this city?

    • The idea is to leave more room for pedestrians on the sidewalk. This is about the allocation of the public right of way among different user groups: peds, cyclists, and drivers. Here, space for one car has been reallocated for several bikes, rather than taking away pedestrian space for the bike parking. To me, that makes a lot of sense. And I have a car that I park on the street, and keep my bike in my basement.