By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS
Published: August 26, 2011
BRIAN WHITELEY loves his bicycle, a black fixed-gear Schwinn that he rides around New York City almost every day. His landlord, however, does not share this affection, fearing scuffed floors and chipped paint. And that has become a problem.
Brian Whiteley keeps his bike outside his building in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. He and his wife are seeking a place with indoor bike storage.
Mr. Whiteley, an artist, and his wife, Mar Granados, an architect, are not permitted to take their bikes inside the Carroll Gardens brownstone where they live. So they lock them to a railing outside, battling rust with a plastic tarp and regular applications of WD-40. In the year and a half since the couple moved in, they have spent close to $1,000 replacing stolen parts, and once, an entire bicycle.
Now, they are hoping to buy a place of their own. And as they zip from appointment to appointment on their bicycles, scouting one-bedrooms in Brooklyn and Manhattan with their broker, Kris Sylvester of Halstead Property, bike storage is a must.
Mr. Whiteley’s Schwinn and Ms. Granados’s SE Draft do not need a fancy place — just a spot that’s secure, and not inside an apartment.
“I have a lot of my artwork up,” Mr. Whiteley said. “I’d really prefer not have a bike on the wall next to it.” He does not think the Schwinn will complement his painting on glass of a somber-looking deer under the words “Jealous Beast.”
In a city where finding sufficient space for your shoes can be a challenge, figuring out where to keep a bicycle is not easy, and few people are satisfied propping their muddy wheels up against the sofa. And as bike ridership in New York City has boomed in recent years, the demand for bike storage has increased right along with it.
A survey conducted by the city in 2009 found that more than half a million New Yorkers are regular bicycle riders, hopping on at least several times a month. According to the New York City Department of Transportation, the number of New Yorkers who commute to work by bicycle more than doubled from 2006 to 2010, and grew by 13 percent from 2009 to 2010.
The Bloomberg administration has been seeking ways to make the city more hospitable to bicycles. Since 2007, the city has carved out 259 miles of bike lanes and protected routes in the five boroughs. Some brokers say as many as half their clients now ask about bike storage, and though few buyers consider it a deal-breaker, marketing materials now make the most of bike rooms and proximity to bikable parks.
Dklb Bkln, a new rental building at 80 Dekalb Avenue on the edge of Fort Greene, has a bike room on the ground floor and another on the 10th. Citi Habitats Marketing Group, the building’s broker, drove the bike-friendly message home by hanging a map in the leasing office that points out the way and bicycle-travel time to appealing locales: 1 minute to Fort Greene Park, 15 minutes to the Lower East Side, and just 12 hours and 40 minutes to Montauk, at the end of Long Island. Prospective tenants get a copy.
At a building marketed by Halstead Property, +art, at 540 West 28th Street, a room off the lobby was to be used for cold storage, to hold deliveries from companies like Fresh Direct until residents returned home. But it is now being converted into a bike room. The grocery-holding room was moved to a reconfigured space in the basement.
“We started seeing high demand for bike storage about 18 months ago,” said Stephen G. Kliegerman, the president for development marketing at Halstead. “It’s an amenity I think people are starting to expect in a new building.”
Superior Ink, a Related Companies condominium on West 12th Street, even offers bike valet service. Residents can call ahead and ask that their bikes be taken to the lobby.
But, white gloves or no, bike storage tends to be easier to find in new buildings, whether condo or rental. As of 2009 most new buildings, including multifamily residential, have been required by the city to provide some bike storage. (Offering it is also a relatively inexpensive way for a developer to gain points toward LEED certification, which measures a building’s environmental impact.)
“It adds to the general tone of the building,” said Shaun Osher, the founder of the brokerage CORE, who kept his rusty bike on the fire escape when he first moved to New York City 20 years ago. “It’s one less thing you have to worry about in your apartment.”
The developers of 80 Metropolitan, a condo building in Williamsburg that opened in 2009 and is being marketed by Halstead, originally set aside 24 spaces for bicycles, all free. When those filled, they added 42 more. When those were taken, in went a hanging system in the garage for 22 more bikes. Now, there is a plan to add enough storage to accommodate the 12 cyclists on the waiting list.
