After a morning of terse questioning in front of a New York City judge, it was looking favorable that Bike New York would be able to ride free this May.
Though a decision will not be ready until Friday earliest, and possibly by next Tuesday, Judge Margaret Chan sharply questioned the city’s legal representative about why they chose to bill Bike NY almost a million dollars for traffic control when the group is a 501 (c) and therefore by law not subject to the fees.
The city’s lawyer Sheryl Neufield had argued that Bike NY did not meet the definition of a charitable organization or 501 (c) which would enable it to skirt the fees, because it charged a fee of $86, despite the fact that the bike group dedicates a good deal of its funding to finance free bicycle education programs.
“They claim to be a charity,” said Neufield.
Judge Chan appeared incredulous that the city didn’t appreciate Bike NY’s education program, given that the city is so interested in promoting cycling.
Though paying the NYPD for traffic control is logical, the city’s own rules and regulations allows charitable events to go free. If they made an exception for Bike NY, then what was the basis for the exception, asked Ken Podziba, the CEO of Bike New York in an interview with CI two weeks ago.
“Some issues in promoting this tour may be questions for the IRS, but I don’t think it’s a question for the police department,” said Judge Chan.
“Bike NY does charitable work … The way they’re raising money isn’t to your liking.”
Chan also agreed with the plaintiffs when she remarked on the hypocrisy in the city’s claim, given Mayor Bloomberg’s seeming love affair with cycling, bike lanes and the upcoming CitiBike bike share program.
“Isn’t (cycling) something the city wants to promote?” Chan asked. “Isn’t that DOT’s main plan for the city this year?” she said, concluding that she would expedite the ruling in light of the nearness of the event.