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Franklin Aveneue bike rack reveals gentrification tensions in Crown Heights

Rack Rancor: new city bike rack reveals neighborhood tension in Crown Heights

The Brooklyn Paper

A bike rack occupying a parking spot on a bustling Crown Heights commercial strip has become a flashpoint for tensions over development in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

The Department of Transportation installed a bike corral — four bike racks that sit parallel in the street — in front of Little Zelda on Franklin Avenue in November after the new cafe’s owner worked with the city and the local community board to get bring one to the street, along with two planters, by agreeing to maintain it.

But the city didn’t consult longtime neighbors and local business owners about nixing the parking space, says a group that started a petition to remove the corral.

“What began as an offense has become more than just a bike corral,” said Constance Nugent-Miller, who has lived in the neighborhood since she immigrated from Jamaica in 1970.

The city installed the bike rack on a rapidly developing portion of Franklin Avenue where 52 new businesses have opened since 2008, and Nugent-Miller says it has become a symbol of one group of people moving in and disregarding another.

“It’s about communities not communicating with each other,” said Nugent-Miller, who gathered more than 200 signatures on a petition she started with neighbor Karen Granville. “One thing I noticed in this outreach was that the merchants who were African-American were clueless [about where the corral came from].”

Neighboring businesses confirmed that they weren’t approached by Little Zelda’s owners — or the city — about surrendering the parking space to cyclists.

“It’s good to have places to park your bike, but I have customers who come in cars too,” said Lily Johnson-Bibia, who owns the bakery Lily & Fig, across the street from the corral. “I support the effort to get it off the street; I would like bike racks on the sidewalk.”

But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a public process to bring the bike corral to Franklin Avenue.

Kate Blumm, who opened Little Zelda in March 2012 with her husband, went through the community board process to request the bike corral, which was unanimously voted through Board 8’s transportation committee and approved by the entire board in October after presentations by Blumm and the transportation department.

“That process is there for a reason, which is to make the community aware of what is going on in the neighborhood,” Blumm said. “I feel badly people weren’t aware, but we participated exactly because we wanted to have this discussion.”

Board 8’s transportation committee just reaffirmed its support for the rack with another unanimous vote last Tuesday in response to Nugent-Miller’s petition. A board spokeswoman said that the matter could come up for a vote again in front of the whole board, depending on the decision of chairwoman Nizjoni Granville and district manager Michelle George.

Bike corrals are a recent initiative for the transportation department, which has installed at least four on commercial streets in Brooklyn since 2011, to the delight of bicycle advocates.

Little Zelda started a counter-petition of its own to support the racks, posting it both in the store and online, and has more than 230 signatures online so far. But while Nugent-Miller collected her signatures among local residents and businesses, the pro-corral online petition includes supporters from places like Romania, Turkey, Netherlands and the Czech Republic — none of which are in biking distance of Crown Heights.

“That’s an issue,” said Nugent-Miller.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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Brooklynite from Crown Heights says:
The entire idea of a corral is abbsurd. Its a commericial corridor which requires deliveries and is an active transportation throughfare. The same objective could have been easily acheived by placing the rack on the sidewalk. The corral is underused, similiar to the network of bike lanes all over Brooklyn. This is yet another glaring example of the flawed policies of the DOT and its out of touch Commisioner. Similiarily, the out-of-touch business owners thought eliminating parking spaces was a good idea. I live a few blocks away and stopped supporting Zelda's as soon as the corral was installed.
Jan. 30, 2013, 7:08 am
Rob from Greenpoint says:
Even though I live in Greenpoint, I'm here often. Contrary to what "brooklynite" says, the bike parking is well used, as is the bike lane network in Brooklyn. Having the corral on the street instead of the sidewalk is the point -- it frees up room for pedestrians, discourages sidewalk bicycling and turns 1 car parking spot into 8 bike parking spots. I'm not sure why businesses would oppose 7 more potential customers.

DOT, more than any other city agency, has done an amazing public outreach job in the last several years. If you think otherwise, you clearly have not been paying much attention, or clearly have a skewed agenda.

It's sad that some folks have decided that improving bike parking is somehow connected to gentrification. I encourage them to get past their issues and to embrace improvements to the neighborhood.
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:50 am
ty from pps says:
(1) Eliminating ONE parking space (i.e., ONE, maybe two, customers at a time).... to be replaced with parking for EIGHT bicycles. What does "underutilized" mean? If there is ONE bicycle in the coral, that is as many people as one car.

