By Chris Engelhardt
The MTA is in talks with the city’s Department of Transportation about expanding the CitiBike program to areas that will be affected by upcoming closures of the G train, including Long Island City and Greenpoint in Brooklyn.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently announced that major construction is scheduled to repair damage in the tunnels that carry the G and R trains caused by Hurricane Sandy. The Greenpoint Tube, which carries the G train between Long Island City and Brooklyn, will be closed for 12 55-hour-long weekends beginning July 6. A spokeswoman for the MTA said that because of the upcoming closures of the G train, the MTA and DOT are in discussions about broadening the CitiBike program to Long Island City.
“Discussions are ongoing, and nothing has been finalized,” she said.
The news comes after elected officials and community leaders appeared June 13 outside City Hall to push for the expansion of CitiBike into neighborhoods in western Queens in an effort to provide residents with a healthy, alternative mode of transportation.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who organized the rally, joined Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley and other cultural, civic and business leaders to call for CitiBike, New York City’s new bike-share program, to be incorporated into Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside, Woodside and other areas of western Queens.
Van Bramer said the program, which attracted more than 36,000 members and documented nearly 200,000 rides in just two weeks, has been a hit, but has failed to integrate other areas in the five boroughs in its plan.
Including CitiBike docking stations in different locations in western Queens, he said, would provide residents as well as tourists with a healthier, more reliable means of transportation.
“The inclusion, and an eventual expansion, of the CitiBike program in western Queens will give millions more New Yorkers as well as tourists, both domestic and foreign, an exciting and healthy viable transportation option to visit our growing small businesses, world renowned cultural venues and thriving neighborhoods,” Van Bramer said. “Until Queens locations are included into the map, we cannot call CitiBike a citywide bike share program. Queens deserves its fair share of blue bikes.”
Last year, after working with the DOT, Van Bramer secured 10 station locations in Long Island City, giving Queens the opportunity to be a part of the CitiBike program. But Hurricane Sandy damaged those docking stations as well as the bicycles that were to be used.
At the rally, representatives from LaGuardia Community College, the Dutch Kills Civic Association, Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, Woodside on the Move, Long Island City Partnership, Transportation Alternatives, the New York League of Conservation of Voters, MoMA PS 1, Noguchi Museum, SculptureCenter, Socrates Sculpture Park, Recycle-A-Bicycle and LIC YMCA all shared similar sentiments, noting that in recent years western Queens has become one of New York City’s most popular destinations with its arts and cultural venues, hotel industry and close distance to Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Conley said he supported bringing CitiBike docking stations to western Queens not only because it would ensure a healthier transportation option for residents and tourists, but because the DOT has made a significant investment in creating more bike lanes in the area.
“The bike share program increases the easy access to bicycles and will further continue to enhance the quality of life in our neighborhoods … and encourages more bicycle use as an alternative to cars,” he said.
Dani Simons, CitiBike’s director of marketing, said there are more than 300 stations throughout New York City, none of which are in Queens.
A DOT spokesman said the department is “working to bring bike share stations to [Long Island City] as soon as possible,” citing Sandy for the delays.
Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.