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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  • my2cents

    ZZZ I totally give an amen to the MD thing. That is clear abuse of the MD placard and it really bugs me too as someone who pays for parking and isn’t “special” enough to get a placard.

  • Satan

    Ha. I’m sick of people getting a pass because they are religious. Religious people are like little children who haven’t grown out of the boogeyman in the sky thing. Just smash their windows With a ulock next time you ride by. They will “turn the other cheek” right?

  • BB

    The underlying problem is that the police and other law enforcement agencies are failing to apply the law equally and are abusing their discretion by creating entitlements based on religious practice which is a blatent violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state. Every single Sunday morning, the No Parking side of Remsen Street, between Hicks and Henry, is blocked by illegally parked cars, including the fire zones at the corners, that have placards indicating that the owner is “attending liturgy” at the church on the corner. There are other cars, including large SUVs, parked in the bike lane on Henry Street from Montague to Joralemon, with the same placards. And, there are a cars parked on the sidewalks, with the same placards, not only blocking pedestrian traffic but destroying the sidewalks. which the property owners are charged with maintaining at their own expense. The members of the church’s congregation are being provided a benefit that residents of the neighborhood are not given, nor should they be. I have personally observed police officers ticket cars that are parked on the No Parking side of Remsen Street, that may belong to a resident of the street who is loading or unloading their car, but not ticket cars in front or in back with the placards. When I have questioned the officers, they indicate they are not allowed to ticket cars of people in church, even though they acknowledge that those cars are causing the same degree of harm as the ones that don’t belong to church-goers. Complaints to the police, 311, the mayor’s office, and the public advocate go nowhere. Additionally, the same holds true for the Brooklyn Law School professor and her husband, a lawyer in private practice, who have been parking their SUV in front of their house on Remsen Street, on the No Parking side, abusing the parking permit that they have from the Kings Co. DA’s office. Clearly neither of them are on official business when they leave their car in front of their house. Unfortunately, this breeds contempt for the law and bitterness for those who try to park legally. It is truly unfortunate that the police and the DA’s office do not think it is appropriate to enforce the parking rules fairly and equally and that some people are so arrogant that they believe they are entitled to privileges that others are not.

  • Heights Neighbor

    This is not a Sunday or a church issue. It’s weeklong parking abuse. The parking problmes were really not an issue until a few years ago when parking enforcement moved from DOT to the police. There were never any cars on the other side of Pierrepont until then. Now it is full of placard abusers and doctors. You can’t even stop in a cab to get out as other cars cannot get by since the street is often completely filled on both sides.

  • WillowtownCop

    “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?”

    I suspect I’m the only cop posting on this thread so I’ll try to explain what the reasoning is. It’s the same reason the cops on Staten Island look for Jersey plates to bang out- if I work in a certain neighborhood all the time, it doesn’t pay for people in the community to feel like you’re harassing them with tickets. These are people you see all the time, people whose houses you have to go to, people who need to help you in some situations. I don’t work in this neighborhood- I live here- but it works the same where I work. You don’t write double parkers in front of the post office, in front of the deli, when there’s alternate side parking on certain blocks, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s a church, a mosque, whatever. It’s not an official policy or anything- you just feel like a scumbag for lurking around for those types of tickets. If you really want them written, tell a traffic agent- those vultures would write their own mothers.

  • p

    To BH Cyclist:
    Re the ‘long driveway’. The church does use that area, but it’s not a driveway. There is no curb-cut, though the church has hung a ‘no parking’ sign on their gate, in attempt to fool people. That’s chutzpah.

    I wrote about this in an update to my original post. You can read it here:

  • No One of Consequence

    Thanks for the perspective, WC.
    I still would say that this practice isn’t right, safe or fair.

    This could make a great platform for the next CB candidate! :)

  • XXX

    @ WillowTownCop,

    Are you saying I got a ticket as a white male sitting behind the wheel in a Guaynese neighborhood while watching my Guyanese friends car? And if she would have watched the car she would NOT have gotten a ticket? I get your point to a degree.

  • WillowtownCop

    XXX, I never brought up race, you did, and I don’t think it’s fair to blame racist cops for giving you a ticket because you were a white person in a black neighborhood. You admitted you were breaking the law, which is actually why you got the ticket. But to answer your question, I can’t speak for all cops, and I can’t know someone else’s motivations, but chances are there were other factors at work. It’s hard to tell someone’s race by looking at part of the back of their head while you’re driving and they are in a car 20 feet in front of you with the windows up. There are some cases where it’s important to look, too- not to single people out for enforcement, but if a description goes out over the radio for a white male who just robbed a bank, guess who I’m looking for? Other much more important factors include: How long have you been idling? Is there space, legal or not, for you to pull in so you don’t block traffic? Are you blocking a lane of a busy street? Are you honking and annoying everyone? Did he see you earlier driving like and idiot? Is someone actively moving heavy things out of the car or helping someone elderly or disabled get in or out of the car? Is the car in the cop’s sector, or has he gone a few blocks from where he’s supposed to be for some reason and would have to justify being where he was to write the ticket? What is his assignment for the day? Does he have any tickets left in his book? And the most important factor, beyond all others, has he met his quota for the month yet? There are reasons to hit the number exactly and not go over or under it.

  • etc

    As some have correctly argued, blocking bike-safety lanes, whether you are attending church, delivering a package or a cop eating in Fascati’s, presents a serious safety issue. Concerns regarding safety are exactly why the city, in seeking to promote the goals of decreasing traffic and increasing physical activity, has spent millions installing these lanes. Vehicles of any sort parked in the bike lanes for non-emergency reasons create a dangerous situation, and not just for “yuppie bikers” – but for everyone who rides a bike – including delivery persons, people trying to be environmentally conscious and those, like me, that are simply trying to stretch a meager paycheck by avoiding expenses such as public transportation. The answer is certainly not encouraging bikers to break the law themselves, and create additional safety hazards, by riding on sidewalks or the wrong way down one-way streets. I’m also not sure how the argument “well, other people break the law so why can’t we” is appropriate, especially for those that purport to be subject to a “higher” moral code.