(2) This has NOTHING to do with deliveries... Please o' please tell me how this has disrupted deliveries? If there is a car parked there, are they also disrupting deliveries?

(3) These business owners are seriously short-sighted

(4) "Neighboring businesses confirmed that they weren’t approached by Little Zelda’s owners — or the city — about surrendering the parking space to cyclists." IT'S NOT THEIR CHOICE to "surrender" a parking spot... they don't "own" it.

(5) How is going through the Community Board process... completely and openly not "involving the community"?! If these whiny folks can't be bothered to engage in that process, why should this petition be heard?

(6) "Board 8’s transportation committee just reaffirmed its support for the rack with another unanimous vote last Tuesday in response to Nugent-Miller’s petition." I think that translates as "Suck it hard."
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:50 am
ty from pps says:
By the way -- looking at Google Maps... there are a total of about 25 parking spaces on that block (certainly most of them are residents who are *permanently* parked). If these whiny business owners think that their business is based (even a little bit) on these 25 parking spots, they are just dumb, seriously dumb.

It sounds like they are not doing so well, so they have decided to blame Little Zelda's for their business woes.
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:58 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Simple.

No deliveries except by cycle to Zelda's.

Welcome to the CITY Zelda!
Jan. 30, 2013, 10:45 am
ty from pps says:
Or from Doucheville -- Please explain how this coral has changed the dynamic for deliveries on this street... please share your wisdom.
Jan. 30, 2013, 10:49 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
If customers can't find parking on the street, there's a solution as old as free markets themselves: raise the price of parking.
Jan. 30, 2013, 1:18 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
If customers can't find parking on the street, there's a solution as old as free markets themselves:

drive to the mall!
Jan. 30, 2013, 3:47 pm
St from Crown Heights says:
brooklynite, if trucks need to make deliveries along the commercial corridor it is no more easy for them to do it if the street is lined with private cars or bicycles. do you even understand your own point?

Also, this is not true:

"But the city didn’t consult longtime neighbors and local business owners about nixing the parking space, says a group that started a petition to remove the corral."

The city and community board held TWO meetings to discuss the project. Opponents had every opportunity to come, but chose not to. Late to the game, they now say they weren't consulted.

Baloney. They chose to be left out and now regret it.
Jan. 30, 2013, 5:42 pm
St from Crown Heights says:
Or, how can a truck make a delivery while a car is parked in the spot, but can't if the spot is full of bicycles.

Seriously, explain this logic.
Jan. 30, 2013, 5:42 pm
Melody from Crown Heights says:
The bike corral is a great addition to our community and it is a shame that some have turned it into a symbol of gentrification, rather than letting it be what it is. Only the unstable sort would get as bent out of shape as some of my neighbors appear to be over the loss of ONE PARKING SPOT for 8 bikes. With all of the large residential developments underway in the area this year, space is only going to get tighter and innovative strategies to accommodate this are a blessing. Public streets are not your personal driveway, especially on a busy commercial run which depends on parking turnover to bring in profits. And it appears that CB8 agrees with this, since they have brought up the idea of adding meters to a portion of Franklin. Additionally, Jennifer Harris-Hernandez of the DOT has gone record stating that their study of the bike corral shows that it is a success, receiving regular use even in the "dead of winter". On a personal note, I bike over to the Franklin Ave area on a regular basis and often have a horrible time finding an open spot - even an illegal one - where I can secure my bike. Anyone who wants to claim that bike lanes and the corral are underused clearly has their own agenda that is not based in reality.
Jan. 30, 2013, 5:44 pm
Osito from Crown Heights says:
You're eliminating one car parking spot and adding eight bike parking spots. Add in the fact that bikes are safer, more environmentally sound, and more local-friendly, it sounds like a great deal for the neighborhood.

And it isn't like car drivers aren't accomodated. There is probably 1000 times the public space given to car parking along Franklin Ave.
Jan. 30, 2013, 7:26 pm
tyler too from brooklyn says:
Can one of the opponents explain how it is that they do not pay attention to the community board schedule which is posted online, printed in a newsletter, and distributed through many other sources? Who's fault is it that you didn't attend one of the many chances to have your voice heard?

