Bike Share Ad Panel Riles East Rock

Allan Appel PhotoWhen Andrea Konetchy heard workmen pouring concrete across from her house at the corner of Linden and Orange streets, she thought: Fine, the sidewalk is being repaired.

To her dismay, what emerged was a new sidewalk, but a eight-by-five-foot metallic stanchion bearing a McDonald’s advertisement.

The ad is part of the city’s popular new bike share program,  Bike New Haven, whose architecture program, placement, and advertising content are upsetting some people other neighborhoods as well.

The stanchion is right in front of the Hall Benedict Drug Company building, an edifice on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Orange/Linden locale is in a national historic district (though not a local historic district). So Konetchy and a half dozen neighbors brought the matter to the Historic District Commission at the group’s regular monthly meeting Wednesday night at City Hall.

They were seeking understanding, guidance, and, if possible, relief from the commissioners.

They got sympathy, in the form of a promised letter. But no practical relief.

Back in February, after months of public hearings in front of the Board of Alders, the city signed a contract with Bike New Haven to launch the long-awaited program. It allows for short-term bike rentals of hundreds of bicycles. The program aims to have about 30 stations and 300 bikes on line by the end summer and reach its maximum 40 stations by the end of the year.

The bike share program is funded by a mix of membership fees, program-wide advertisements, and station-specific sponsorships. It relies on no taxpayer dollars. Bike New Haven’s contract with the city grants the program managers the right to erect and sell advertisements for one eight-by-five ad panel for each bike station in the program.

Allan Appel PhotoThat was the rub of the discussion Wednesday night: East Rockers, among the most enthusiastic bike riders in town, welcome the bike share program and the bike stations. What they did not understand is who approved the location of the stanchions, including their design. and why they felt they were not sufficiently consulted, if at all, on these matters.

They also objected to the content of the ads, as have neighbors in Dixwell.

“We would like it to be taken down,” said Bruce. “But we’re acting for the city at large. This is not an East Rock issue. It’s not bikes, it’s ads we want to address citywide. How was the decision made? The process, the suitability, and why has the city relinquished our public space to multinational corporations?”

“What are we valuing in New Haven?” Konetchy added in her remarks to the commissioners. “This was a big slight. It’s very ugly. I am angry.”

At the end of an hour-and-half discussion, the commissioners explained that they have powers only in the city’s local historic districts, which the Linden/Orange location is not.

They came to an understanding that their purview os limited to sending a letter to the Board of Alders expressing concern, after hearing the neighbors, but a concern limited to the suitability of such signs in a historic location such as Linden and Orange.

Along the way, the East Rockers learned from the city attorney John Ward and transit chief Doug Hausladen facts about the contract that they did not pick up from the series of aldermanic public hearings or appearances by officials at community management meetings or news articles published in recent months. (The City Plan Commission considered the issue in public, for instance.)

For example: “Anything in the public right of way, the Board of Alders has complete jurisdiction,” Ward explained.

“But was placement included in the public hearings?” Koneatchy asked.

“Anything out of the historic districts,we don’t have a lot of voice,” said Trina Learned, the chair of the historic commission.

“Exceptions have been made,” said Bruce, pointing out that there is a bike station in Wooster Square, but no advertising stanchion nearby.

Hausladen explained that per the contract with the city, the advertising stanchions are to be placed near the bike stations. In the case of Wooster Square, infrastructure concerns are such that no suitable place could be found near it. So “orphan” stanchion locations are being sought elsewhere to fulfill the contract.

City Deputy Director of Transportation and Parking Michael Pinto said the Orange/Linden location was chosen for the bike station — and the stanchion that by contract goes along with every station — because it’s a commercial hub in East Rock, with the pharmacy and Romeo’s grocery across the street.

Pinto had told the City Plan commissioners back in March that the bike share contract approved by the alders allows the company, P3Global Management (P3GN). one ad panel for every bike share station. As the program rolls out, the company has found out that it will not be able to put up ad panels at each of the approved and proposed stations. Pinto said that the city parks department will not allow for ad panels to be erected at the four bike share stations that stand on city park land, and that the state Department of Transportation will not allow for an ad panel to be put up at a forthcoming bike station at Union Station.

So P3GN has five “orphan” ad panels that cannot be placed alongside certain bike share stations, but need to be put somewhere if the company is to recoup all of its potential advertising revenue.

The neighbors kept coming back to the size of the stanchions and their look and content.

Architect Ben Northrop: “The signs look like something appropriate to Fifth Avenue. These are so obnoxious. I love bike share, but this is about allowing a bad precedent in the public way.”

“There is an identical one in front of the New Haven Museum,” Learned cautioned.

Canner street resident Dick Lyons told Hausladen that he does not recall when the program was being discussed at the East Rock Management Team meeting months ago in the run-up to the contract that Hausladen had made clear the signs would be the size they have turned out.

Hausladen begged to differ, that he had always been clear about the stanchions to come.

