David Stone
Ben Kallos welcomes RIOC's Susan Rosenthal as NYC Ferry's first local arrival in 2017. He's still waiting to undock a bike here.
Ben Kallos welcomes RIOC's Susan Rosenthal as NYC Ferry's first local arrival in 2017. He's still waiting to undock a bike here.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily.

"The de Blasio Administration joined Lyft to today announce the boundaries of the planned expansion of Citi Bike over the next five years," the Mayor's Press Office announced just after noon, yesterday. They added, as part of a bullet point, "when completed, all of Manhattan will have Citi Bike." By day's end, working with Council Member Ben Kallos's staff, we learned two things. First, Citi Bike isn't coming to Roosevelt Island. Second, the Mayor does not know that Roosevelt Island's part of Manhattan.

The Mayor's second mistake isn't surprising. Years have passed without de Blasio fulfilling his obligation to recommend a second RIOC Board Member. (Howard Polivy holds one of two City controlled seats, and Polivy was put there by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.)

But it's not because Kallos hasn't tried to wake him up to our East River community, and credit where credit's due, de Blasio got us ferry service, a long sought goal.

"My office has been working with RIOC, DOT, and Citi bike's parent company Lyft to bring Citi bike to Roosevelt Island despite challenges posed by geography which makes it difficult to keep docks supplied with bikes on the island," Kallos told The Daily.

Back to the Mayor's Press Office announcement...

Finally, Citi Bike Comes to Roosevelt Island... NOT!

City releases boundaries of Citi Bike’s next expansion, which will double the current service area by 35 square miles and triple the number of bikes to 40,000; System will expand to a diverse range of communities, including the South Bronx and northern Manhattan in the next year

A map included in the release clearly shows Roosevelt Island highlighted in dark blue, indicating it's included in the expansion, a fact met with a mix of relief, skepticism and fear.

A passionate core of bicycle riders have longed for and joined Kallos in pushing for Citi Bike docks on Roosevelt Island. Another sizable group dreads the addition of more bikes scattering pedestrians on sidewalks, running stop signs, ignoring crosswalks, going the wrong way on one way streets and other persistent safety violations Public Safety refuses to address.

Skepticism?

As Roosevelt Islanders, we're used to being ignored by City Departments. The oft-reported, smelly mess that ripens in the AVAC lot, overseen by the Department of Sanitation, every summer, is an unending insult. And does anyone have to be reminded that it took intense national media coverage to get the Department of Education to do anything about PS/IS 217's massive rat colony?

So, when the press office said that all of Manhattan was now covered by Citi Bike but failed to mention Roosevelt Island as one of the new communities getting service, the map notwithstanding, we were pretty sure what that meant.

The Mayor's Office really doesn't know...

We soon sent the question to City Council Member Ben Kallos and the Mayor's Press Office, owners of the release.

In less than five minutes, a spokesperson for Kallos responded, "We are looking into this. Nothing yet. I'll get back to once we have a response."

As anticipated, Kallos did get back before day's end, finally digging up the fact that, no, Citi Bike is not coming to Roosevelt Island. 

"We will continue to push for the necessary players to come together and do their part to make this happen so Roosevelt Islanders can tap into the Citi Bike network," Kallos promised. 

The Daily was not so lucky with the Mayor's piece of the pie. 

"Adding DOT press who will get back to you," Seth Stein from the Press Office emailed, cryptically.

Indeed, Stein cc-ed no less than five DOT representatives, inspiring a flash: "How many DOT press representatives does it take to answer a simple question...?"

Your answer: More than five.

No one from the Department of Transportation or the Mayor's Press Office were heard from again.

Let this be a lesson in how bureaucracy works. Over staffed offices can't get out of each other's way fast enough to complete the simplest tasks in a timely manner.

And the media too. No one outside Roosevelt Island noticed.

A New York Times report even included the erroneous map. 

How long before the Tram unloads tourists who start looking around for blue bicycle docks?