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The Mystery of the ‘Private’ Bike Rack on East Fourth - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


The Mystery of the ‘Private’ Bike Rack on East Fourth


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private1Noah Fecks

Someone is leaving menacing messages on a bike rack on East Fourth Street, warning cyclists that they are not allowed to park on the u-shaped steel he claims as his own.

Four days ago, photographer Noah Fecks sent a snapshot to The Local, of two bikes parked at the rack between Avenues A and B with notes attached to them saying “This is a private rack — remove your bike or it will be done for you!” Yesterday, one of the bikes remained, bearing the same note.

But this is not just a run-of-the-mill case of an over-assertive cyclist claiming a parking space. A longtime local who identified himself as a plumber and welder, but asked not to be named, told The Local that he installed the bike rack for the landlord of 211 East Fourth Street, who he said ran Flash Courier Service out of the building. (The courier service indeed has an East Fourth Street address on Foursquare, but is said to be located on East Fifth Street on YellowPages.com and elsewhere; today, an employee who said he did not have time to speak to The Local brusquely told us the company was located on Lenox Avenue before hanging up.)

Private Bike Rack on East Fourth? 3Noah Feck The warnings were left on two bikes four days ago.

“I thought it was a Good Samaritan gesture on his part — a contribution to the neighborhood,” said the installer of the bike rack, noting that he found the metal in a dumpster nearby. “I just assumed that he wouldn’t be so stuffy about it.”

But according to the source — and a neighbor who did not wish to be quoted — the landlord decided to claim the rack as his own. Both said that the landlord had used a variety of techniques to send a message to unwitting cyclists. He has allegedly locked “trespassing” bikes to the rack for several days, or removed a tire. The source even said he had noticed that bikes locked to the rack were spray painted — possibly as punishment for using it.

Still, the “private rack” message has apparently been ineffective.

“You can’t say a bike rack is yours that is on the sidewalk — it’s common sense,” said the neighbor. “How is a person supposed to know?”

Yesterday, an employee at Flash Courier Service — who gave his name as Joe Palermo after some hesitation — said he knew nothing about the bike rack. “He’s talking about someone else,” he said of the man who claimed to install the rack. “That’s not us. I think he’s mistaken.” He then hung up.

The Local is still waiting to hear from the Department of Transportation regarding the legality of installing a private bike rack on a public sidewalk.