Lyons persisted, to the commissioners: “These are not signs. They are, in the context of small residential streets, like billboards. If the Historic District Commission has a policy on billboards, you may construe it that way.”

Learned reiterated that this is not in the purview of the HDC.

Hausladen explained that all the bike station locations, along with the locations of the advertising stanchions, are approved, through the site plan review, process, one by one, by the City Plan Commission.

New Haven Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell, also in attendance, pointed out the site plan process is a discussion among commissioners only, not a public hearing in which aggrieved neighbors, for example, can participate.

“There is a public contract,” Ward said.

“I’ve asked for it, but not received it,” replied Bruce.

Hausladen immediately took out his cell phone and emailed the contract to Bruce.

She said her next step is to review the contract and look at the City Plan record and to get more clarity about where the jurisdiction is and who decides.

“We’d like to see the sign taken down, but we’re into this for the long haul and we’ll see how the investigation works out. And it’s not just East Rock. It’s city wide. If it turns out nothing can be done for five years [for example, the length of the bike share program contract], we’ll turn our attention to the content [of the signs’ advertisements],” she added.

Tags: , ,

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment

If you already have an account, please log in here | If not, please .

Comments

posted by: Atwater on June 14, 2018  12:29pm

It must be nice to have nothing else to worry about, at all, besides a sidewalk sign. Why does the NHI cover these NIMBY complaints anyway? Slow news day? Seven people have a problem with a sign and it warrants an “investigation”. A contract was drafted, vetted and signed. End of story. If you don’t like the McDonalds ad then buy the ad space yourself.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 14, 2018  1:11pm

I saw a similar bike share when I recently stopped in Harrisburg, PA, a quaint historic ‘city’, population 50,000—the bikes were unobtrusively ‘white’ in color, and there were no ad panels.

When I got home, I did a little research and found out the entire program is sponsored by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the program is touted as a ‘healthy alternative’, there are NO AD PANELS, and extra revenue generated by the program is donated to a ‘non-profit’.

Kind of blows that ‘It’s not costing us any money’ mantra out the window!

I heard a similarly structured Bikeshare advertised on Spotify for the Boston Area—Blue Bikes.

A program sponsored as such makes a ton of sense and reflects the top-down, consistent messaging a service like this deserves. 

Also, the mil rate in Harrisburg is 20 (half of ours). The Median Home Price is 165k (same as ours).

Get with the program, New Haven…..  once again City Leaders look like a bunch of chumps…..
(btw, ‘look like’ was just me being ‘kind’)

posted by: BevHills730 on June 14, 2018  1:48pm

Bill you can take Harrisburg, but I much prefer to live in New Haven!

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 14, 2018  1:51pm

Atwater,

Not everybody understands the value of preserving the integrity of Historic Neighborhoods. 
Clearly you are one of those.  You are one of those ‘crass-commercialism’ types, I can see.

Hausladen can hee and haw all he wants about transparency and disclosure—the bottom line is his ‘wants’ for the project exceeded the ‘needs’ of the community…..

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on June 14, 2018  2:32pm

“It’s not about East Rock, it’s about New Haven” is a pretty interesting argument given these East Rock residents didn’t throw much of a fit when the ad panels showed up in someone else’s neighborhood.

They are pretty gross, but unless, as Bill Saunders points out, some corporate entity (Yale? lol) bankrolls it, we’re stuck with it. Unless we want the City to pay for it. Which they’ve been doing a real bang-up job paying the bills lately.

posted by: robn on June 14, 2018  2:58pm

These large illuminated billboards should lot be imposed upon any historical residential neighborhood.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 14, 2018  3:07pm

Bev,

I agree with you!  However that was not the point of my post!!!

But here’s my travelog:

Harrisburg turned out to be a surprising stop for dinner during a long drive back from the South.
The stone architecture and riverside setting were gorgeous. There was an LGBT Center downtown with real LGBT’s hanging around outside. The Farm to Table meal at a local Brewery/Art Hub was excellent, but overpriced, even by New Haven Standards.

A small city with potential—fortunately I am old enough to remember the Three Mile Island Disaster.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 14, 2018  3:20pm

B2R,

As you all know, I have been vocal opponent of this AD SHARE since it’s inception.  As soon as the first panel went up in front of Miya’s, the writing was on the wall.  ROBN, who lives in East Rock expressed similar concerns regarding Historic Neighborhoods. Don’t vilify concerned neighbors for getting involved in their neighborhood concerns.  We are all on the same side.

As I mentioned in another thread, at 130k the WE ARE project on the Green could have funded the Bike Share for two months. Immigrants ride for free!

See, Social Justice is Easy!

posted by: jsantiago on June 14, 2018  3:25pm

In Hartford you can ride for $1. In New Haven nearly $2.

In Hartford there are no ugly ad panels. In New Haven we are forced to have lots of ugly ad panels.