I now bike over to Franklin Ave and spend money there. It's something I never would have done before - and I own a car!
Jan. 30, 2013, 8:31 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
the chassids are making a fortune off of you guys - how many pay rent in 'cesh.' try wearing a nipple revealing tank top down lee lol or taking the women in back of bus to b park

bikes should not be blocking streets - put some strollers out and go reall high stakes

mazel tov
Jan. 30, 2013, 9:13 pm
no-permits from here says:
this just sounds like two sisters battling it out for a spot in the brooklyn paper: Nizjoni Granville and Karen Granville.
Jan. 30, 2013, 10:07 pm
Chris from Bushwick says:
Whining about not being notified when this corral was properly heard and vetted by the Community Board is the height of irresponsible citizenry. If you want to be involved in community decision making, take two minutes to read the agenda of these meetings once a month. The agenda is posted to brooklyncb8.org up to two weeks before the meeting.

If you can't be bothered to do that, then don't complain when a decision is made without your input.
Jan. 31, 2013, 9:34 am
rt from crown heights says:
I think everyone should chill out and think about what this is really about, because we didn't get to "irresponsible citizenry" in "doucheville" because of a parking spot.
Jan. 31, 2013, 10:09 am
Brian Van from Gramercy says:
Here's another way to look at this situation:

This is one bike corral. It serves 8 bicycles.

There are another 20 parking spots on that block alone, and many other in the vicinity. These serve 20 cars. Let's say 24, for the sake of argument.

So now there's parking for 32 people instead of 25. That sounds like a win to me!

The only thing that might be up for debate is whether there is an absolute, undeniable need for each of the current parking spaces one more. I do sympathize with people who have trouble finding parking but they certainly don't need to have a car in Crown Heights, a neighborhood well-served by public transit. And since I'm not at all inclined to discriminate for or against any kind of commuter in this situation, I think that any arrangement that raises raw community capacity, and encourages efficient transport, is better for the neighborhood than any plan to aggressively squeeze in as many cars as possible, minimizing the number of people who can feasibly commute into/out of the neighborhood.

This is all free press for a small group of people who have no chance, ever, of making a solid point. It's self-serving obstruction at its most naked and depraved.

The only story here is that the media, overall, is sympathetic to their cause, as if public parking of privately owned cars were a natural state of affairs that should not be disrupted. This position is misguided and now behind-the-times. Cars can be a part of the mix, but this is not the suburbs and it's self-destructive to assume that mentality.

People have been saying this for years. Many people in the city are on-board with it. But the ownership class in this society (including the people who own, publish, and write for newspapers) just can't be convinced. Buses suck, the subway is terrible, cycling is reckless, cabs are out-of-control, walking is a punishment... pick any day of the week and there's a scathing non-car-ownership transit editorial out there. And yet most of your readers can't fathom affording a nice car insurance secure parking commuting by car to work. I do not think you have an understanding of how irrelevant your fixations are. While it's true that not everyone can ride a bike, or has easy access to the subway, or can afford daily commuting by cab/rideshare... private cars are the answer for very, very few people. All the more that the papers should support balanced transit, not parking hogging.
Jan. 31, 2013, 10:31 am
Cat Girl from CH says:
we currently drive to Franklin to get good meal or a cup of joe and never have issues finding parking. As soon as the weather warms we will break out our bikes. I like the pro-bicycle incentive. Bicycles encourage exercise, which works against obesity =win-win! Anybody can ride a bicycle...they do not discriminate! Who would argue against a bicycle rack and what it means?
Jan. 31, 2013, 11:08 am
Rider from CH says:
Some people might actually need a car. The handicapped, the elderly, anyone for whom walking or biking is a challenge. Fine. Can't disagree there, especially if you're coming from a neighborhood without good public transit.

But your issue isn't with bicycles.

It is with OTHER DRIVERS.

Stop getting upset at people who don't drive and who don't take up copious amounts of space. Stop getting upset at a bike corral that can serve 8 people instead of a car parking spot that can serve 1. Four if that car is full.

Get mad at the many able-bodied people who insist on driving a short distance to grab a loaf of bread or have a cup of coffee.

THEY are the ones making life miserable for the people who NEED to drive.

Not cyclists.
Jan. 31, 2013, 12:09 pm
KillMoto from NYC says:
What that street needs most is parking meters. The ones with the big loop people can lock bikes to, so it serves triple duty:
1) Charging at least a little for the privilege to park,
2) Creating one bike parking space in front of every business,
3) Creating turn-over of parking instead of perma-park.

Also that street needs to keep the corral.
Jan. 31, 2013, 12:17 pm
KillMoto from NYC says:
What car centric people who want all these nightmarish bike amenities to go away fail to realize is this: 5% more cars on highly utilized roads slows traffic by 50%.

