Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) was criticized by Community Board 9 Chairwoman Andrea Crawford at the group’s meeting this week over a recent exchange he had about bike lanes on Twitter.
Ulrich, who was not present when she spoke, later said he was defending himself against a bicycle advocate who has repeatedly “harassed” him.
On June 2, Ulrich wrote on Twitter that he “had a nightmare that NYCDOT installed a bike lane on my block.” Melissa Rosales, a former CB 9 member who is not a constituent of Ulrich’s, criticized the councilman’s statement and sent a tweet to him that said “bike lanes and traffic calming should be a dream, not a nightmare” after an accident that involved a van hitting an elderly woman as she stood at the intersection of 103rd Avenue and 93rd Street in Ozone Park.
The councilman then responded to the woman via Twitter, writing that “traffic in Queens is bad enough,” and said that he will “pass on the Kool-Aid.” Ulrich added a hash tag that said “get a life.”
“There’s been some heated discussion between a council person and a former member of this board that has gotten a bit heated and inappropriate on the part of the council person,” Crawford said at the board’s meeting on Tuesday night in Ozone Park.
Ulrich said on Wednesday that his response was to one woman, and indirectly to a community of advocates, who have repeatedly heckled him on the Internet. He said people have gone so far as to tweet they would “mow” him down on the street.
He noted he is open to having a “serious discussion” about bike lanes, which he stressed he supports in communities that want them, but will not respond to nasty insults or, worse, death threats.
“I am not a punching bag, and I am not a doormat,” Ulrich said.
Still, Crawford said Twitter is not the forum to have an argument with a resident.
“It’s not appropriate for an elected official to say, ‘get a life,’” she said.
CB 9 member Nick Comaianni defended Ulrich during the meeting, saying he was responding to bike advocates who had been attacking him and calling him “nasty names.”
“Queens is a congested area, and I wouldn’t be comfortable sending my kids to ride in bike lanes in some parts,” Comaianni continued.
Rosales wrote on a blog, brooklyn spoke.wordpress.com, that she was “offended” by the statement that she had harassed Ulrich.
“But most of all, I am disheartened that when voicing an issue to a local councilman, someone who is supposed to help you find solutions to problems, I was not only dismissed, but insulted,” Rosales wrote on June 9.
Richmond Hill resident Tom Chiofolo said he has invited Ulrich to accompany him on a 30-mile bike ride he often takes every Saturday from Park Lane South and Myrtle Avenue, through Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Whitestone and other parts of the borough.
“I’m not sure what the councilman’s background in bicycling is, and I wanted him to get a chance to see what it’s like for bicyclists,” said Chiofolo, a CB 9 member. “Riding in Queens can be very dicey. I follow all the rules of the road, and I’ve been screamed at and insulted for wearing spandex.”
In other news, board members unanimously passed a resolution calling for the Q74 bus line to be reinstated, with Crawford saying it was a vital link for residents who wanted to get to Queens College.
Board members also said they hope the city chooses their area for a pilot program that Mayor Bloomberg has said he hopes will help to reduce the number of illegal conversions — which they said are pervasive throughout CB 9.
As part of the program, officials will generate a list of illegal conversions at high risk of a fire and the locations will be inspected within 48 hours.