At Epstein town hall, concerns abound on bikes, voting rights

Rachel Bloom from Citizens United Foundation (right) on voting rights at the town hall

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein hosted a town hall at the New York University Dental School on East 24th Street last Thursday, attended by more than 100 people braving last week’s arctic deep freeze.

Instead of a single-room free-for-all, the event was broken up into two separate hour-long panels with three different topics that residents could learn more about during each panel. Epstein said that the approach intended to give attendees one-on-one time with experts on a number of different topics, which included voting rights, education and legalization of marijuana during the first panel and transportation, housing and disability rights during the second.

Alex Camarda from Reinvent Albany and Rachel Bloom from Citizens Union Foundation discussed voting rights and good government during the first panel, answering questions about legislative issues such as closing the LLC Loophole, in addition to addressing difficulties that residents had while voting in the last election.

“I’ve lived in Stuyvesant Town for many years and I had so much trouble voting in the last election,” Adrienne Cosner said. “There’s been a lot of irregularity.”

Camarda assured attendees that most of the time when a voter’s name isn’t on the rolls, it’s usually a bureaucratic mistake, which, while not ideal, doesn’t prevent a voter from voting.

“You can always cast an affidavit ballot,” he said, while adding, “If it is intentional, it’s a felony offense and you should definitely report it.”

Kips Bay resident Karen Lee said that she had concerns about New York’s lack of open primaries, which would allow voters registered to any party to vote in any primary election.

“I lived in California for a long time and what disturbs me here is that no one runs against anyone,” she said. “You’re stuck with whoever your person is.”

Bloom said that elections have been structured to keep the people elected to hold onto their seats.

“We’re starting to change some of that,” she added. “Especially in New York where most of the decisions are made in the primaries, everyone should be able to vote for whoever they want.”

Camarda explained that the argument against open primaries is primarily one of party cohesion and unity.

“(The parties) believe that as people who believe in the values of the party, voters should be able to pick a candidate to represent the party,” he said.

Regarding legislative fixes to increase voter turnout, which is notoriously low in New York, Camarda noted that there has been some progress recently since the State Senate passed a series of bills earlier this year to limit LLC contributions, in addition to establishing early voting and expanding voter registration.

Questions during the panel on transportation later in the evening focused on plans related to the work on the L train in addition to a number of concerns about the increase in bicyclists in the neighborhood, which in some ways is also indirectly related to the plans for the L train.

Cosner also attended the transportation panel and said that she found the increase of Citi Bike docks in the neighborhood troubling.

“I’m a pedestrian and I feel more afraid of the bikes than of the cars,” she said. “The city has become unruly. Enough with the bikes.”

Stuy Town resident Karen Reynolds said that cycling is a safety issue to her as a pedestrian as well.

“I also live in Stuyvesant Town and I don’t feel safe with bikes at all,” Reynold said. “Delivery people on bikes endanger our safety. Bikes should be regulated. The city has been remiss in not training people.”

Department of Transportation Manhattan Borough Commissioner Ed Pincar said at the meeting that DOT works with police to educate cyclists.

“Commercial cyclists are partially regulated but it’s a matter of enforcement,” he said. “The onus is on the business that the cyclists have the proper equipment and have watched the safety video.”

Epstein agreed that education is an important component to safety for both pedestrians and bicyclists.

“We need to figure out how to have a better balance between cyclists and pedestrians,” he said, “and we’re not doing a good enough job so far of moving forward. We want people to ride, walk and ride in cars and feel safe.”

14 thoughts on “At Epstein town hall, concerns abound on bikes, voting rights

  1. People who say they’re more afraid of being hit by a 150-lb person on a bicycle than a 4,000 car going 30mph really need to be introduced to the families of dead people who were crushed to death by errant drivers.

    I cannot believe the discourse on this flies back and forth between “there were no injuries on 20th Street from bike collisions so we don’t need a bike lane!” and “bikes make me fear for my life!” I know different people have different perspectives on this, but we can’t ask our electeds to buy into both of these arguments.

    This is especially true now that other forms of transportation are about to begin appearing here, and the city is going to have to coordinate a solution that does not involve putting everyone who isn’t using a motor vehicle into jail.


    Also worth noting that any delivery bicycles flying through the complex are not passing through from other neighborhoods. They’re delivering to PCVST residents. The delivery workers need to be responsible & cautious of bystanders, and need to follow posted rules. But, worse comes to worse, residents can decide to ban bicycles in the complex and can walk out to 14th Street or First Avenue to meet your deliveries. If that is not a desirable solution then the complex needs to start working with business owners to insist that any delivery traffic to residents meet all requirements in order to be legitimate.

    I am acknowledging that this is a real problem but the solution isn’t to further criminalize commercial activity initiated by residents in the complex. Obviously the residents are content with the service they’re getting and they keep sending for more bicycles. That is something that needs a community discussion.

    • Bicycles run red lights at about 1,000,000 times their automotive counterparts. There is no comparison. Ever wonder why CitiBikes stopped putting numbers on their bikes? Simply because it made it too easy to identify the scofflaws. Bicycles should be registered and made to have license plates, including CitBikes!.

