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When challenged about the unfulfilled bike parking promise, ESD rep again changes the subject

The state's decision to change the requirements for bike parking for arena events from 400 indoor secured paces to 100 unsecured outdoor spaces--as I previously wrote for this blog, and for Streetsblog--got another airing at the 7/22/19 meeting of the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC).

So it's worth watching the video, as excerpted below, to see the weak rationale from a representative of Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project, when challenged by an AY CDC director--and then the willingness of another AY CDC director to accept the explanation and change the subject.

Leading off

Tobi Jaiyesimi, ESD's Atlantic Yards project director, explained the change: as part of the project's Transportation Demand Management plan, 400 valeted bike spaces were to be made available to eventgoers.

The proposed modification reduces the number of spaces to 100, and removes the requirement that the spaces be in an indoor and manned facility.

As noted at the previous presentation, she cited the logistical and locational constraints of the proposed indoor storage facility at the B3 (38 Sixth Avenue) site, on Dean Street west of Sixth Avenue, given that it was close to both the building's parking garage and the arena loading dock.

She did not note criticism, aired at the Quality of Life meeting, that the proposed location seemed doom to fail, nor that--as I wrote--it did not comport with the original promise for 4,000 square feet of "ground floor space along the 6th Avenue corridor."

She cited plans to install racks to accommodate 56 bikes on the arena plaza, and in the interim, to count 44 existing racks across the street at the Atlantic Center mall.

The arena operator--BSE Global, which is not the developer of the towers--will monitor utilization and demand of the racks.

Once construction of the B4 tower (18 Sixth Avenue) at the northeast corner of the arena block is completed, that would free up space for potential outdoor racks on the east side of the arena, at Sixth Avenue between 18 Sixth and 38 Sixth.

More on the rationale

Jaiyesimi noted what was presented as a significant data point: a concert for The National, which attracts a hipster crowd, was coordinated with the group Transportation Alternatives, which operated valeted bike parking at the outdoor racks then placed on the site where B3 was built.

Only 99 guests parked their bikes, she said. Also before B3 was built, the entire parcel was used for bicycle storage, with a capacity for 400 bikes, and those racks were never at capacity.

Deflecting the criticism

Then Jaiyesimi cited, and obliquely deflected, the criticism.

“It’s been noted that there are those who believe it would be best to provide for valet parking in the interim, to test utilization, and then to consider shifting the requirement from it being an indoor, manned facility," she said. "We believe this is the best step forward. One, because we would be able to ensure there is the ability to utilize these racks, both for arena and non-arena events, and we’re committed to, once site constraints are no longer there, delivering additional racks."

In that, Jaiyesimi added slightly to the previous rationale: the new outdoor racks would serve visitors who weren't going to arena.

But she didn't explain why valeted parking was never seriously tried. Surely secured bike parking offers much greater confidence to those worried about theft or vandalism of what might be a relatively expensive item.

AY CDC Director Gib Veconi, who had at the previous meeting suggested that unused retail space on the arena flank be used for valeted bike parking, cited the racks outside the mall: "Those are not in Atlantic Yards footprint. What's the ability of the state to ensure the continued maintenance of those to satisfy this requirement?"

"The arena operator will coordinate with mall’s operator to make sure they’re maintained and in good shape and available for utilization during arena events," Jaiyesimi said. "They will monitor utilization and demand, and once additional sites on the arena block become available, without posing site safety concerns, additional racks will be installed."

What about valeted parking?

"It sounds like the highest utilization of bicycles for attending an arena event was The National concert," Veconi said. "That was one in which Transportation Alternatives provided valet parking... Wouldn't that indicate that providing valet parking will encourage people to bring their bicycle to an arena event, as was envisioned in Transportation Demand Management plan?"

"That is correct, but this reduction, this modification is responsive to that number, at 100," said Jaiyesimi. "Again, there will still be the opportunity for allowing for additional bicycle spaces."

As discussed at the previous meeting, it might make sense to lower the required spaces to 100, from 400. But that doesn't justify not monitoring them.

"I guess what I'm saying," Veconi said, "is I think the study you mentioned demonstrates there will be more utilization if there is attended valet parking, because that was what the actual experience was, not that it isn't necessary."

That seemed an indisputable point, but it was quickly deflected by another AY CDC director, Daniel Kummer.

"But I think it also illustrates that, even at an event organized by transportation, bike-oriented group, and where there was specific advertising of valet parking for bikes, they still only got 100 people to ride their bike to the arena," Kummer said. "They’re taking into account an unusual usage, for an unusual event that was specifically bike-oriented in its design, and it still only attracted 100. It seems to me the reduction takes that into account."

No one challenged him. Indeed, Kummer went on to ask if there'd be signage at the arena parking racks to alert people to the availability of additional racks.

"Yes, the arena operator will put location of bicycle racks on its website," Jaiyesimi said.

Kummer said there should also be onsite signage, Jaiyesimi concurred, and the discussion about secured parking ended.