By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Stuy Town residents were surprised and not entirely thrilled to see dozens of new Citi Bike docks inside Playground 9 installed at the end of June. After a number of complaints were sent to management, STPCV general manager Rick Hayduk announced last week that Citi Bike would be making adjustments to the docks later this month so that the water feature in the playground would be accessible.
Management had previously announced the arrival of the new docking stations in a June rent insert but residents on local Facebook groups expressed surprise about how much space on the playground that the new docks occupy.
The announcement from Hayduk, which came in the form of a notice posted in buildings throughout the property, said that Citi Bike was on-site last week and that they would soon be moving the docking stations to provide access to the water feature. Management expects this realignment to be completed by the third week of July. As of this week, the docks continue to block the water feature.
Councilmember Keith Powers met with Hayduk after he learned about the installation of the docks and his office has also coordinated with the STPCV Tenants Association, Citi Bike and the Department of Transportation. The DOT usually specifies station siting for Citi Bike but since the placement of these docks is on private property, STPCV and Citi Bike had more authority to pick a location. Powers’ office said that the selection of the site was done without their knowledge or that of the TA.
Powers also sent a letter to Hayduk at the end of June arguing that while he has heard frequent complaints from constituents about a lack of Citi Bike availability near Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the location for this new docking station is not ideal.
“By positioning the station in a playground, many residents were caught off guard that space previously designated for children at play was converted to a completely separate purpose,” Powers wrote. “Obstructing the sprinkler water features during the first week of the summer without providing suitable alternatives was both distressing and avoidable.”
Powers said that residents have also expressed concern about what effect the placement of the docks will have on Playground 9 in addition to the surrounding areas of Stuyvesant Town.
“While Playground 9 is near the protected bike lane on First Avenue, there is no dedicated pathway for cyclists to navigate from the Citi Bike station out of the complex,” he said. “Residents, including those with strollers or in wheelchairs and walkers, are concerned about the prospect of having more than 70 additional bikes on the pedestrian walkways in the immediate area. I would ask that Stuyvesant Town evaluate the areas that would be deemed ‘off-limits’ to biking to include the areas immediately adjacent to Playground 9 to avoid an influx of activity around the new station.”
Hayduk said in the posted notice that the sidewalk from the First Avenue Loop to the entrance of the Oval on the north side of Playground 9 will also be designated as a “walk-bike only” zone.
In a previous emailed note to residents sent shortly after the new docking stations were installed, in response to a number of complaints, Hayduk explained that one of the main reasons for the docks inside the playground was a lack of space elsewhere on the property and the fact that residents were underserved by Citi Bike.
“Citi Bike has adapted their operations in an attempt to meet demand by replacing bikes as they’re removed and conversely, removing bikes to provide docking upon their return in their current limited locations with some success,” Hayduk said of the bike shortages.
Hayduk also noted that management worked with Citi Bike to determine the best location for the docking station and specifically sought out an area that would avoid taking out parking spaces, would discourage non-resident traffic into the community, would avoid the potential increase of bike riding on interior pathways and would provide Citi Bike with enough space to address the shortage of bikes.
“With easy access to First Avenue, we felt Playground 9 was an ideal location, especially in the unused area on the east side of the playground,” Hayduk said.
The notice posted last week indicated that Hayduk would be available for further questions and concerns in the community center this Thursday evening but the meeting has been rescheduled to Tuesday, July 16 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The format has also been changed to a series of one-on-one sessions, a spokesperson from Councilmember Keith Powers’ office said.
Although he said that Citi Bike would be making changes and would address the issue of the docking stations blocking the water feature, Hayduk added that management prioritizes providing access to biking over playground space.
“As advocates for low cost, readily available and zero-emission transportation, StuyTown Property Services/beam Living wanted to assist Citi Bike in finding locations to address the shortage of bikes available to residents,” he said. “When we make a change we consider the impact on the community and in this case, we believe the addition of affordable, zero-emission transportation wins out over the loss of this playground space.”