Church Irks Blogger by Blocking Bike Lane on Sundays

Brooklyn Heights based blog Ink Lake is irked about parishioners of the First Presbyterian Church blocking the Henry Street bike lane every Sunday.  He claims that church brass told him that they have an “understanding” with the 84th Precinct:

Ink Lake: Every Sunday, the members of the First Presbyterian Church park their cars for several hours down the length of Henry, between Clark and Love Lane. You would think that would be a lot of revenue for the city, right?


Apparently, they have some ‘understanding’ with the 84th Precinct, whereby if they put a sign in their window that they are attending church, they don’t get ticketed. Last year, I traded some e-mails with the interim pastor, to no avail, and in June I raised the issue at the community precinct meeting. The captain agreed that praying to God in a specific building on Sundays does not confer special parking privileges, and he would ‘talk to them’. Well, you can see the results.

Calls to 311 produce nothing either, and meanwhile, cyclists on this busy stretch of street are forced to share their lane with cars.

The video is from this past Sunday, when more than 20 cars blocked the lane. I shot it a few minutes after services had ended, so there were actually a couple of empty spots.

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  • uh

    Wow. So some douche biker’s right are being infringed by a community’s desire to practice its religion in a communal setting. I guess they should all go to the parking garage on Montague and wait for their cars to be warehoused one-by-one over the span of 8 hours.

    Get bent.

  • my2cents

    Yeah what a dickbag. So ride around the f-ing cars take an alternate route, or wait til church is over to ride. It is very common in communities all over the country for the local police to bend the parking rules on Sundays near churches to allow parishoners to park nearby. Many parishoners are elderly too, and need to park closer.

  • JM

    AMEN brothers and sisters!

  • biker

    Riding around the cars endangers the biker’s safety. Can the parishioners use public transportation? The Clark Street subway exit is less than 1 block away.

  • T.K. Small

    Would people feel the same way if it was another religion, on another day? People that go to temple on Saturday should also be allowed to park in the bicycle path. I’m sure that there are other religions which practice their faith on other days of the week. Shouldn’t they also get the same privileges? Let’s just let anyone park anywhere and completely forget about the rules. Three cheers for anarchy!

  • paul

    meh, I’m on the cyclist’s side on this one. is it also ok for elderly brownstone owners not to salt their sidewalks?

  • mike

    I can’t believe people’s reactions to this. In my mind, this is a serious issue. These people should have every right to practice whatever religion they wish, but violating NYC parking rules and blocking a bike lane is a different issue. Why do they need to drive?

    I do many things on a weekly basis, including going to the supermarket, but in no instances do I think it is in my right to illegally park while I do it. Just because someone is choosing to worship does not give them the right to illegally park.

    Also, why, in a boro with denominational churches nearby all neighborhoods, can people not worship closer to home? And why, if they wish to worship far from home, can’t they take public transportation?

    Going around the cars is not an option on that street. Henry is very tight and going around the cars means that you are directly in front of honking motorists. It will likely take some kind of bad event, like a biker being hit, or a firetruck responding to a call not being able to fit down the block between illegally parked cars for this policy to change.

  • paul

    also, it’s not just about going around cars, it’s also about getting doored, which sucks.

  • DrewB

    I’ll be the first to say that cyclists are one of the most over-entitled acting segments of the NYC population. But I agree with this guy 100%. Going to a religious service should not make you immune to parking laws. As someone stated there is a subway less than a block away. There is no reason for people to drive into this neighborhood and park illegally. If, as a practicing Buddhist, I chose to meditate in Central park, could I pull up on Central Park West and double park my car? I doubt it. What if members at the Mosque on State street decided they wanted to double park every time they went for prayers? Something tells me there would be complaints. We have a separation of church and state in this country. Going to religious service doesn’t entitle you to break the law.

  • Monty

    I’m surprised that this is making a bigger splash than the Maronite church goers parking on the #$%#ing sidewalk every Sunday. I’ve noticed they have the same little placards saying they are at church so they are allowed to impede non-Lebanese pedestrians all morning. Our neighborhood has a ridiculous concentration of religious institutions that mostly attract non-resident parishioners. Take the train!

  • nabeguy

    The same situation exists at every church on every Sunday. Assumption, Plymouth, Maronite, Unitarian, Grace, all of them. The fact that the Presbyterian Church happens to be along the bike lane makes it no worse or better than any of the others.

  • P

    I’m the author of inklake. First, I picked this institution because they are the ‘worst’ offenders, and the dialogue I had with the pastor and the precinct captain. I tend to walk more ‘north’ than ‘south’, but this would be ‘ditto’ for the Maronite church.

    As for ‘my2cents’, who says “take an alternate route”. What part of the words “bike lane” are you having trouble with? That’s what the big green stripe means. That IS the route.

  • heightsdiho

    Bike lanes are for bikes. The car service guys on Henry street are just as guilty of blocking the lane as the church people. Do they have a similar “understanding”?

  • DrewB

    Just to be clear. I have a problem with any church, synagogue, mosque or temple being granted special parking privileges. Whether they are double parking, parking on sidewalks, or parking in bike lanes. I don’t see any justifiable rationale why going to a religious service should give you special entitlements. Take public transportation like the rest of us, or find a parking space.

  • WillowtownCop

    Perhaps you should take the matter into your own hands by leaving notes on the cars instead of whining to the police about it. I’m sure they have better things to do than make sure the bike lane on Henry St is car free for any yuppie who’s too scared to ride on a quiet street. If this is the biggest problem you have in your life you should be in the church yourself on Sunday morning, thanking God for the blessed life you lead.

