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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  • nabeguy

    Yeah, Chuck, 2009 years of entitlement. Kinda sets a precedent.

  • hoppy

    +1 what nabeguy said….

    In the end, it’s a hundred meters of peddling a little faster to stay ahead of traffic, or walking your bike, or waiting for the red light at Clark so you can pass this obstruction with no one behind you. There are bigger issues out there. Why give yourself agitta? (sp?)

  • p

    Dear Willowtown,
    FYI, the ‘northbound’ bike lane is on Clinton, though I don’t think it has the ‘green’.

  • AEB

    Laws can, I suppose, be bent. But, to my mind, the need to worship anywhere, and in whatever way, isn’t a justification for doing so.

    If I opened a house of non-worship for atheists, I doubt whether the local constabulary, much less the plain ol’ locals, would support the clogging of a bike lane (or any lane) to allow my “service” to be conveniently attended.

    Separation of church and state isn’t a discretionary thing, you know.

    PS, let’s not get into the classism/out-and-out discrimination of declaring bike riders don’t count because their form of transportation MIGHT appeal to a certain part of the population.

  • my2cents

    As I pointed out in my last comment, this isn’t about religion. But it is sort of about “getting by” as a group. There are analogous situations with parking laws being bent that are nonreligious (like in Cobble Hill on Tuesdays during street cleaning). I think nabeguy’s comment about being a “thread in the neighborhood fabric” hits the spot. If you are really concerned about bike safety in this town, there are much better places for you to focus your efforts rather than picking on churchgoers whose cars aren’t even moving.

  • AEB

    If this isn’t a religious issue, my2, then what is the justification for allowing cars to park–at least, in the mind of the police?

    This isn’t about clearing a street to allow maintenance–nor is it about making a one-time exception. The choice to allow cars to park is completely bound, in this instance, to the notion–no, to the facilitation–of worship.

  • p

    For those interested, I’ve posted a little more on Inklake:

  • mike

    This is clearly about church goers. If any other group parked illegally for any reason, they would be ticketed. Why shouldn’t the alcoholics anonymous groups who meet at these churches be allowed to park illegally as well? Where does the line get drawn? What about communions, should they get special parking too? Someone said it best, it is because “upstanding citizens” are the ones going to church. Ha!

    And for those who say this is just a minor issue that people should just deal with as it is predictable and only once a week, I hope that it is not your apartment burning down as a fire truck gets stuck going down that block (as I have seen happen before). As much as I hate many traffic laws, they are there for a reason and that reason is our safety.

    I don’t even see why this is a conversation, this should be a petition to fix the problem, not bickering about “yuppie bikers” or “churchgoers.” Everyone’s self-righteousness is best summed up in uh’s first comment, where he calls the poster a “douchebag biker” because he is concerned about a safety issue. Following this line of thinking, I guess cops, crossing guards, and the CDC are “douchebags” as well.

  • my2cents

    Mike, your “any other group” comment again fails to recognize that there ARE other groups of people who park illegally for specific brief instances and it’s considered ok. I am now mentioning for the third time the example of people in cobble hill who double park (2 deep) blocking most of the road for just 2 hours once a week so that they don’t lose their spots during street cleaning. Those people aren’t churchgoers. They are just motorists in the neighborhood. The neighborhood just functions that way and it is a system that seems to work, odd as it looks. As for your fire truck argument, i don’t buy it. First, no cars in the video are parked in fire zones, and second, most of them are parked half on the sidewalk so as to maximize space on the street.

  • nathan_h

    Why don’t they park in the car lane instead of “half on the sidewalk” and half in a bicycle lane? I’m sure other motorists will not mind taking an alternate route so that the fabric of our community can transport the aged to church in motor-coaches, as God intended.

  • No One of Consequence

    They should cut down those stupid trees so they can park 2 deep on the sidewalk.

  • lifer

    It does seem pretty unfair, however, I did notice not one bike rode past the camera while filming.

