Public Housing Residents Get a Bike-Share Discount, but Where Are Their Stations?

citibike_finance.jpg
ChrisHamby via Compfight cc
Whether it's a totalitarian plot or the city's most heinous aesthetic decision ever, we've heard a lot of reasons why Citi Bike is awful. The New York Post, for example, chose to highlight Citi Bike as "unfair" because the bikes have a loosely enforced weight limit. But grasping, vitriolic bike-share hatred aside, the Post may have hit on a salient point about the program's fairness. New York City Housing Authority residents, for example, get a $60 discounted membership (as opposed to the full $95), but the stations are located far away from the bulk of public housing.

Here's a map of Brooklyn and Manhattan's public housing units:

And here's a map of Citi Bike stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, none of which break north of 61st Street:

citibikemap.jpg
citibikenyc.com/

Placement of the stations isn't the only issue when it comes to making Citi Bike available to all New Yorkers. Last week, when New York Times columnist* Ginia Bellafante took Citi Bike out for a spin, she came across a scene she found particularly "dispiriting": the long line for free bike helmets outside the Rutgers Houses, a public housing unit on the Lower East Side. "The idea was to get some sense of how low-income New Yorkers were responding to the bike-sharing program and how well it might serve them," she wrote.

The line for helmets was very long, and yet few of the people I spoke to were actually residents of the Rutgers Houses or any of the neighboring public housing. I did, however, meet a svelte Argentine woman in running clothes who had come from the Upper East Side. There were also two young women who taught at Bard High School Early College and lived in brownstone Brooklyn, and a woman named Barbara Becker in the company of two sons who, she said when I inquired, attend Friends Seminary in Manhattan, where annual tuition is roughly 296 times the price of an expensive bike helmet (and 1,850 times the price of a helmet you can buy at Han's Market, a convenience store next to the Clark Street kiosk that has quickly expanded its business from milk, soda and frozen foods to biking gear).

While the program is still in its infancy--and does have plans to expand--growing upwards and outward isn't likely to happen soon without additional funding, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Journal also came across more "dispiriting" information when it looked at how the program was distributed across socio-economic lines. "The population of bike-share neighborhoods is 56% white, while the rest of the city is 30.6% white," Ted Mann and Josh Barbanel wrote.

Citi Bike did not respond for comment on the distribution of stations.

We suppose there'd be more to gripe about if the bike-share was publicly funded--as Mayor Bloomberg likes to remind New Yorkers, the program is largely being funded by Citigroup's $41 million contribution and Mastercard's $6.5 million. Still, those "private" funds start to look a little different when you count the $476.2 billion Citigroup received in taxpayer bailout money during the financial crisis. It'd be nice if Citigroup decided to return the favor--you know, to everyone.

(h/t @jelaniday, NYT, WSJ)

*The original version of this post misidentified Bellafante as a public housing reporter. To clarify, she's an opinion columnist.


Send your story tips to sbrownstone@villagevoice.com. Follow her on Twitter here.


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14 comments
James Donaji
James Donaji

The bikes promote Citi Bank. One of the corrupt banks in the world.

mcpuckett
mcpuckett

Thank GOD the upper east side doesn't have them yet. THOSE fuckers would just find something in the program to complain about.

blah
blah

I don't understand the unfairness, it covers all of lower manhattan and dumbo/brooklyn heights.  All the NYCHA housing in those areas have access to the bike share.

ohhleary
ohhleary

This is an absurd criticism. Citibike didn't intentionally pass over NYCHA complexes at all. Every single NYCHA complex within Citibike's bounds has a station within a couple blocks of it. Some are even on NYCHA property. Citibike isn't at NYCHA complexes uptown not because it's NYCHA, but because the first phase of the system doesn't go uptown.

New Yorkers have pretty much run out of things to complain about when it comes to Citibike, so now they're just making stuff up. Give it a rest.

Jen Muir
Jen Muir

Sounds about right for government/council programmes.

mebbrooklyn
mebbrooklyn

There are bike share stations throughout the NYCHA developments on the Lower East Side and near many in downtown Brooklyn.

kinglearsjester
kinglearsjester

@ohhleary This coming from someone who doesn't live in the NYCHA, a transplant from Maine, living in an overpriced apartment in the now gentrified NYC, which you'd have never moved here in the good ol' days. How many people do you know that live in the NYCHA? Yet, you seem to speak for them. Self-rigteous indignation. Keep sucking CitiBike teats or move back to Maine and bring CitiBikes with you.. Just drink your beer, yo.

ovvnt
ovvnt

@Jen Muir citi bike isn't a govt. program at all.

ohhleary
ohhleary

@kinglearsjester I see that you don't have a valid response to my comment, so you just tried to discredit it with wildly inaccurate attacks. Having an intelligent conversation is hard work!

brianvan
brianvan

@kinglearsjester where did you get the idea that he's from Maine? Because you're totally wrong about that, I've actually been to his parents' house in NOT MAINE.

DOT picked sites for bikeshare right near all the NYCHA complexes in the service zone for phase one. Nothing outside of the service zone has a dock... not rich neighborhoods and not poor neighborhoods. And while the service zones have residential streets in them, the target of phase one is really the major commercial business districts. Central Brooklyn, Downtown Manhattan, Midtown Manhattan.

The reason why the program isn't citywide is very simple: there's a limited number of docks based on the private financing that was available for phase 1, and they put them in a tight service zone in the largest commercial areas to be used by as many people as possible who work and buy things, because that's how they are intended to be used. It has nothing to do with trying to stick the bikes only in wealthy areas; in the Manhattan part of the service zone, docks stretch river-to-river up to 59th Street, and no one south of 59th was left out so that the UWS and UES could get docks right away. If they had a rich-people-only dock site agenda, they would have done the opposite, so that theory is very much discounted.

And people keep citing this evidence to debunk the anti-NYCHA theories, but sometimes a dumb theory just sounds too good to die young


kinglearsjester
kinglearsjester

@brianvan@kinglearsjester

The are your comments: "I'm white and has better social and class stauts than those in the public housing and Ima gentrify your neighborhood  and therefore know what's goodd for you all NYCHA residents and Ima dictate what's good for you." Your actions are no different than what Zimmerman did to Trayvon. You "stand your ground" and " shoot"people that threaten your white existence with your smugness, whiteness, arrogance, and trustfund and investor fuinded money. Please.

Please get off you white CitiBike high horses. You bros need to get out of your white, suburban bubble, either that or just get back to your white suburban lives in Maine and New Jersey and keep consuming that local artisanal brew, bros. And Brian Van, please SFTU. Your comments are always long-winded. You comment too much but you ain't saying much. Pocketnovel said hi.

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