  • DrewB

    Yeah, god forbid you ask a police officer to enforce the traffic laws. Give me a break!

  • WillowtownCop

    Anyway, check the NYC Criminal Procedure Law- a summons is issued at the discretion of the police officer. If the police choose not to enforce the double parking rules because the church and its people are upstanding members of the community, then it is what it is. Whining to a cop to “do his job” and write someone else a ticket is 9 times out of 10 a waste of breath.

  • DrewB

    I’m not sure how to even respond to that. Basically you’re saying you get to decide who the laws apply to. And I wonder how you would respond to a mother who’s children have to veer out into traffic to ride around illegally parked cars.

  • uh

    Rules are important, but the fabric of society is maintained when civil authorities make reasonable accommodations to citizens acting in good will. Made-up counterfactuals are fun stoned in your dorm room, but the only people involved in this dispute are yuppie bikers vs. churchgoers — no Zoroastrians asking for parking exceptions on Tuesdays and odd Thursdays. Is it ideal? No. But people are coming with elderly family members, multiple children, etc. The fabric of these communities should be strained for your F—ing bike riding smug a–?

    I’m not even a religions person (ranting atheist, in fact). But, Jesus, get. bent.

  • WillowtownCop

    I’m not saying it. The CPL says it. Cops must enforce misdemeanors and
    felonies, not violations. Can you imagine what would happen if we took
    away their discretion? If every single person who jaywalked or crossed
    against the light or spit on the sidewalk or signaled a turn 2 feet below
    the VTL minimum was required to receive a ticket? This is great coming
    from bikers who break more traffic laws as a group than any one else in
    the entire city.

  • DrewB

    I don’t even own a damn bike! I just don’t think it is safe to have cars blocking bike lanes. I hake arrogant bikers as much as the next pedestrian. But I also see families out riding their bikes on Sunday afternoons that have to veer around those cars. I don’t think going to church should give you a pass on traffic laws. I understand the need for discretion, but I disagree with the choice and think this “agreement” is endangering people in order to do a favor for a religious organization. In a sense endangering the people that live in this neighbor so that visitors don’t have to walk a couple blocks. And before you start shouting about old people, I can tell you I’ve seen plenty of able bodied folks sauntering out of that church and right into their cars.

  • my2cents

    Uh is right again. This sort of thing happens all over the city and in other cities too. If you go up to Harlem, the cars are often 3 deep on Sundays outside the churches. In Philadelphia, people park (unrelated to church) in the median strip overnight even though it is technically illegal. If you go down to cobble hill on a tuesday, people double park for the 2 hour period when street cleaning is done. People also double park when picking up and dropping kids off from schools. In other words this is not about religion. This is city life with cars and bikes and pedestrians and it is messy. The police decided that making reasonable accomodation for people with regards to church parking one day a week for a few hours is better than alienating a whole neighborhood or population. In Philly they tried cracking down on the median parking and there was a major public outcry. So “P”, stop being such a self-righteous meddler and take another street. You could ride down willow, or monroe place both of which are practically devoid of traffic. Just wear green glasses and the whole road will be your bike lane.

  • WillowtownCop

    Henry Street is a one way street. Presumably you have to get back from wherever you came from. So if you take Hicks back, you have to ride with traffic because there is no bike lane on Hicks! How is that any less dangerous than riding with traffic on Henry Street? I don’t see anyone pushing their bikes home on the sidewalk on hicks.

  • T.K. Small

    Nothing like a conversation about bicycles and parking to get people all hot under the collar!

  • nabeguy

    Maybe we should just get off our bikes and high horses one Sunday and actually participate in one of the services at the various churches in the nabe. Sounds like it might do us a bit of good.

  • Jorale-man

    Religious institutions shouldn’t be exempt basic traffic laws no matter where they are. Whether or not you like bicyclists (and I do find many of them to be difficult people) it’s beside the point. They have a right to that lane and the church-goers don’t.

  • nabeguy

    I guess, like Hebrew National hotdogs, those church-goers are answering to a higher source.

  • Sarah Palin

    That church is always posting anti-worr stuff…they’re not real Christians….

  • Chuck B.

    Wow, it’s not many comment chains that can veer so quickly from pretentious philosophizing (“the fabric of society”!) to ad hominem attacks (“dickbag” “self-righteous meddler”).

    The original poster is right, of course. Attending a religious service does not make one immune to parking violations. Is this the biggest tragedy in the world? No. But it does create a dangerous situation for bikers (not all of whom are the screaming maniacs) who have a reasonable expectation to be able to use bike lanes safely.

    For me, who neither rides a bike nor attends church, the argument that one group of people should receive a special accommodation because of their individual beliefs stinks of entitlement. What’s worse, the tacit agreement with the police that they will look the other way for this violation but not for others seems arbitrary and discriminatory. Applying Kant’s categorical imperative, anyone who attends a religious meeting of any kind should be able to expect to receive the same accommodation, but good luck trying to explain that to your local traffic cop.

  • nabeguy

    Flippancy aside, uh raises an excellent point. It’s not like churches are conducting their services at random and varying times (like TV/movie shoots). It’s 2 hours, every Sunday morning, every week. Given that, is it so difficult to adapt and adjust your route and try to be a thread in the fabric of the neighborhood rather than a self-entitled narcissist who invokes the law to justify a position that smacks of intolerance?