2005-03-30 Freedom to Ride – NY Press

Freedom To Ride


New York Press

March 30th, 2005

A few weeks shy of the NYC Critical Mass’s 12th anniversary, the
monthly bike ride is once again under attack.

On March 15, Ray Kelly, Parks Commish Adrian Benepe and the City
of New York filed a fresh complaint to shut down the ride. (The
last legal attempt to do so, spearheaded by the NYPD’s Assistant
Chief Bruce Smolka, was denied by a federal judge in December.)
The new complaint, which names four TIME’S UP! activists and those
“in concert” with them, seeks to enjoin anyone from promoting or
advertising Critical Mass in any way. It also states that any
gathering of 20 or more people requires a permit.

Civil rights attorney Norm Siegel has correctly decried the city’s
action as a blatant violation of the First Amendment, calling it
“prior restraint” (no judge has ever ruled Critical Mass illegal).
According to Siegel, Americans are subject to arrest only when we’ve
broken the law, not before. Citizens, even ones on bicycles, have a
right to gather peacefully and participate in legal activity. But
instead of screaming foul play, New York Press prefers to give
city officials the benefit of the doubt. Important folks like Ray
Kelly and Adrian Benepe have a lot going on. Maybe it’s only the more
visible gatherings of 20 plus, like Critical Mass, that make it onto
their cluttered radar screens and spur them to action in the name of
public safety. In the spirit of good citizenship, we’ve compiled a
list of groups that meet every day in New York City in numbers greater
than 20 who must be reined in to preserve the peace.

The jogging group Frontrunners New York meets weekly in Central
Park for runs that well exceed 20. Walking tours.definite
violators. In McCarren Park, a number of large and illegal soccer
games occur; adult Brazilians tear up the grass, while nearby packs of
rug rats disturb the peace and offend the childless with their stray,
very dangerous kiddie soccer balls and gang-like uniforms. Then you’ve
got chess games overrunning Washington Square Park. And those quilting
fiends from Sewing World Commons clogging up the garment district on
ill-conceived fabric runs. Fire-wielding picnickers swarm in Prospect
Park. And let’s not forget large groups of birdwatchers.those wackos
endanger themselves as well as others.

The greatest offenders of all are the roving packs of pubescent
schoolchildren choking on their own giggles: a daily peril. When the
last school bell tolls, the little shriekers careen onto sidewalks and
subway cars, endangering everyone around them with swinging backpacks,
minefields of zits, dangling iPod cords and NC-17 vernacular. In the
case of a field trip, they can strike at any hour, sending those in
their path into a panic, and sometimes into traffic.voluntarily. Ray
Kelly, we entreat you, in the name of public order: Put an end to the

On second thought, we’ll just see you in court.

Copyright 2005, New York Press