Neighbors of an Upper East Side high-rise are outraged after a nearly block-long Citi Bike rack was installed in front of their building’s entrance this month, prompting serious safety concerns, especially for children and disabled and elderly residents.
“I’m frustrated, angry, I get a pit in my stomach when I walk outside,” resident Jenny Diamond told Upper East Site.
Located in front of 1438 Third Avenue between East 81st and 82nd Streets is a roughly 50-bike-long Citi Bike rack, blocking the residence’s entrance and forcing everyone to either walk to the ends of the block, 70 or 80 feet away for pickups by cars and school buses, or attempt to squeeze through or climb over it.
Between the rack and the curb is the newly unveiled extra-wide Third Avenue bike lane, adding to her fear that someone, including her 17-year-old daughter, will be injured trying to go to and from the building.
“It just makes me so mad and concerned for people who are not as able-bodied as I am.”
The 52-year-old mother can “shimmy” through the bikes when she catches a taxi or gets into a car but knows that others, especially those with strollers or using mobility aids, can’t.
“That was my first thought,” she said of the rack’s design lacking a gap directly in front of the building, like those that exist in other locations. “There’s just no common sense in this.”
Residents say it has been causing problems since it arrived on January 16th, and those affected feel ignored by the Department of Transportation, the city agency responsible for its placement.
After neighbors’ unease at the prospect of the bike rack was raised during Community Board 8’s Transportation Committee’s December meeting, DOT representative Colleen Chattergoon told anxious residents the agency would “explore it and monitor it and work with the building to do that,” referring to the possibility of a gap in the rack.
When Citi Bike installed the rack just over a month later, there was no gap.
The residents say the fix is simple, requiring the “removal of a section directly in front of the building, as they have done with other buildings, so that we can have access,” Diamond explained.
This space created between two racks would enable residents to get in and out of vehicles safely.
“We think it’s an easy solution,” she said.
Eleanor — a pseudonym to protect her privacy — worries for the safety of her developmentally disabled 14-year-old son, who rides the school bus.
In order to get to the bus or into and out of a car, she and her son must navigate the rack by either squeezing through it or walking to the end of the block and then back around right next to traffic to get into the waiting vehicles.
“[I’m scared of] getting hit by a car, getting hit by a bike, because there’s nowhere for us to stand!” the concerned mom fumed. “If I go to squeeze through [the rack], he’s nervous he’s not going to fit, and then I’m going to disappear… and he’s going to be stuck on the other side.” Though she acknowledged this would never happen, she explained that it’s proven to be a significant source of distress for her son.
Donna, another resident, lives with her 96-year-old mother, who has dementia. Due to her age and condition, she cannot climb through or over the rack and must walk to either end of the block to get into a car. Her daughter is terrified that this extra walking, especially during winter with the threat of sleet and black ice, will result in an injury.
“There should be no reason for my mom to have to walk to the corner to take a taxi or any kind of transportation,” Donna, also a pseudonym, said. “It’s just not safe.”
She feels “pissed and also disrespected. We’re being disrespected as residents of our building.”
Despite the calls Donna has made to Chattergoon — they all go to voicemail, she said — the email she sent to Citi Bike, and the complaints made by other residents to DOT, Lyft — Citi Bike’s owner — and the office of local Council Member Keith Powers, which Diamond said has been responsive, nothing has been done. “We’re being ignored,” Donna asserted, voicing the sentiments of other residents.
“The next step will be the congressman or the mayor,” Donna said. “Somebody needs to help us!”