Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Bike Map Is Out: In Microcosm the Conflict of City Planning Policy Re Car-Oriented Atlantic Yards

The new 2011 bike map is out. As our constantly changing city shape-shifts into new incarnations, the map presents in microcosm public policy conflicts respecting the transportational characteristics planners want the city to assume in the future.

The annually revised bike map (also available in a web version) is distributed “FREE” by the city’s Department of Transportation. (Authorship credit is also given on its cover to Jenette Sadik-Kahn as DOT Commissionner, The City of New York- Michael R. Bloomberg, the Department of City Planing- Amanda M. Burden, FAICP*, Director, and Department of Parks and Recreation- Adrian Benepe, Commssioner.)

(* Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners)

Its free distribution represents an aspirational endorsement by city planning officials of this form of alternative transportation. In support of this goal the city has also been designating and creating more bike lanes around the city than ever before.

The interesting thing about this year’s map is its cover, celebrating brownstone Brooklyn with a picture of the Hoyt Street bike lane going through Cobble Hill. The intersection shown is Hoyt Street and Dean. Dean Street is another street providing bikers with a bike lane route through what is currently brownstone Brooklyn.

Ironically, the Hoyt and Dean intersection is just .6 miles or 3 minutes away from the car-centric (and parking lot-centric) Atlantic Yards megadevelopment proposed by developer (and heavy subsidy collector) Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner (now working in conjunction with Russian Oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov). The negligible distance can also be measured as the distance of four long blocks and one very short one.

If this distance doesn’t strike you as short, if it seems enough to put Ratner’s mega-monopoly at a safe and sufficient remove, we can also put things into perspective this way: It is actually less than the .7 mile distance one will need to travel to get from one corner of Ratner’s vast mega-monopoly to the other. Remember also that bikers using the Dean Street bike lane will have their brownstone reveries interrupted for a couple of blocks when they have to travel alongside the intimidating and unprecedentedly dense Ratner/Prokhorov car-oriented Atlantic Yards design (and planning) fiasco. That is, of course, if New York politicians continue to let Ratner/Prokhorov continue building it for the next several decades, piling on a rich slather of disproportionately favorable subsidies.

(Above, the same two areas shown together on the new bike map. Below, the Dean Street bike lane approaching the Atlantic Yards site.)

Even if the building stops (or however slowly it goes) the result will be car-oriented since the much unnecessary destruction that has been Ratner's plotted prelude to everything (like demolishing Ward Bakery building) will present the public with acres of traffic-generating parking lots in the interim.

(Picture: Rendering by the Municipal Art Society- for its Atlantic Lots- showing the teardown of the neighborhood the project plan involves -Original Aerial Photograph by Jonathan Barkey.)

This very expensive planning boondoggle didn’t have to be car-oriented. It makes no sense for it to be so. The proposed Ratner project sits atop a confluence of subway lines. One way we know that is that, among the freebies Mayor Bloomberg (via his representation on the MTA) gave to Ratner to subsidize his 30-acre mega-project is the naming of not one, but two very sizable subway stations.

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