    As to Sunday Church-goers, when, in the past, they objected to Sunday meter rules on the basis that it interfered with Sunday worship, they made a formal petition and got those meter rules suspended. (A privilege, by the way, not afforded to Jews on Saturdays, Muslims on Fridays or any other religious group on their holy days.) If Church-goers feel that the prohibition on bicycle lane parking is interfering with their right to worship, why not seek to formally get that prohibition suspended on Sundays as well, rather than flat-out breaking the law? Let the legislative entity that enacted the laws in the first place decide whether and when they should be suspended. In the meantime, people can park in the free meter spots on Sundays.

  • MartinLBrooklyn

    Infuriating!! I saw the whole thing including bikers forced to dismount to make their narrow way between trucks or cars and the holy parkers.
    Later on Sunday, I approached a pleasant looking older gent in front of First Presbys who was overseeing the loading of three oversize white vans with Baptist Churdh markings on them. They had been parked there in the bike lane, of course. The pleasant, older gent explained to me that they have a “right” to park there. I protested but could see that God was on his side when it came to hazardous, illegal parking.
    Let’s keep up the pressure on the 84th to eliminate this dangerous parking abuse.

  • bornhere

    I’m only a carist and neither a biker nor a churcher; but I would actually engage in some sort of effort on behalf of bikers if they would use only bike lanes, where available, and never, EVER travel the wrong way on our one-way streets. I cannot tell you how many close calls there have been (as just one example) while I’ve been turning left from Sidney Place to Joralemon and almost taken out a delivery guy tearing east.

  • Eddy

    Nabeguy, Are you saying the Christianity’s 2009 years of existence sets a precedent that the church has some sort of entitlement to impinge on the rights of others? If so, you are right 2009 years of brainwashing, murder, torture genocide, war, oppression, rape, pedophilia, lies and hypocrisy….

  • nabeguy

    Eddy, you take me a bit too seriously. And I seriously doubt that the Presbyterians have engaged in the kind of activities you mention. Don’t confuse the faith with the church that tenders it.

  • Eddy

    Nabeguy, I thought you meant all Christian churches, being that the Presbyterian church has only been around for a like 500 years and you stated 2009 years… I am not confusing faith with the church… I merely wanted to illustrate the churches general disregard for law and those not of their faith.

  • XXX

    WillowtownCop: My friend stopped outside a bank to deposit a check in an ATM, I was getting into the driver seat waiting as it was something like a “No parking anytime” zone and was in nobody’s way. Did nothing else, that guy just came out of nowhere, sprinting to scan in the VIN #, did not even ask me either to move the car or anything else. He saw me and I can tell you he clearly gave me the ticket for a specific reason. At least I was sitting in the car and waiting unlike Mr. Shynebox (license plate) from the 75th precinct who constantly parks his car overnight outside the German church on Henry. I have watched other cars in front of him just being towed early in the morning while he escapes unscathed. I have an expectation that cops who are supposed to be upholding the law follow the law and I am holding them to a higher standard than the rest of us. I think it is quite ironic that cops write tickets when they park illegally outside their homes.

    And how is singling out NJ license plates any different than singling me out?

    Living in NYC actually has gotten me to the point where I do not have much respect for Cops. Being a former member of a foreign police force it does not come easy to admit to that. I also recall times in the 90s where I saw cops going down Montague with sirens and then just stopping at the Bagel store to get food.

    How did the story go in Animal farm? All animals are equal, just the pigs are more equal? Maybe it is time to join the PBA or PAL to get the “get-out-of-jail-free”-cards.

  • nabeguy

    If the bike lanes had never been installed, this situation would have been nothing more than an annoying footnote in the history of BH residents. Now it’s turned into a deep-thinking, soul-searching debate about the separation of church and state. Good job, Mike! You took a forward-thinking environmental stand and regulated it into a mandate that has not only divided pedestrians, two-wheelers and four-wheelers from each other, but fomented a holy war. Only in NY.

  • bkln

    :) u cant argue with jesus freaks!

  • WillowtownCop

    XXX- if he scanned the VIN he was not a real cop. He was a traffic agent. AKA a brownie, a vulture, etc. They may have NYPD patches so the public thinks there are more cops on the streets (note the new cars are white like ours) but they are not. Real cops don’t have the scanners. Those people are the scum of the earth. They took a job that doesn’t involve helping people at all, just writing them tickets.

  • Eddy

    Bike lanes are a positive addition to our city and bike ridership is increasing as a result. More people using bikes means less people driving cars, less traffic, less pollution and that’s a good thing… Thanks Mike.

  • x

    If the church wants parking for their members, they should buy or rent a lot for people to park in.

    We ALL know churches have the most money in this country.

  • Biker

    That church needs to get some bikes for everyone.

    Traif Bike Geschaf is doing just that (or trying to) in Williamsburg.

    Can’t We All Just Get Along?

  • ClarknHenry

    You guys are missing a very important point — and I KNOW because I live right next to the church. The parking fiasco is not just for one weekly hour-long service. The Calgary Baptist Church rents the Presbyterian church Sunday afternoons, and their four vans are parked in the bike lanes for another four hours — effectively closing the bike lane for one of the two days per week that it is most used. I have to side with the cyclists on this one. Those folks should take the train or park in a lot somewhere.