  • Remsen

    They also park on the “Tuesday only” side on Remsen, which is also illegal. Seems fine though as it does not block the bike lane as well as the sidewalk…perhaps they should find additional “Tuesday only” or “Wed only” sides of the streets to park on. Also, are these the only churchgoers that park on our sidewalks?

  • ls

    The issue really is safety. Not just the biker’s safety but the communities. I’ve seen fire trucks having to slow down and inch along Henry Street. Bikers can learn to take a different path but should the fire trucks? Should they learn to go down Willow Street as well to get to a fire? The churchgoers don’t even bother to look for a legal parking spot. They just pull into an illegal spot and place the illegal placard on their windshield. I’ve seen this happen with legal spots open on the other side of the street. There’s a reason Brooklyn Heights only allows one side of the street parking on most blocks…they’re too narrow for both sides of the street parking to allow fire trucks to pass. I don’t care what happens elsewhere, we’re talking about our neighborhood.

  • Bob

    The double parking in cobble hill during street cleaning is outrageous too. Are you kidding me?? Everywhere else you have to find another space or stay with your car. Who do these people think they are??

  • Drew

    I am now mentioning for the third time the example of people in cobble hill who double park (2 deep) blocking most of the road for just 2 hours once a week so that they don’t lose their spots during street cleaning.

    my2cents still doesn’t get it. If the police look the other way for street cleaning, that’s the state making an accommodation for a state maintenance issue. If the police look the other way for church services, that’s the state making an accommodation for church.

    Apples and oranges, my friend.

  • Teddie Boy Eddie

    nathan_h – by far the best comment.

  • AEB

    Thank you, Drew.

    The police may make other exceptions to parking regulations, but the fact in this instance is that they’ve done so in deference to a particular religious practice.

  • Le Where

    Where would Jesus Park?

  • my2cents

    AEB, that wasn’t mike’s point. Mike’s point was that the police are only doing this for churchgoers, and mine was that they do it also for other people, which I have proved by my example. Let’s not get into a church/state thing. And the fire truck argument would possibly be a valid one if that was what this blogger was originally complaining about. But he isn’t. So the firetruck argument (i don’t hear the FDNY complaining..they could stop this if it were a hindrance to them) is only a secondary way to attack something you don’t like for the primary reason that you can’t ride your bike in the bike lane for 3 hours once a week.

  • Billy Reno

    Wait’ll David Byrne gets wind of this!

  • Hicks St guy

    ride around the cars, jackass.

  • Heights Neighbor

    At least this is only on Sunday mornings. What about all of the illegal placard parkers and those with MD plates who park on the NO PARKING side of skinny Pierrpont Street betweeen Hicks and Henry? They are there all the time including the “doctors” who live on the street and use Pierrepont as their driveways. A traffic cop told me they were given a new order not to ticket any doctor plate on a block including a dr. office…even if a different dr….even when they know the doctors aren’t affiliated with the office. A disgrace.

  • Monty

    Regarding the “sense of entitlement” argument, I think the church goers are also exploiting their own sense of entitlement to drive their cars everywhere since they are coming from further out in Brooklyn or other boroughs where more people drive. Most New Yorkers don’t own a car and get along just fine. The question here is, whose sense of entitlement is more valid. Answer: the bike riders and pedestrians.

  • Sticky

    It is a bike lane. It it open for safe travel of cyclists. which is what it should be. I think the cops eating at Fascati are worse then the car service. They are always double parked. Even with their “cop in a boxes.” Riding up Henry is frightening when it resembles a war zone with cars doubling up everywhere and delivery dudes running stop signs. For all car drivers getting upset, the law in NYC is that cyclist have the right of way. They just never want to go up against a 1 ton vehicle cause they will die. Maybe if more cyclists stopped at red lights, and if less pedestrians stopped walking when a street had a green light; if people stopped parking in a bike lane people would calm down more.

