Chaos erupted over the Citi Bike expansion. (Video by Amy Holiday/Park Slope Stoop)
What was expected to be an uneventful, quiet read out of the board’s work over the summer and the chair’s remarks devolved quickly into a heated exchanges between enraged citizens and board members. Five police officers were called and arrived to handle reports of excessive noise and disruption.
While the agenda did not include a formal discussion about the bikeshare’s expansion into CB6 – which covers Park Slope, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Red Hook – attendees began peppering State Senator Daniel Squadron with strong criticisms and questions about the program during his welcoming remarks.
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When Squadron, who delivered a short update at the start of the meeting about goings on in the 26th Senate District, deferred the questions to the board, he ignited a wave of frustration throughout the standing-room only crowd.
Board chair Sayar Lonial followed Squadron’s remarks but his attempts to call the meeting to order immediately were futile. What ensued was a tense verbal battle between Lonial and residents who demanded answers about the bike share program – why it had expanded, why the Department of Transportation had not been more transparent, and why Citi Bike couldn’t be discussed formally during the meeting.
— Park Slope Neighbors (@psneighbors) September 15, 2016
“The issue of tonight’s meetings is to recap what [CB6’s] committees reviewed over the summer,” Lonial told the room. “The Transportation Committee did not hear anything about Citi Bike over the summer. The board will not be discussing these matters tonight.”
Numerous residents stood and yelled in response to Lonial’s statements. As the meeting was happening, one resident approached the board member’s table and yelled to each leader’s face, “Is there a bike rack in front of your house?”
Installation of the stations throughout Brooklyn, which began in August, is part of a larger city-wide expansion. By the end of 2016, Citi Bike is expected to have 600 docking stations and 10,000 bikes across the city.
While many New Yorkers are taking advantages of the growing bike share program – in fact, ridership on September 8 hit a record number of rides at 61,266 – some CB6 residents showed strong disapproval of the program. And many were present at the meeting to share these opinions.
“I am outraged,” said Marianne Borrelli who has lived in the area for over 50 years. “You wake up and there are bikes on every block. It’s total overkill and just horrible.” Borrelli, along with a number of other residents, has collected signatures to remove and reduce the Citi Bike stations.
Dennis Sciria, also a long-time Brooklyn resident, started a Facebook group called Say No To Citi Bikes. The group brings together a community who want to curtail the expansion of bike share program.
After Lonial was able to call the meeting to order, the rest of the agenda items were discussed as planned, including the motion to remove board members Manuel Caballero and Matthew Ruiz from the CB6 board due to poor attendance.
The next general board CB6 meeting is on October 12. According to Lonial’s statements, Citi Bike and the Department of Transportation will likely be on the agenda.
“They better have the next meeting in a bigger place because I’m bringing all my friends,” said Borrelli. “They also better have more cops.”