By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Just as it did at another cop and community meeting earlier this month in Stuyvesant Town, the topic of bikes dominated the discussion at the 13th Precinct Community Council’s most recent meeting on Tuesday.
“I haven’t been to one of these meetings so this might have been mentioned before, but bikes are a problem,” one Stuyvesant Town resident said early in the evening, prompting a roomful of commiserative chuckles.
In response, Executive Officer Ernesto Castro said that regarding e-bikes, the NYPD is working on operations borough-wide and noted that the precinct has issued 92 summonses for bikes this year, more than last year during the same period.
“This is a difficult area but we are making progress,” Castro assured meeting attendees.
The tickets are good motivation to obey the law in the future, he added. The cost of being caught with an e-bike is $500 and confiscation of the vehicle, though it will be returned in the fine is paid. Occasionally, the precinct will even document the e-bike hauls on its Twitter feed as a warning.
As always, attendees at the meeting had complaints about reckless e-bike riders as well as regular cyclists, but the Stuy Town resident who first raised the issue said that his main concern is with the high volume of regular cyclists who just don’t follow the rules.
“On 21st Street, bikers don’t have to worry about crosstown traffic and they just go flying through the red light,” he said. “That’s rather typical. Drivers are usually wary of pedestrians so they watch out for them but that’s not the case with many of the bike riders that I see.”
At the meeting, residents also raised the issue of aggressive panhandlers in the neighborhood and McDonald’s franchise owner Paul Hendel said that it’s been a particularly noticeable problem for his restaurant at 546 Sixth Avenue near West 14th Street lately.
“We’ve been getting complaints about aggressive homeless folks and it’s really been hurting my business,” Hendel said, adding that the Link kiosk installed outside the location has become a homeless hangout.
Others at the meeting agreed that a number of other kiosks attract groups of homeless people who congregate around the devices in various parts of the neighborhood and the problem seems to be increasing with the warmer weather coming.
Police officer John Considine said that the precinct has been struggling with issues related to these kiosks since they were installed, noting one incident in particular when a homeless man was caught watching porn on one of the kiosks in 2016, prompting the city to remove the web browsing functionality from the devices.
Despite that change, Considine said that there have still been complaints and encouraged residents to report unsavory or aggressive behavior around the kiosks. “Unfortunately, we don’t have any say in where the kiosks are installed,” Considine said in response to a question about whether or not the devices could be removed. “But if you do see anything problematic, reach out to us about it.”