By Amanda Woods
Plans are in the works this summer to bring two Citi Bike docking stations to Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza across the street from the United Nations, a proposal that has generated both vigorous support and vocal opposition from people who live and work in the community.
This station is one of roughly 53 that are expected to come to Manhattan’s East Side between East 13th and 60th streets. Opponents are concerned that placing the stations, which would hold 74 bikes combined, in the plaza will take away from the character of the spot, a serene resting place in the midst of the city’s bustle. They fear that placing bike share stations there would create congestion and disrupt pedestrians in the plaza.
“It’s a plaza, not for heavy sport. It’s for people to have space to walk,” said Sherill Kazan, president of the Friends of Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. “If we have to run for our lives, who needs it? We’re supposed to try to make peace in other countries. Let’s have some peace here at home.”
Bruce A. Silberblatt, vice president and zoning, land use and transportation chairman of the Turtle Bay Association, also thinks the bikes would interrupt the natural feel of Dag Hammarskjöld.
“We worked very hard in the 1990s to get this thing created. It became an instant gathering space for the whole community,” Silberblatt said. “[This is] the potential destruction of a community centerpiece.”
He believes the Department of Transportation (DOT) hasn’t been clear about the number of bike share docks that will be placed in the plaza. Originally, according to Silberblatt, the DOT said that the largest station would have only 20 docks. But many of the proposed bike stations—including the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza one—are set to be far larger. Silberblatt would feel more comfortable with the stations, he said, if each held only 10 bikes.
Neither Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza nor anywhere in Turtle Bay is an appropriate place for large stations, as Silberblatt sees it.
“I can’t approve any big stands anywhere in our neighborhood,” Silberblatt said. “We are a primarily residential neighborhood. Our main priority right now is to keep Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza they way it is and not have it overrun by rental bicycles.”
Romeo Mizzaro, a local resident, sees another potential danger with placing the stations in the plaza.
“Do you see all the little kids over here?” he asked, pointing out that local schoolchildren often pass through the plaza. “There are kids in the park all the time—little kids—and it could be dangerous.”
But Ann Seligman, a local resident and member of Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee, doesn’t see the problem and believes that the bike share docks are a good fit for Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. The argument that the bikes would disrupt the plaza’s peaceful setting is not true, according to Seligman.
“I’ve been here about 15 years and I would not say it’s serene,” Seligman said. “It’s very nice, but it’s more bustling than serene.”
She also points out that the stations are portable and can be taken away on days that they may be too much of a nuisance.
“The first few days of the [U.N.] General Assembly, when Obama is in town, things get really hairy, and maybe they could remove them for one week,” Seligman said.
Others agree that the bike share would make Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza a buzzing place, but not necessarily a chaotic one.
“I wouldn’t think it would be a problem,” said Rich Ruderman, a local resident. “It’s a positive thing. It would bring more people around.”
Seligman believes that in this case, it’s important to give the bike share a chance and see how it goes.
“One of the things we can do in the city is try things, and if they don’t work, they don’t have to be there forever,” she said. “As an individual, it’s good to be open to trying new things.”
Trackback from your site.