Some of the established spaces were nabbed by Robert Schupp and his family, who live in a three-bedroom apartment in the building. Mr. Schupp, 41, his wife, Nona Reuter, 44, and their 8-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, moved to New York City from the Netherlands last fall. They have four bikes among them; the grown-up ones hang on racks fixed to the wall and the children’s ones parked underneath.
Mr. Schupp, who works as a conflict analyst at a nonprofit organization in Manhattan, started commuting to work by bicycle in the late ’90s, the last time he lived in New York City, and hasn’t stopped since.
“Sure, I get to work a little sweaty,” he said, “but better that it’s my own sweat, rather than everybody else’s from the subway.”
Mr. Schupp said he had noticed far more bicycles on his daily commute than there were a decade ago. He said he had also seen plenty of bike stabling while he was looking for an apartment.
“We were really pleasantly surprised that it was something that was advertised in all the new buildings,” Mr. Schupp said. “It shows how much more normal it’s become to cycle in New York.”
Bike storage was nonnegotiable for Dror Harel, an airline executive who is also relocating to New York City from the Netherlands (the unofficial bike capital of the world) with his partner, Mark van den Bergh.
“We live on bikes here,” Mr. Harel said by telephone, while riding his bicycle on the streets of The Hague. “For us, it’s a way of life.”
According to their broker, Stuart Sussman, an executive vice president of CORE, the first question out of Mr. Harel’s mouth on the men’s recent whirlwind tour — they saw 14 apartments in one day — was “where do we put the bikes?”
Mr. Harel was unimpressed by some of the crowded storage areas he saw, and by suggestions that a bike can be hoisted and fastened to a wall.
“We didn’t like the creative ideas of the Americans,” Mr. Harel said. “A closet was not an option.”
They settled on a one-bedroom in a rental building on West 38th Street where they will keep their bicycles in assigned spots in a basement, for no extra charge. They planned to move in last week.
Plenty of longtime New Yorkers, too, are also making bike storage a priority in an apartment hunt.
“There was an apartment we put a bid on, and then it occurred to us to ask about bike storage,” said Natalie Danford, 44. It turned out, she explained, that the answer was no. “That was one of the reasons we backed out. We can’t afford a 3,000-square-foot apartment, sadly, and a bike takes up a lot of room.”
Luckily Ms. Danford, a writer, and her husband, Paolo Pierleoni, 48, who works for a translation agency, have been able to stay with Ms. Danford’s parents on the Upper West Side since they sold their old apartment in the East Village. The Danford and Pierleoni bicycles now reside in the building’s bike room, occupying hooks vacated by her parents, who very graciously agreed to move their wheels to a storage area.
The couple have spent several months searching for a Manhattan apartment with at least one bedroom and office space. Their broker is Margaret M. Heffernan of the Corcoran Group. Their budget is around $1 million. By now Ms. Danford knows bicycle facilities may cost extra.
“Our old apartment had bike storage, and it was cheap, like $25 a year for a hook, which was fabulous,” Ms. Danford said of the postwar building where they lived for 20 years. “But I was somewhere recently that was $100 per month. It struck me as a lot of money for a hook, but I would probably do it if I lived there, because what else are you going to do?”
The Beatrice and the Continental, both rental buildings on the Avenue of the Americas, charge upward of $100 per month, according to Clifford Finn of Citi Habitats Marketing Group, the exclusive brokerage for the two properties. “Retail and commercial is at premium,” Mr. Finn explained of that neighborhood. “There’s not a lot of leftover space in a place like that.”
In most buildings, however, either the service is free or the fee is nominal, maybe $10 a month. That small sum is mostly intended to discourage the leaving of unused and unusable bikes in storage ad infinitum, rather than to raise revenue.
“When you’re paying top dollar for a home,” said Mr. Kliegerman of Halstead, “you wouldn’t expect to pay to hang your bike on a wall.”
Many New Yorkers, of course, do surrender chunks of their living rooms to their two-wheelers. And they make do.
“People find all kinds of creative solutions,” said Richard Hamilton, a senior vice president aof Halstead Property. “I’ve seen bike pulleys that get them off the floor. In my old apartment, we put up hooks and hung them. Or you could lean it against the wall. And then it falls on you. And then you cuss.”