After NIMBY Speed Bump, East Harlem Bike Lanes Back Up For Vote

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito rallied for the completion of the First and Second Avenue bike lanes in November of 2010. Photo: Noah Kazis

Tomorrow night, protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges for First and Second Avenue bike lanes are again on the agenda of East Harlem’s Community Board 11.

The board, along with City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and State Senator José Serrano, had called for protected bike lanes in their neighborhood since 2010, and voted 47-3 in favor of them as recently as last September. After local restaurant owners Frank Brija and Erik Mayor protested the lanes, however, the board rescinded its vote of support, deciding to review the issue.

After months of intensive discussion, including consistent advocacy by Mark-Viverito and a December public meeting where a sizable majority of attendees spoke out in support of protected bike lanes, the issue is ready for another vote from CB 11′s transportation committee tomorrow night, said Assistant District Manager Angel Mescain.

Before voting, the committee will hear recommendations from a working group convened by Borough President Scott Stringer. A similar group Stringer assembled for the Columbus Avenue bike lane proposed some tweaks to the parking regulations on Columbus and helped defuse the conflict over the lane.

On First and Second Avenues, where both supporters and opponents of the bike lanes have seized on the neighborhood’s asthma epidemic to support their position, the working group will recommend that the city compare air pollution before and after the installation of the lanes, said Mescain. Representatives of the New York Academy of Medicine and the NYC Department of Health have testified that the bike lanes should improve public health.

The public will be allowed to speak, Mescain said, but hearing testimony won’t be the committee’s focus tomorrow night.

The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow night, March 6, at the board’s offices at 1664 Park Avenue. between 117th Street and 118th Street.