The Prototype for Citi Bike Was Invented By Monk Eastman, A Pigeon-Loving Gangster From Williamsburg

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Image via Wikipedia
Monk Eastman, circa 1910-1920
Earlier this month, Citi Bike announced that its bike renters had taken over 5 million rides. And while they're certainly the biggest name in the bike rental game today, if they were operating 100 years ago, they'd have some stiff competition from Monk Eastman, an eccentric Brooklyn-born gangster who ran one of the earliest, most successful bike shares in the city's history, when he wasn't busy hoarding animals, beating people up, or smoking copious amounts of opium.

Eastman was reputedly born Edward Osterman in Williamsburg, Brooklyn around 1873 (although some accounts contend he was born in Corlear's Hook, now a park area on the Lower East Side). He loved cats and pigeons, so much so that his father, a Jewish restaurant owner, helped set him up with his own pet shop.

But the pet store game failed to excite him, and he left in the mid-1890s to become a bouncer (or "sheriff", as they were then known) at the mammoth New Irving Dance Hall. Eastman sounds like he was a real looker in his prime, according to a description of him in Low Life, Luc Sante's classic book about the seedy underbelly of turn-of-the-century New York:

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Brooklynite Spreads the Gospel of Sustainability One Menstrual Cup at a Time

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Flickr/Flavio~
In this day and age, it's rare to find someone who didn't have the three Rs drilled into them all the way through grade school. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Third graders across the country know it like a prayer. But when teachers across the country lead schoolchildren in the old chant, we're reasonably certain it's cardboard boxes and plastic bottles on their minds, not tampons.

Brooklyn-based yoga instructor Sarah Konner is picking up where teachers leave off. Konner is one of the heads of Sustainable Cycles, a fledgling group with an inventive take on sustainability: getting women to ditch pads and tampons for reusable menstrual cups.

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Bike Share Fever: Citi Bike Rides Pass the Quarter-Million Mark

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Sam Levin
700,000 miles. That's the lengthy equivalent of about 280,000 Central Parks. Or a little more than 50,000 Manhattans from the bottom up. It's also the amount of miles CitiBike users--who have now clocked in over 250,000 rides--have covered in three weeks' time.

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

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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.

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Dorothy Rabinowitz Isn't the Only One Who Thinks Bike-Share Is a Totalitarian Plot

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jcn via Compfight cc
The internet was tickled by this yesterday--a video interview with Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal editorial board member. When asked about the city's new bike-share program, Rabinowitz delivered an impassioned diatribe about "the totalitarians running this city" implementing "this dreadful program" in the interest of "this ideology, this forward-lookingness."

"It is shocking to walk around the city to see how much of this they have sneaked under the radar in the interest of the environment," Rabinowitz said. "The bike-lobby is an all powerful enterprise," she later added.

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Christine Quinn Wants to Save the Streets From Themselves

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Between 2009 and 2011, approximately 450 people died crossing the street in New York City. Whether to reckless driving, not looking both ways, or sheer confusion, the city lost 450 residents. And that's not counting bicycle fatalities. Needless to say, like subway deaths, it's become a problem that demands fixing ASAP, especially with the advent of CitiBike next weekend.

Enter Christine Quinn.

In a statement released yesterday, the City Council speaker and mayoral frontrunner laid out her platform on the issue of ground-level urban planning. Her goal is straightforward: By 2021, Quinn wants to cut New York City's street fatalities in half.

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It's Confirmed: NYC's Bike Share Program Will Start On Memorial Day

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Sam Levin
We remember when it was supposed to be July 2012. Then we heard maybe it'd be March 2013. That didn't happen. Then the Department of Transportation released a map of where the 293 stations would be built. And we heard it would be some time in May. So we were kinda/sorta convinced: New York City's bike share program - the largest of its kind - would become a reality in our lifetime.

Now, we have ourselves an official release date: Memorial Day.

We checked our calendars: that's only three weeks from now. The three-day weekend just got that much more cherish-able.

On that day, thousands of CitiBikes will be rolled out onto the streets, occupying the empty stations that have already been spotted all over Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. And it looks like the Tourists Gone Wild criticism isn't stopping anyone: according to a DOT press release yesterday, eight thousand people have already signed up to flex their pedals come Memorial Day. Good luck getting to the barbecue.

But, seriously, the bike share program is real now. Ride accordingly.

[jsurico15@gmail.com][@JohnSurico]

The CitiBike Program to Arrive Sometime in May

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Now that we have a map of stations and a confirmation from the Department of Transportation that absolute tourist mayhem won't break out, it looks like we finally are seeing this CitiBike program come into fruition with a definite arrival date.

Janette Sadik-Khan, DOT commissioner, told reporters at a press conference in DUMBO yesterday that the initiative would begin "in May," just in time for summer. She was unable to give an exact date, emphasizing that the fact that this project was developed in less than three years is more than enough reason for everyone to calm down.

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DOT Spokesperson Tells City Not to Worry About CitiBike Riders "Doing Crazy Stuff"

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The re-introduction of the CitiBike map two weeks ago hopefully reaffirmed the idea that we can start taking the bike share program seriously. We can move beyond questions of "When?" or "Where the hell is it?" and start asking "What will happen now?"

The city is unloading hundreds, if not thousands, of bikes onto the streets of New York--and, presumably, a fair share of them will be ridden by tourists. These outsiders don't know the rules of the road; imagine throwing a family of five from Armenia or Morocco on a set of wheels and have them fly down First Avenue during rush hour. This sudden spike in cyclists provides an immediate threat (a bit hyperbolic, maybe?) to pedestrians and police alike.

At least that's what you would think.

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The CitiBike Program Has a New Map So Maybe It Is Really Happening

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Department of Transportation
We haven't forgotten about the CitiBike plan. Even after it got delayed once (thanks computer glitches). And then again (thanks, Sandy). Now, the expected release date is this July for New York's first citywide bike share--a program that Mayor Bloomberg is still whatever about.

Keyword: expected. But, with this new map of detailed locations (seen above) in hand, maybe this is the real thing.

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