A funny thing happened on the way to the Plaza Saturday afternoon…
Those beefy biker dudes who commandeer the 15 Minute and No Parking spaces at 318 West 47th outside LatteLand – were nowhere to be found.
Had the Plaza finally forced Occupy LatteLand to find a new, legal home away from home? Had Police and Plaza Security finally teamed to enforce local traffic and parking laws – the ones that govern cars but for years have been ignored where hordes of illegally parked motorcyclists gather every weekend on the Plaza?
Naturally, this called for further investigation.
Turns out the bikers sometimes migrate to the curb outside Kona Grill overlooking Brush Creek, the Konans say. However Occupy LatteLand has been a Friday through Sunday mainstay for years.
And since last time out, LatteLand had closed before I could get their take on what it’s like having all of their 15 Minute parking spots and outdoor patio overrun by mostly non-paying bikers who park illegally forcing regular LatteLand customers to park blocks away and have to sit on outdoor, concrete ashtrays to sip their cappuccinos.
That’s right, ashtrays…
While interviewing a LatteLand staffer Sunday, a handsomely-attired, older woman asked me to grab a copy of the New York Times as I held the door for her to carry her drink to one of LatteLand’s two outside patios. I then further assisted by helping move a giant, cigarette sand-filled ashtray which she then covered with "all the news that’s fit to print" and seated herself.
Why you ask?
Because more than a half dozen elderly biker gentlemen had swiped the two chairs from LatteLand’s small patio and crammed them into its jam packed larger patio the bikersl had hunkered down in for the afternoon. None of whom rose to offer her a chair or move their bikes from the 15 Minute and No Parking zones. Zones filled with motorcycles for the hour I was there as well as before and after.
Other bikers crowded the sidewalks, straddled the newspaper and magazine racks or reclined on their bikes along the curb.
"You know, they’re all these regulars and they just sit on thier bikes, our patios and the newspaper racks," said one LatteLand staffer. "And I can understand their wanting to be out on their bikes on a beautiful day, but why aren’t they out riding them? You know, get a life."
Next stop; the nearby Walking Company store to check in with the young ladies who’d wondered aloud a week earlier why police and the Plaza allowed the bikers to park illegally for hours on end and clog the sidewalks.
Any biker problems now that the hanging out on the Plaza season is beginning to unfold?
"Well, they do stare at us," staffer Nikki complained. "They like check us out."
Rather dirty-old-man indiscreetly, Nikki and 19 year-old fellow staffer Jessica agreed.
"Like I went to LatteLand the other day and they all stood up and just looked at me," Jessica says "Like a full-on checkout. But you know, if they think they have the right to check us out like that, that’s just creepy."
Which stands in stark contrast to the obvious differences in how mostly polite young black kids are constantly being rousted by Plaza Security while the largely white, law breaking bikers are given a complete pass.
And if the urban kids so much as pause for even a few minutes on the sidewalks Plaza Security or police are all over them, advising them to "just keep moving."
The bikers are allowed to illegally hog the 15 Minute parking spots outside LatteLand – spots specifically designated for the businesses dash in / dash out coffee crowd.
It doesn’t make sense.
Why would Plaza Security and police who are so quick to ticket illegally parked cars allow the bikers to park illegally for three days each weekend hampering the businesses along 47th Street?
Surely they’re not afraid of the geriatric pocket rocketeers?