So, if those anti-bike zealots succeed in pushing their agenda and get me & others off our bikes and into cars, they can expect fewer open parking spaces and lots more time waiting in traffic.

If the anti-bike zealots succeed in removing the 8 bike parking spaces to "gain" one car parking spaces, where are those other new 7 motorists going to park their cars? Probably in some of those 25 other spots on the road.

The math just doesn't add up.

If I were a car centric person, I'd be falling all over myself to encourage my neighbors to take a bus or ride a bike. Less traffic for me to deal with!
Jan. 31, 2013, 12:25 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I say bravo to these women for standing up for their god-given right to park. And so what if they did not attend the community board meetings? Did you attend? Unless the DOT personally called everyone in the neighborhood and visited them to let them know about the meeting I think it is fine to accuse Community Board 8 of being secretive, which we all know they were during this public process.

A car is bigger than a bicycle so it needs more room to park. That is obvious to anyone but the biggest cyclist. Bikes can be brought into stores and restaurants if they are so good for business. A driver can not do that, so he must park on the street. And I don't see how a bicycle can be used to get to a coffee shop because what do you do with your coffee if you don't have a cupholder like drivers do? Let these women go back to the community board a million times if they want since they were told the meeting wasn't when it was happening the last two times.
Jan. 31, 2013, 12:27 pm
Rhonda Lee from Brooklyn says:
The merchants who are complaining about the bike corral are morons. Little Zelda is doing you guys a favor by installing the bike corral. Instead of needing 8 parking spots for their customers, they now only need 1. That's more parking for everyone else on the block.
Jan. 31, 2013, 1:24 pm
Chris from Bushwick says:
Tal, you're an idiot. Being business owners, these people should very well know the Community Board exists, and they should know that they publish their agenda monthly IN THREE PLACES. It is not the Community Board or the DOT's responsibility to communicate readily available information personally to every single resident. They were in NO WAY were being secretive. Period.
Jan. 31, 2013, 2:02 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Tal, it doesn't matter if cars are bigger than bikes. Cars don't visit businesses or spend money or vote or experience pleasure or sorrow. We need to accommodate people. Some people drive cars and some people ride bikes and some people walk.
Jan. 31, 2013, 2:09 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Okay that comment was not by me because I would have known if I wrote it. I suspect ty or other mike but you can never be sure. Either way just quit it.

I still agree that if a vehicle is bigger it should have more right to use the street. Which has more right to a runway? An airplane or a bicycle? You know the answer and it is an airplane since you don't see bicycles at airports.

Trucks must make deliveries and how can they do that? If the street is obstructed by bicycles parked where a car would normally park, then how can the driver double park on the street and get by the bicycles? None of you have an answer for that because you've been brainwashed by Streetsblog and Transalt people.

And cars do so visit businesses and spend money. What are all of those cars doing on the street then? I don't ever see cyclists carrying money or spending money on rent or a mortgage like other people so how would they spend it.

Leave the street alone so that real people who live in Brooklyn can decide what to do with it.
Jan. 31, 2013, 2:37 pm
Kevin from Flatbush says:
Response to Rob from Greenpoint

"It's sad that some folks have decided that improving bike parking is somehow connected to gentrification. I encourage them to get past their issues and to embrace improvements to the neighborhood."

While I do support bike corrals it would be silly to suggest they bike infrastructure improvements aren't very closely connected to gentrification, and since they are so closely connected, they will be singled out by those who see members of their communities being displaced by that gentrification. It's hard to enjoy the "improvements" when some of your friends and neighbors can't afford the rapidly rising rents. Obviously its a bigger issue than a bike corral. But that bike corral is a symbol. Perhaps if the DOT made such improvements more regularly in neighborhoods that aren't gentrified or gentrifying, then bike infrastructure would not be seen as emblematic of gentrification. And gentrification does have very real victims.
Jan. 31, 2013, 3:50 pm
Kevin from Flatbush says:
I suppose the main problem (as I see it) is that the DOT seems to respond to the needs of one subset of cyclists in this city - the stereotypical white, college educated, white collar or "creative industry" employee while doing far less for the thousands of poor and immigrant cyclists in neighborhoods that don't have espresso and wine bars filled with young people with lots of disposable income.
Jan. 31, 2013, 3:56 pm
s from ppw says:
DOT just received approval from the community boards in East New York and Brownsville to paint bicycle lanes.

DOT goes where the community wants it to go and typically installs bike lanes AFTER requests from civic groups. Historically those requests have come mostly from gentrified or gentrifying neighborhoods.

