Another reason I will NEVER get near New York
Bike Stolen? Check the Police Station
By COLIN MOYNIHAN
Houston Street and Second Avenue, 4/23/10Anthony Rebholz This sign appeared at Houston Street and Second Avenue Thursday, hours after bicycles parked nearby were confiscated.
Updated, 7:07 p.m. | The crowds that lined East Houston Street on Thursday morning to watch Barack Obama’s motorcade speed toward Cooper Union got a glimpse of the pomp and protection that accompanies the president. There were black sedans with tinted windows, S.U.V.’s full of Secret Service agents and a brigade of motorcycle officers from the New York Police Department led by a high-ranking officer wearing a white shirt.
But early arrivals along the motorcade route on East Houston Street also got a glimpse of a less likely group that preceded the president: police officers wearing dark blue windbreakers who sawed through locks securing bikes to street signs and other bits of infrastructure and then piled them high on the back of a flatbed truck.
Photographers documented the scene. Blogs like This is Fyf and Gothamist posted the pictures. Outrage ensued.
The Police Department said the bikes, along with dozens of cars, were removed from the motorcade route as an ordinary security measure and could be picked up at the Seventh Precinct station house. But some people who live or work on the Lower East Side said that the police did not clearly indicate that bikes would be removed on Thursday morning and then did little to let bike owners know how to recover their property.
“If I knew the police were coming, I would’ve moved my bike,” said Nat Zirata, 64, who said that a bike frame he had built was removed from a signpost on East Houston Street, near Second Avenue. “They should’ve given us a warning.”
The only indication that the confiscated bicycles could be retrieved at the station house were some decidedly unofficial-looking handwritten notes, posted after the fact, saying “Retrieve Bikes from 7th Pct.,” without an address (19 1/2 Pitt Street).
Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the police department’s chief spokesman, wrote in an e-mail message: “All vehicles, including 165 cars and 30 bikes were removed as a precaution in advance of the presidential motorcade. Notices were posted two days in advance, on Tuesday.”
Officers removing bicycles along Houston Street in preparation for the presidential motorcade, 4/22/10.Anthony Rebholz Officers removing bicycles along Houston Street on Thursday in preparation for the presidential motorcade.
He appended a brief history of the deployment of bicycle bombs in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq and India.
Mr. Browne did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on how bicycle owners were supposed to know where to find their bicycles.
Friday, dozens of green fliers put up by the police department reading “No Parking Thursday” could be seen on East Houston Street, but those signs made no mention of bicycles. Traces of seized bikes were still visible in the form of locks and chains that had been sawed into pieces and lay on the ground next to parking meters, lampposts and official city bike racks.
A person who answered the phone on Friday afternoon at the Seventh Precinct said the seized bikes would be available there for pickup between 4 a.m. and noon on Monday.
One bike owner, David Jaffe, 24, said he returned to his building on East Houston Street on Friday to find that his Raleigh three-speed, which had been locked to an official city bike rack, was gone.
Mr. Jaffe said that a doorman in a neighboring building told him that the police had removed the bike, after cutting through a lock and chain that Mr. Jaffe valued at about $85.
“The lock’s gone, the bike’s gone, no signs taped up, no warnings before hand, no directions on where to get my bike,” he said. “It was handled terribly.”