      • CitiBikes have giant 5-digit ID numbers printed on multiple parts of the frame. And at any moment, the system knows which user has a bike in-use. Finding the user of any CitiBike is a trivial task?

        How is that different from a license plate?

        Oh, it’s different because really every person renting a CitiBike should pay $100 for a metal license plate for each ride so they can cover their wear and tear on the road. I forgot that part.

        • The newer CitBikes have no numbers on them at all. Additionally, the numbers that do exist are on the lower sides of the bike and are not visible to the city’s network of cameras
          CitiBike should pay the registration fee for each bike. At least that way they wouldn’t be subsidized by the same people they are stealing very valuable real estate from. They could raise prices to offset the difference.

          Finally, you’re claim about CitiBike system knowing where bikes are at all times would be great if true, but according to CitiBike supervisors whom I have spoken with about that very issue claim it’s not true.

        • Great, another thread so full of lies that we’ve exceeded the depth.

          1. All CitiBikes have the bike numbers unless they’ve been defaced.
          2. I never said CitiBike knows where the bikes are at all times. I’m saying they know which users checked them out.
          3. Bikes do not need to pay registration fees and there is no appetite for this in the city or the state. Bikes are not cars and do not require licensing, plates, or universal surveillance measures. This is just another ploy by the neighborhood naysayers to subtract bikes from the equation and make their use an affordability issue.

          A hit-and-run driver just killed a bicyclist last week in Hell’s Kitchen. Still hasn’t been caught. A lot of good registration and licensing did there.

          In the meantime cops wrote more summonses for bikes and even tackled a rolling cyclist on-video in front of a lot of people, as a direct response to the killed cyclist. The lack of cyclist registration/insurance didn’t seem to make much of a difference in enforcement.

          I am not writing because I expect anything other than another vicious crackpot response, but if anyone from the community ends up flipping through these pages, the reasonable ones can search on these facts and come up with a non-sensational opinion of their own. Maybe they’ll take the side of the anonymous troll who always resorts to guessing that other commenters are corrupt idiots, and if that’s how they feel then they can similarly go crawl back under the sad rock from which they came.

  2. Please, FFSS is just a sensationalist publicity stunt created by and for TA, a registered lobbying organization. They have full-time paid staff recruiting and directing these people.

    • Were the relatives who were crushed to death part of the stunt, or is it just a coincidence that people who have lost a close relative have all this time to put on a dog-and-pony show for conniving lobbyists as you suggest?

      • No different than Trump dragging out relatives of people killed by illegal immigrants. Trying to leverage an exceedingly rare tragedy to sway public opinion towards your political goals.

        • So then you support the idea that bicycle backlash is overblown because incidents are exceedingly rare, even more rare than auto fatalities?

  3. Regarding motorized bikes, there is a very simple solution. Just outlaw the motor attached to a bike. Right now, you can have a motor attached but it can’t be running. So our City Council says it is illegal to have bikes with the motor running, but legal if you have a bike with a motor attached to it. This is blatant nonsense.

    • Respectfully, the situation with the law is slightly different than that & nothing is “outlawed” so much as “unpermitted for use on public roadways” – but this applies to the bicycle as a whole and is not subject to any loophole on whether a motor is on or off. (E.g. they can still confiscate the bike even with an unpowered motor) If someone possesses such a device but it’s secured for transport or in-storage, it can be used on private property as desired, so they are not subject to automatic confiscation, but you can’t ride them around the block either.

      In any case, these are issues with state level laws (where the city policy merely sets the fines and what not) and the approach has been to try to figure out a desirable solution where powered bicycles that behave similarly to manual bicycles are allowed… so any power that is applied is extremely moderate and does not turn bicycles into street bullets. There is a lot of demand for this after reports that other cities have pedal-assist bikes and scooters that have been wildly popular (despite alarmist reporting) and that are not being removed from their streets anytime soon. The thing holding this up is that everyone wants safety to be assured. But there are already so many retrofitted throttle bikes out there which are not permitted for street use but happen to exist in the thousands with a fairly low collision rate and no reported deaths. Regulating devices that have additional power limitations on them should legitimize e-bike and e-scooter use while preserving a generally safe environment. There are people who say these things are unsafe at any speed, but many of these same people also predicted CitiBike would kill hundreds of people a year.

      • I assume you are not joking, but I have that troublesome thing called reality and that troublesome thing called eyesight. Nowhere did I say that motorized bikes have caused deaths. What I did say was that two conditions (which I see daily) exist: one invalidates the other. Motorized bikes are allowed, but their motors have to be off. Doesn’t make sense to me. Here in Stuyvesant Town, motorized bikes, with their motors running, are seen all the time by me and others. Meanwhile, this is illegal. The police will occasionally set up an operation along 1st Avenue to try and catch them, but this operation is infrequent. A cost/manpower thing, I assume. Stuy Town’s own security is not better, for sure.

  4. Pingback: Letters to the editor, Feb. 14 | Town & Village

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