By Alissa Fleck and Paul Bisceglio
Public outcry has prompted the Department of Transportation (DOT) and CitiBank to decide against installing one of their forthcoming 600 Citi Bike rental stations in Father Fagan Park, a small public square at the corner of Prince Street and Sixth Avenue in Soho.
Citizens banded together with the SoHo Alliance and Community Board 2 to oppose the installation on the grounds that the neighborhood’s green space is already limited and that a commercial presence would disrespect the park’s status as a memorial. The park is named for Father Richard Fagan, a former member of nearby St. Anthony’s Church who gave his life in a rectory fire while rescuing two people. Three pear trees in the park commemorate three firefighters who died while extinguishing the 1994 blaze.
The DOT was at first reluctant to relocate the station. According to SoHo Alliance Director Sean Sweeney, two separate DOT officers made it clear to the Alliance in emails a few weeks ago that they had no intention of changing their plans. Later, the DOT said it would consider relocating the station after the park’s proposed $1.5 million reconstruction in two years.
The Soho community continued to pressure the DOT, however, and attracted media attention to the issue when Father Joe Lorenzo, a pastor at St. Anthony’s, spoke out against the installation, arguing that the rental station would cheapen the park’s meaning to the neighborhood.
Sweeney told Our Town Downtown, “It’s not just a park issue. It’s a matter of respect, of memorializing the community’s heroes.”
DOT representatives met with CB2 last Friday and, after discussion, agreed to find a different location for the bikes.
The new spot has yet to be announced, but CB2 suggested using a section of the alternate side parking on MacDougal Street or the sidewalk on Houston Street between MacDougal Street and Sixth Avenue.
“Soho is pleased that DOT has listened to our requests to preserve our park and respect our community members,” said the SoHo Alliance in a release.
This is not the first time a proposed Citi Bike placement has been met with vigorous opposition. Plans to install docking stations in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza across from the United Nations building were opposed because it would disrupt the atmosphere of the plaza and create unnecessary congestion.
Victoria Weil, president of Friends of Bogardus Garden, was also not happy about the station planned for the pedestrian plaza at Chambers and Reade streets that her group oversees. She told the Tribeca Trib she saw accidents on the horizon in the small, already cluttered space.
While the DOT spent months listening to community concerns, Kate Fillin-Yeh, director of the bike share program, told CB1 they were trying to install a station every 1,000 feet, which does not leave a lot of space for dissent.
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