So I don't think it's an issue of racism on DOT's part or favoring white, creative, rich people over poor immigrants. It may be a symbol that certain neighborhoods have historically been more organized than others when it comes to advocating for bike lanes and street improvements.

Thankfully, that's starting to change and requests are coming in from all over.

But I think it's very very wrong to accuse DOT of some form of racism.
Jan. 31, 2013, 4:35 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Why should bikes park for free? Put meters on those 8 spaces!

Give $35. tickets to those bikers who don't come back in time to pay the meter!
Jan. 31, 2013, 5:30 pm
common & greater good from Brooklyn says:
It is always easier to disparage others motives that volunteer their time than to actively participate in the governance of their local community….. There are compelling interests for common & greater good of limited resources vs. one’s self-interest…. In any issue having the ability to claim more for vs. against is not necessarily the only metrics to be used….
Feb. 1, 2013, 10:21 am
ty from pps says:
Or -- Hey dummy... You do know that parking is FREE on Franklin, right? Oh, yes, I forgot, you just enjoy making stupid comments.
Feb. 1, 2013, 10:44 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Why should it stay free? Those racks cost somebody money.

Meters for corrals!
Feb. 1, 2013, 10:25 pm
Beth from Dyker Heights says:
@Or -

Why shouldn't it? You are very eager to insert yourself into things, or to try and change the reality to suit your views. Parking on some Streets is free. I don't see why they should suddenly charge.
But overall I think you ought let people do what they want, and stop expecting others to align with your desires.
Feb. 2, 2013, 9:16 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
carpet tacs - problem solved
Feb. 2, 2013, 2:27 pm
Rather Not Say from Crown Heights says:
The most awful thing that happened is that a couple of cranks made such a huge stink that the community board is going to be gun shy about approving the next bike corral. And near Franklin Avenue we have one more place that really needs it, Franklin Park. I know I could get a second and third on that motion. Young people come from Williamsburg and other place by bike to hang out at that popular beer garden. During the summer there is just a pile of bikes around the entrance on St. Johns Place.

Bike corrals are improvements to the neighborhood that give businesses a potential for more customers and gives the business an opportunity to beautify the street. Little Zeldas is a very attractive coffee shop that I'm sure will keep their corral neat and pretty.
Feb. 2, 2013, 5:07 pm
Brooklynite from Crown Heights says:
A couple of facts. The Transportation Committe meets seperately from the CB. The Transportation Committe did not submit that this item was a pending item at at the previos full Board meeting. Check the minutes. The TC submitted a motion at the full board meeting to adopt their previosly approved plan. As for deliveries, if you don't understand the difference between a permaenent structure in the street and the natural ebb and flow vehicular movement and parking particularly for row of businesses well... As for the more customer logic, its similiar to argument that if you install more bike lanes more people will ride bikes. The data from independant sources says no. Take a moment look it up. NYC is a city that enjoys a minimum of 5 months were biking is unsafe and impractical. There is a significant issue with regard to a proper infratsructure improvment and strategy to our City and the answer to a 21st Centuryy problem is not a 19th Century solution.
Feb. 3, 2013, 12:27 pm
Brooklynite from Crown Heights says:
Almost forgot one final thought. The CB issue is a non-starter frankly. Streets are like arteries in a body. What happens on one block can affect traffic for another 10. This concept that one business or a group of people should decide how a one-way street that feeds into a Parkway is managed is old-fashioned and dangerous. More and more bikers are being killed, traffic snarls, why because of the one-off decisions of a few people that do not serve the larger community of New Yorkers.
Feb. 3, 2013, 12:34 pm
Kay from Brooklyn says:
"Dad, it was just a parking space." - A Bronx Tale

This anger and resentment has nothing to do with a parking space. It's about new vs old.
Feb. 4, 2013, 3:33 pm
Kay from Brooklyn says:
"Dad, it was just a parking space." - A Bronx Tale

This anger and resentment has nothing to do with a parking space. It's about new vs old.
Feb. 4, 2013, 3:33 pm
ty from pps says:
Brooklynite... "NYC is a city that enjoys a minimum of 5 months were biking is unsafe and impractical."

Hmm... When is this time? I guess that doesn't include today? Or? The LARGE bike racks out in front of my work seem to suggest that today, February 6th, was not "unsafe" or "impractical."

By the way, bicycles are more of a 1970s solution... not a 19th century "solution."
Feb. 6, 2013, 10:09 am

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