Territorial Bicycling Businesses Battle For Prime Real Estate in Central Park

getlstd property photo Territorial Bicycling Businesses Battle For Prime Real Estate in Central Park

Fight! Fight! (getlstd property)

The buzzing food vendors that pepper Central Park aren’t the only ones battling to shill their overpriced wares to tourists. Bicycle rental companies are warring over the right to wheel and deal by one of the Park entrances, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Bike and Roll, a bike rental company, is playing the pitiful role of a besieged business, trumped by aggressive competitors. The rental company purchased the rights to use some prime real estate by a Park entrance—paying the city $65,000 a year plus a share of rental fees for the privilege.

Chris Wogas, manager of Bike and Roll, notes that his is the only company licensed to rent bikes and accompanying equipment near the park.

But despite Mr. Wogas’ monetary claim to the space, his competitors feel it’s a blow to their rights.

“Why is that they should be allowed to be there just because they shell out money?” Kenneth Winter, manager of Bike Rental Central Park, located on West 57th Street, asked The Journal.

Apparently, Mr. Winter’s viewpoint is also embraced by other vendors. The streets are interspersed with various bike stands as well as peddlers who lures customers to nearby bike shops.

Mr. Wogas’s “informal estimate” of the opposing vendors’ profits was $400,00 a year, which Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told The Journal he believes is a little high.

But it’s not only about the money. Mr. Wogas claims that the other vendors often irritate tourists, rent poor-quality equipment and conduct business illegally on park property–which may well be true, but we expect that’s dismay over unexpected competition talking.

The dispute has even turned physical, and it’s not limited to quaint techniques like letting the air out a competitor’s tires. Mr. Wogas told The Journal that his employees have been threatened—with knives—by the other bike rental vendors and even has a protective order against a vendor who threatened to shoot Mr. Wogas’ field manager after a dispute.

Knife fights and gun threats? It sounds like McCarren Pool.

sgrothjan@observer.com