Mayor Harp, you have some explaining to do.

posted by: Noteworthy on June 14, 2018  4:13pm

If you don’t want the ads - then you can pay more in taxes because the city has determined that bikes should be favored above all other forms of transportation short of buggies and walking. In fact, the city is devoting copious amounts of time and treasure to making this a total bike haven and that includes providing rental bikes. Get over it or get paying - well, we’re paying in any case.

posted by: jsantiago on June 14, 2018  4:35pm

@noteworthy. does Hartford use taxes for its program? (i don’t think so). i may be wrong but it seems that hartford has a less expensive program for users and doesnt use any tax dollars or have ugly ad panels. somebody at city hall screwed up big time.

posted by: Atwater on June 14, 2018  4:41pm

The argument of “protecting the integrity of historic neighborhoods” is often used by those who oppose progress, development and, at times, broadening access to certain communities. It seems to be an elitist argument that works to suspend a neighborhood in amber which, usually, in turn excuses high property values, high rents, etc. I don’t know if this is the case in this instance. But, to call East Rock a historic neighborhood is a bit of a stretch. Yes, it is an “old” neighborhood, but just because something is old doesn’t mean it is historic. Also, it is a stretch to call these relatively small signs as “crass commercialism”. It is commercialism, but so are the advertisements on city buses, shop signs, etc. Also, by the logic shown in previous comments it would have been perfectly okay if McDonalds sponsored the bike share and had their logo on the bikes and not had purchased a sign. So, it’s not commercialism that is the problem, but the form of commercialism?  In a perfect world the bike share would be a non-profit endeavor sponsored and paid for by the public. This isn’t a perfect world. New Haven has a bikeshare, yay! But, now there are some signs to deal with, oh well. Like I said, you don’t like McDonalds (neither do I) so pull some money, buy a sign and display some art or a nice ad for a museum . 
East Rock is a nice neighborhood, full of nice affluent folks who don’t want their nice affluent streets littered with displays of the very system that allowed them to become affluent and live in their nice affluent houses. I don’t think there is a violin small enough.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 14, 2018  4:58pm

Santiago,

We got hustled by bureaucrats seeking extra-credit social justice points.

There are clearly other models out there that are working in other cities (Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Boston), that do not include taxpayer money or ad panels. 

Isn’t Connecticut the Insurance Capital? 
Where’s the sponsorship, Aetna?

posted by: jsantiago on June 14, 2018  5:29pm

@Bill, apparently financially challenged bureaucrats. 

I was in Hartford earlier this week. I don’t think any tax dollars were used, no unsightly ad panels, or any sponsorships. The company is called Lime.

And they charge just $1 a ride.

posted by: robn on June 14, 2018  5:30pm

ATWATER,

You don’t know what you’re talking about. Stop making stuff up.

Almost all of the land surrounding Orange Street that we know as “East Rock” is a National Historic Preservation District.

https://www.newhavenct.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=25898

As are many other fine neighborhoods in NHV.

https://www.newhavenct.gov/gov/depts/city_plan/maps/historic_district_maps.htm

Stop making stuff up.

posted by: JCFremont on June 15, 2018  9:10am

@Bill, If Yale sponsored the bike share our citizenry would expect free bikes. I’m sure if Blue Cross, Aetna or United Healthcare sponsored the program even under the auspice of preventative care our citizenry would question the motive and cost. Is there a neighborhood in New Haven that isn’t historical? Even Long Wharf where we have a monument to cement.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 15, 2018  12:20pm

JC Fremont,

I think the only thing people are asking is how to we eliminate these damn obtrusive ad panels!
Looking how other communities are doing it is a great start!

No one has even mentioned (or reported) that the president of the ‘think tank’ that came up with this program is a Yale graduate.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 15, 2018  1:09pm

Also JC Fremont,

I think with the Blue Cross sponsored Bikeshare, if BX is your insurer, there is a ridership discount.
The coupon is built right in!

posted by: Ben Northrup on June 15, 2018  1:17pm

Street furniture should be adjusted to its urban context.  What might work in a dense, urban core will often not work in a leafy, green suburb.  This is true of lighting fixtures, benches, trash cans, mail boxes, bus stops, and signs.  These monstrous slick, metallic, brightly lit signs look like they belong in Manhattan.  The one at Church and Grove works because it is dwarfed by the adjacent tall office building.  Its advertising competes with lots of other commercial signage, some of it much larger and brighter.  However, the same sign is an eyesore in a residential neighborhood like East Rock, Dixwell, or Fair Haven, where there is very little advertising.  Nothing around it is as bright, shiny, or large.

Aside from the style and size, there is also a problem with placement.  Part of what makes for an attractive, pleasant street is long sight lines.  Any piece of street furniture that comes up to eye-height needs to be carefully placed.  This is why trees and telephone poles are typically lined up in the planting strip.  However, these new, monstrous signs block the pedestrian’s view.  They are not placed not to facilitate views but rather to draw the pedestrian’s attention.

posted by: Sean O'Brien on June 15, 2018  4:43pm

@robn thanks for posting the link w/ historic neighborhoods.  That’s an outdated list on the City website, doesn’t yet include Morris Cove.  I hope it will be updated soon: https://www.nps.gov/nR/listings/20180420.htm