By Bill Parry
Citi Bike arrived in the borough for the first time Wednesday with the activation of the first of 12 docking stations in Long Island City.
The new rack holding 20 of the familiar blue bikes went on line at Hunters Point South Park, across from the East River ferry landing. The other stations will be installed in the next few weeks.
“Since its inception Citi Bike has provided New Yorkers with a vital alternative mode of transportation that is empowering tens of thousands every single day,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “For years I have fought to have our borough incorporated into the nation’s largest bike share network and today that becomes a reality.”
Van Bramer, who joined city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Motivate CEO Jay Walder for a ride across the Pulaski Bridge, called the arrival of Citi Bike “a dream come true” after three years of delays. Long Island City was supposed to be included in the original citywide roll-out of Citi Bike, but flooding during Hurricane Sandy destroyed bikes and equipment in warehouses where they were stored.
“The inclusion of Long Island City was a long time coming, but I am glad it finally arrived,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “Bike share will allow people to enjoy our neighborhood in a healthy, fun way and facilitate easier travel around western Queens, an area in dire need of better mass transit.”
Frank “Turtle” Raffaele, owner of LIC Landing by Coffeed across from the new docking station, watched the proceedings and smiled.
“It’s amazing. This park is the entry point to the borough, it’s the gateway of Queens,” he said. “Tourists from all over the world get off that ferry but stay close to the park, which is good for my business, but now with Citi Bike they’ll be able to venture further into the borough and try other restaurants and see the sights. Once they see how safe and interesting Queens is they’ll keep coming back.”
When the DOT announced the expansion of the bike share network last fall, it was just as Motivate was taking over ownership with Walder at the helm. The former MTA chairman came in and rescued Citi Bike from collapse with an infusion of private investment.
“Nine months ago New Yorkers wondered about the future of Citi Bike,” Walder said. “Today New Yorkers see a much improved and now expanding system. The idea of bringing Citi Bike to Queens is pretty exciting for me. I grew up in Rockaway.”
Along with the expansion came a higher annual membership fee of $149, but Walder said new riders can get a $25 discount until the end of August.
Meanwhile, Trottenberg mentioned that work has begun on a protected bike lane for the Pulaski Bridge that connects LIC with Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The project has been delayed by engineering problems but will be completed by spring.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr