Citibike stand in front of the Plaza Hotel (NYLJ/Monika Kozak)
A Manhattan judge has rebuffed the Plaza Hotel’s attempt to move a public bicycle rack for New York City’s Citibike program away from its historic entrance.
Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern (See Profile) ruled on Monday in Board of Managers of The Plaza Condominium v. The New York City Department of Transportation, 101392/13, denied an Article 78 petition filed by the Plaza’s board of managers, saying the Department of Transportation’s decision to put the rack there was not arbitrary and capricious and complied with relevant environmental laws.
Citibike, a privately funded and operated bike share program, is overseen by the DOT, which chooses the bike rack locations. One rack was placed on Grand Army Plaza, a square at the southeast corner of Central Park, across from the Plaza Hotel’s entrance. The historic hotel, built in 1907 and housing a mix of hotel rooms and condominiums, is a national historic landmark.
In their petition challenging the placement of the Citibike rack, the Plaza’s board of managers alleged the rack impeded traffic and marred the historic character of the hotel and its surroundings. They contended that the DOT failed to consider alternative locations or undertake appropriate environmental reviews.
Kern, however, ruled that the DOT had shown its decision was rational.
“Specifically, DOT found that Grand Army Plaza was an appropriate location as it is centrally located, safe and convenient for the public to use; and it does not interfere with any existing businesses or utilities,” she wrote. “Additionally, DOT has affirmed that the location of the bike share station provides unrestricted, 24/7 public access; ensures maximum visibility and access; does not impede the use of any existing facilities; is located in a curb-lane that measures at least eight feet in width; is not in a bus stop; is not in a lane that becomes a driving lane at certain times; and is not within a restricted area.”
She said that the DOT had rationally rejected alternative locations nearby for reasons such as traffic, parking and other concerns.
“Additionally, the fact that DOT ultimately selected a location disfavored by petitioners does not support a finding that such decision was arbitrary and capricious,” the judge wrote.
She found that the Plaza board failed to show that traffic got worse after the rack was installed, and that the DOT itself had done a detailed traffic study before choosing the location.
“Further, petitioner’s reliance on photographs depicting the bike share station next to idling and moving vehicles for the proposition that the bike share station has caused increased traffic and congestion on Grand Army Plaza is unavailing and conclusory,” she wrote.
Kern also rejected the board’s contention that the rack was not in keeping with the area’s historic character of the area, saying it “is lower in scale than the many cars that line Grand Army Plaza and is similar in appearance to nearby street furniture such as bus stations or vendor kiosks” and “does not significantly affect the scale, visual prominence or visual context of these landmarks.”
Finally, Kern ruled that the DOT had complied with city and state environmental laws by doing an initial environmental impact study and concluding that no further study was necessary, rejecting the board’s argument that it was obligated to conduct a more detailed study.
Steven Sladkus, a partner at Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, who represents the Plaza, declined to comment.
The DOT was represented by Nicholas Ciappetta and Sarah Kogel-Smucker, both senior counsel in the New York City Law Department.
Both said in an emailed statement that they were pleased with the decision.