June 27, 2022 By Christian Murray
The Department of Transportation plans to bring Citi Bike to Maspeth and Middle Village this summer but the agency is coming under fire from Councilmember Bob Holden for dismissing the community’s input as to the workings of the plan.
Holden, who penned a letter to Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia Friday, argues that the DOT is not paying attention to residents who have been calling on the DOT to preserve parking spaces by not putting the docking stations on the roadway.
The DOT announced February that Citi Bike was coming to the Middle Village/Maspeth area this summer and released a map that included 52 station locations, with as many as 34 stations to be installed on the street—likely to take as many as 100 parking spaces. The other 18 stations/docks planned are to be on sidewalks.
The Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA), a local civic group, was alarmed by the DOT’s plan and the potential loss of parking. The organization, with the help of Holden, came up with a detailed proposal that called for the relocation of the 34 station/ docks planned to be placed in the streets to avoid any loss of parking.
The DOT notified Holden and the JPCA on June 22 that it had reviewed the organization’s suggestions and would make changes to seven of the stations—but the remainder of the plan would remain in place. (click for JPCA proposal and DOT response)
Holden was not pleased by the DOT’s response and fired off a letter to Garcia.
“I ask you to revisit your rejection of the Juniper Park Civic Association’s suggestions…,” Holden wrote. “Your response to our community’s suggestions seems dismissive, to say the least. Sadly, this is not a surprise.”
The DOT, in a letter written by Garcia to Holden on June 22, said it “took a hard look at each suggestion and where feasible incorporated changes into the updated plan.”
Christina Wilkinson, secretary of the Juniper Civic Association who drafted the proposal, said that the Maspeth/Middle Village community simply cannot afford to lose parking.
“We are a transit desert, and many people rely on vehicles,” Wilkinson said. “We don’t want residents and business owners looking for parking to be inconvenienced.”
“We want Citi Bike, but in a way that enhances our neighborhoods.”
The association’s plan would comprise of 43 stations in total, down from the DOT’s 52.
Wilkinson said that she put the plan together based on her knowledge of the area and after researching the DOT’s Citi Bike guidelines. She said her goal was to preserve parking spaces while making the bike share program a success.
Holden said that the DOT has not listened to local residents who he says know the area best.
“It is greatly frustrating to repeatedly meet with the DOT and have civic leaders and residents offer sensible solutions, only to be turned down each time,” Holden wrote. “The Queens DOT makes a show of community meetings but is indifferent or even hostile to real community input.”
“The options suggested by the JCPA seem very reasonable, well thought out and worth exploring.”
The JCPA’s plan calls for the elimination of 11 of the roadside stations. Wilkinson said many are not needed since the area isn’t as densely populated as other New York neighborhoods.
The DOT, however, said that the 11 were needed to ensure “equal access to the bike share network.” The DOT typically aims to have a station every few blocks within a coverage district. The idea is to have a station within a 3-to-5-minute walk from one another.
The DOT rejected about 15 other suggestions—that involve moving the stations to the sidewalk– on the basis that tree pits or fire hydrants were in the way or the sites weren’t big enough. However, Wilkinson argues the Citi Bike docks are modular and the size of the docks can vary according to the space.
She said that docks in other parts of Queens–such as Ridgewood–have been shorted or adjusted for obstacles. She points to a dock at Onderdonk and Willoughby Aves that makes room for tree pits.
Holden says that Citi Bike stations can be tailored to the size of the space.
“If these bikes stations are adjustable in size, it seems they could fit quite well into the locations requested,” his letter reads.
“We are a public transit desert,” Holden wrote. “This makes parking more critical in this district than others. I am not at all opposed to expanding the program, but I ask you to show some deference to our community and not place the stations in parking lanes.”
Holden said that the DOT needs to listen to civic leaders and elected officials “since they know a neighborhood better than any citywide agency.”