Brooklyn bike lane pitting residents against riders and city
NEW YORK — A group of well-connected New Yorkers has taken the unusual step of suing the city to remove a controversial bicycle lane in a wealthy neighborhood of Brooklyn, the most potent sign yet of opposition to the Bloomberg administration’s marquee campaign to remake the city’s streets.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, comes after a year of dueling petitions, pamphlets, and rallies over a bike path installed by the city last summer along Prospect Park West.
But while the suit seeks only the removal of that particular lane, it incorporates criticisms of the administration’s overall approach in carrying out the high-profile initiatives of its transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.
Transportation Department officials said Monday that they had not yet had a chance to fully review the lawsuit. But Seth Solomonow, a department spokesman said in an e-mail that the agency stood by the project’s success.
“This project has clearly delivered the benefits the community asked for,” Solomonow wrote. “Speeding is down dramatically, crashes are down, injuries are down and bike ridership has doubled on weekends and tripled on weekdays.”
Brad Lander, a City Council member whose district overlaps part of the lane, conducted a survey last year that found that more than 70 percent of Park Slope residents supported the lane, although only about half of residents on Prospect Park West were in favor.
“Most residents feel that Prospect Park West is now a calmer, safer street,” Lander said Monday. “People feel calmer on it as pedestrians, and of course, as cyclists.”
The opponents, however, disputed that safety had improved, and their suit argues that the department presented “deceptive” statistics. They also accuse transportation officials of ignoring required environmental reviews and subverting a public review process by presenting a full report on the lane only after the decision was made to make it permanent.
The opponents also produced e-mail correspondence that they sought to portray as an effort by the Transportation Department to coordinate criticism of the lane’s opponents.
The authors of the lawsuit contend that the city can be forced to remove the lane under a section of New York law that allows complaints against government actions deemed arbitrary or unfair.
“When people don’t like government decisions, this is the vehicle they use,” said Oscar G. Chase, a professor at New York University School of Law. “The basic idea is it’s a way of challenging government misbehavior.”