Citi's Dock Plan on Pier 25 Sparks Call for a Public Benefit

The gangway for the new Citi water taxi dock arrived by barge at Pier 25 on Monday, Oct. 22, as construction on the landing began. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Oct. 22, 2018

Troubled by Citi’s private use of Pier 25 for its planned water taxi landing, a Community Board 1 committee is asking for a give-back from the financial giant: river transport for the public.

Last month, Citi and the Hudson River Park Trust announced their agreement for the service, which would allow the bank to ferry employees and business guests between its Jersey City facility and a new Pier 25 dock, located near Citi’s global headquarters at 388 Greenwich St. in Tribeca. The prospect of Citi transporting its passengers to and from the pier every 30 minutes on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. did not sit well with many on the committee. Along with their concerns around privatizing part of the pier, they also questioned, among other issues, the impact on air quality near the children’s playground and the safety of boats going in and out of the area near the mooring field.

In a letter responding to the board’s concerns, Trust President Madelyn Wils noted a number of safety and environmental measures the Trust would undertake to avoid serious problems at the pier. But when representatives of Citi and the Trust returned to the Waterfront Committee this month, the company’s private use of the pier stood out as a sticking point. The discussion turned to what the pubic might get in return

“I don’t think you should have a ferry boat and a dock that is helping Citigroup and not being used for anything else,” said Alice Blank, co-chair of the committee. “It seems like a lost opportunity.”

Committee Chair Paul Goldstein suggested that the company provide Downtown Little Leaguers with ferry service between Pier 25 and Governors Island, where some league games are played. (In Manhattan, Governors Island visitors board boats near the Staten Island Ferry terminal.)

“I’m sure [Citi] must have a way to possibly consider doing something to help some of the children that are their neighbors in this community,” Goldstein said. “That would also win them a lot of positive feedback from people in the community.”

Andrew Zelter, president of the Downtown Little League and a member of the committee, called the idea “fantastic.” “It’s easier for most of our families than the current transportation route,” he said.

The committee also suggested that Citi might provide shuttle service between Pier 25 and Pier 11, where riders could connect to East River ferries. CB1 has previously advocated for increased ferry service from Manhattan’s west side.

The Citi dock, to be paid for by the company at just under $1 million, would be available to other operators—under conditions set by the Trust—when not in use by Citi. That in itself, argued Trust lawyer Dan Kurtz, is a potential public benefit. (Citi is also paying $10 million toward the $31 million cost of construction on Pier 26.)

“Citigroup is spending a fair amount of money creating a resource which, yes, they have first priority right but it’s not an exclusive schedule,” Kurtz said.

“It’s a maritime resource,” he added, “that helps advance Hudson River Park’s mission, which is in part creating these resources that allow marine use for transportation purposes.”

The Trust counts as a “primary public benefit of the water taxi some 15,000 Citi shuttle bus trips that it believes—based on a Citi slide presentation—would be eliminated by the water taxi. In response to an inquiry by the Trib, a Citi spokeswoman said 15,000 is the number of all Citi shuttle bus trips, including those between offices at 111 Wall St. and 388 Greenwich St. Asked how many of those trips are made only between Jersey City and Manhattan (thus eliminated by the water taxi), the spokewoman, Dana Graves, replied in an email, “Were going to decline to break it out further.

The committee asked Citi representatives if they would entertain a request for providing, for example, the proposed ferry service for Little Leaguers to Governors Island on a trial basis. “We’re absolutely open to having those discussions,” replied Gerard Jenning, a Citi lobbyist. I think there are probably a lot of underlying logistics about who it will be and the number of people on the boat and costs associated with that. We don’t own the boat.”

Bob Townley, director of Manhattan Youth, which runs Pier 25’s mini-golf, volleyball and food concessions, was the only committee member to oppose a ferry from the pier to Governors Island. Those funds, he said, could be put to better use in the community or the park. He called the water taxi less safe for children, and “incredibly entitled.”

“If they’re going to spend money,” he said, “I don’t want them to spend money getting little Sally going from Pier 25 to Governors Island via her own limousine shuttle.”

Construction of the dock began on Monday, with service expected to start as early as the end of the year. On Tuesday, the full board passed the committee's resolution which, in part, calls on the Trust to “identify additional uses of the water taxi dock outside of the established weekday service hours. But it also notes the boards displeasure with the Trusts decision to put the dock there in the first place. The committee also is requesting air monitoring of the playground.

The 53-foot-long boats, the smallest in the fleet of vessels operated by New York Water Taxi, would carry an average of 15 people per trip, traveling at “no-wake” speeds and employing new, low emission engines, Citi representatives said.

The landing, consisting of a 60-foot gangway and 30-foot dock moored to pilings, would be located on the corner of the south end of the pier where a gate is already installed. The docking site was approved 20 years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, according to the Trust.