Plaza hotel, NYC face off over bike-sharing rack

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NEW YORK (AP) - A landmarked space across the street from the legendary Plaza hotel is no place for the city’s popular bike-sharing system to park some of its electric-blue rides, the hotel’s lawyers told a judge Tuesday.

But city attorneys said the spot on Grand Army Plaza is just right for Citi Bike, the 11-month-old, short-hop bike rental program that has become a part of the streetscape in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, to the delight of some and the laments of others.

Those critics include the Plaza, the landmark hotel and condominium made famous in films, plays and movies ranging from the “Eloise” books to Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite” to “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York.”

“We have, here, two landmarks. … This is not right for that place,” Plaza lawyer Stephen Orel said Tuesday.

The Plaza wants the Citi Bike rack removed from Grand Army Plaza, which features the Pulitzer Fountain, where, as literary lore has it, Zelda Fitzgerald once took a Jazz Age plunge.

The Plaza says the 147-foot-long bike station is an advertising-laden “eyesore” that causes limousine backups in front of the hotel during major events, as the bike rack is in a former traffic lane. The city didn’t “adequately consider the environmental impact, the aesthetic impact, of anything like this,” Orel said.

The city says its review was proper, and so is the bike site.

“This is not only a good location; it’s an ideal location. … It’s centrally located, with numerous attractions nearby,” said Nicholas Ciappetta, a city attorney. Central Park, the Museum of Modern Art and the swank shops of Fifth Avenue are all nearby.

Noting that the Plaza owners apparently don’t mind a line of black cars in front of its entrance but objects to a row of blue bikes, Ciappetta suggested the complaints were a bike-rack version of not-in-my-backyard.

“They don’t want the station near their hotel,” he said.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern didn’t immediately rule. She has tossed out some other suits challenging the locations of Citi Bike racks.

Citi Bike riders took an average of more than 36,000 trips a day during the summer and fall through the 6,000-bicycle, 330-station system. More than 99,000 people have bought annual passes.

But City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said last month the program has faced “significant financial and operational issues,” including failed credit card transactions and problems getting bikes to where riders are.

Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bike Share, which runs Citi Bike through a subsidiary, calls the program a success.

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