‘Mayor of Gramercy Park’ laments local bike rack

The Gramercy Park Block Association’s complaints about a new rack on 21st Street elicited mixed reactions from Gramercy residents.

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Emily Sorkin

Some Gramercy residents would like to guard the park and its surroundings. (Emily Sorkin for WSN)

Annabel Wang, Contributing Writer

Citi Bike enthusiasts say a new dock on 21st Street is a convenient addition to public transportation. The Gramercy Park Block Association’s president, however, griped about the installation on the north side of the private park, arguing that it restricted valuable parking space in an email to Gramercy residents in late September. 

Arlene Harrison, the self-proclaimed “mayor of Gramercy Park” and president of the block association, listed a number of concerns about the dock in her email, including a “lack of community input/notification” and “the completely inappropriate placement of the rack,” which she said worsens long-standing traffic issues that plague the street. Harrison also said that the block association has received calls and emails from residents who have complained about the new addition. 

Citi Bike users, including NYU students, who park their bikes at the Gramercy Park rack seem to be unaware of any concerns.

“It’s the most convenient way to get to class fast,” Steinhardt Mack Thompson, who lives at Gramercy Green, said. “It’s not the busiest street, honestly. I didn’t notice anything too bad, but it is a really narrow street, so I can see where they’re coming from.”

Harrison established the Gramercy Park Block Association in 1994 after her husband was attacked by “a random ‘wilding’ gang of about 20 youths” in their neighborhood, according to the association’s website. The site also reports that the organization now includes around 2,000 members, including public safety and historic preservation advocates living in Gramercy.

Brian Van Nieuwenhoven, a long-time Gramercy Park resident and frequent Citi Bike user, said he does not believe the complaints will lead to the dock’s relocation, but noted conversations on social media surrounding complaints about the popular Citi Bike program.

“The only thing that has happened is that this person has expressed a negative opinion about the dock and has tried to solicit people who they can rally to take some action,” Van Nieuwenhoven said. “The threat that someone would protest the Citi Bike dock in this manner rallied a lot of people who appreciate the program and do not want a city wide program hacked to death by a billion NIMBY complaints.”

In response to a tweet about the situation, Van Nieuwenhaven said he also received several messages arguing for the public opening of Gramercy Park, one of the city’s two private parks. Currently, the park is only accessible to those living in the 39 townhomes and apartments along its border. The discussion over the park’s inaccessibility and community impact has continued for years.

CAS sophomore Katie Wang said that the complaints toward the Citi Bike dock is a reflection of the privilege of Gramercy residents. Rent prices for a one bedroom apartment in the neighborhood this year was $4,475 per month. Wang said that the bike rack’s removal would disproportionately harm lower-income community members in Gramercy.

“I understand that parking spaces are necessary, but accessible and convenient transportation is so much more important,” Wang said. “Those who can afford to own a car and live next to Gramercy Park definitely have alternative solutions to their parking issue, but people who need bikes to get around don’t.”

The block association has not yet filed a formal complaint against the bike dock. For now, students continue to make the most of the additional bikes at the Gramercy Park bike rack.

Contact Annabel Wang at [email protected]