  • BH Cyclist

    I live on Pineapple St and as a cyclist I am very dismayed by the total lack of consideration shown by people who feel they are literally “holier than thou”. I’ve seen riders with very young children in bike seats and bike carts in tow who’ve been forced to ride in the middle of the street with cabbies tailgating them the entire way, horns blaring.

    One day in the beginning of August I saw a stretch limo parked in the bike lane, waiting for a wedding to conclude. When I asked the drive why he felt he had the right to park in a restricted lane, he showed me a printed windshield card which read:

    | First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn |
    | 124 Henry St |
    | Brooklyn, NY 11201 |
    | |
    | Passengers of this vehicle are attending a |
    | WEDDING |
    | |
    | Parking Pass |

    There was no indication anywhere that this is an official NYC or NYPD document. I have photos of the limo in the bike lane and a closeup of the “Parking Pass”.

    What is really irksome is that there is a very long driveway on Church property right next to the chapel. It would take very little effort for the weekly vans and other vehicles that obstruct the bike line to park there. What it shows is just how little respect and concern the people who use this facility have for the rest of God’s children.

    Bike lanes are not a convenience, but provide an essential level of separation between a 25 pound bike and a 2,000 pound taxi or 3,000 pound SUV. I wonder if these pious folks will dismiss it as “God’s will” if someone is injured or killed due to their thoughtlessness and lack of consideration.

  • my2cents

    Funeral processions can go through red lights, handicapped people (or people with placards) don’t have to move their cars on alternate side days. I think placards are abused like crazy in this city (esp. doctor placards), but one also needs to recognize there are so many oddball situations (like loading and unloading when you are moving, or the wedding limo) that you can’t make laws to fit each case. Be flexible and you will be a lot happier.

  • No One of Consequence

    You’re mostly talking about special one-off situations, not weekly infringements on the proper rights of others.

  • anon

    For whatever its worth, I understand that places of religious worship in NYC each have a special “no parking” location at each location. I don’t know about this particular church, but many (excluding small storefronts) have “no parking at any time” signs at or near their location. I raise this because there is a church near our house with these special signs. At the time I parked on the street and these approximately 6 spots were never used, always sitting empty on a stretch of empty street and calling out to be parked it (a ticket hazard to those who gave in to their siren song). I inquired with the appropriate local officials to try and get the signs removed so as to allow parking, just like on the rest of the block. I was informed by the appropriate local officials that churches, like synagogues, get special “no parking” locations—no parking on Saturday, Sunday or any other day at any other time. The spots just remain empty and unused. Basic efforts to remove the “no parking” sign all failed and they sit there empty. It is not a bike lane location, but I thought I’d just share some basic facts on street parking and religious locations.

  • ZZZ

    As long as I am getting ticketed for a loose inspection/registration ticker on the wind shield, waiting in the drivers seat for someone to carry up the groceries, get my car towed because the tow truck driver cannot read the signs properly, been a minute over the parking meter time, switching seats at a bus stop with no bus insight, I think anyone who parks their car unattended for over an hour outside a church or any other religious institutions in a “No parking/standing/stopping anytime” zone should get ticketed.

    The same is valid for some of the MD’s on Pierrepont considering that the kids and the wifes are driving the cars, as well as cops and DA’s. As a DA you go after me in court for breaking the law, yet you cannot even park your car legally? As a cop you give me tickets, yet you park your car illegally every night and get away with it? You pray to god for forgiveness for your sins yet you are commiting one parking your car illegally? What happened to setting an example as a law enforcement officer?

    I love that short MD who parks his Mercedes Benz alternating next to the intersections of Columbia Heights at either Clark or Pierrepont and walks home to his mansion on the West Side of Columbia Heights. I assume he thinks nobody will notice. I guess Columbia Heights is too narrow to park on the wrong side of the street.

    There are parking garages around. I pay for it. So can they. There is also sales tax on parking garages. Yes, you can call me being bitter about it.