Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Should Roosevelt Island Have Two Docks?

As reported last week the Army Corps of Engineers has given its approval to plans to build / reconstruct / strengthen a dock to be located up by the Octagon to water taxi traffic. My question is whether two such docks should be operationally available. Yes, I know the first is not even operational but still I want to pose the question for the below reasons.

The first is not so much for daily commuting needs but to have in case of an emergency where a backup egress point would be necessary if the Tram, subway and Roosevelt Island Bridge were all out of service. The likelihood of this trifecta is quite small, although it has happened, but if for some reason the only way off the Island was via the water it would be helpful if more than one location was available for boats to dock.


The second reason involves the planned Tramway rehab and the need for additional transportation resources to cover the added commuter congestion on the subway. If the planned Octagon dock is successful as a commuting point we may actually see commuters traveling North in the morning to get of the Island. If there was a second dock perhaps the water taxi could make two stops with the second one closer to Southtown and the existing transportation hub.

Pier - Second Dock


Could the existing pier be modified so that a water taxi could dock there? Was that pier ever used as a true dock? It does not appear to jut far enough out into the channel but the size of the pier would lend itself to passengers boarding and de-boarding with ease.

The concept or a desire for ferry access or a water taxi is not new by any means and the December 1980 New York Times article provided below show that such service was discussed at a level above mere water cooler conversation after a Tram line had fallen causing the Tram to be off line at that time. With the pending Tram rehabilitation scheduled for 2008 or 2009 the issue again bears thought. Granted in 1980 there was no subway service on the Island and I believe the Upside Down Building and its stairway to the 59th Street Bridge might have been gone as well.

Perhaps the Octagon pier (if completed) will pick up the slack from the Tram but with only two stops planned in Manhattan and the only pick up point being up at the Octagon it is still questionable how many residents will take the water taxi as opposed to crowding onto the F Train.

Ferry service during Tram Repair

Updated: 10:11 pm

As noted in the comments the “Subway Pier” has been used as a temporary dock for police boats depending on the need. The below photo, courtesy of the Roosevelt Islander, shows once such instance when the police were investigating a floating body that was nearby the Island. See the Roosevelt Islander’s post linked Here for that story.

Pier with NYPD Boat


  1. In the past 10 years there was a tleast one incident in which all forms of transit were out for the same hour. That is one hour in which there was no ambulance or fire assistance to residents of the Island.

    A water taxi at the Octagon would probably be used by the residents of the Octagon more than the subway and possibly by some Manhattan Park residents, as well. The Octagon is a mile walk from the subway, during morning rush hours express buses ease this pain, but any other time you may as well hoof it unless you are just carrying too much to do so.

    The second ferry stop being operational, I will somewhat agree with as questionable, but Southtown, is adding 2 more buildings to the current 4 right now, and it won't be long before they start the next 3. That doubling in population at that point will strain the already packed F and tram.

    Furthermore, there is talk about developing the South Coler Goldwater campus into residential. While this is a far off, if ever event, this could be close to enough to warrant a subway station for the R or E/V, and subway stations don't spring up over night.

  2. My money says we have a better shot at a second dock than we do another subway station although access does exist down to the E train tube via the emergency exit.

    One factor in building the docks are that the Octagon dock is going to be funded by Octagon LP. I saw no indication in the WIRE article or my emails with Steve Shane that RIOC was kicking in money. So where the money would come from for a second dock is a question. The State is unlikely. Too bad the Southtown deal with Hudson/Related did not involve a dock requirement. I do not believe there was any such "transportation" requirement to that deal but I may be wrong.

    Certainly if Goldwater is ever razed the deal there should have a money requirement for transportation infrastructure upgrades for either the subway (E/V) or water access.

  3. nywatertaxi won't go for two stops - too close together, slows the schedule down too much.

    that 'pier' area you point out is already used as an emergency access by nypd and fd, esp when they pull a floater out. it could very easily be pressed into service as a dock in a real emergency, and might even be adaptable for brief commuter service when bruce's dock isn't ready before the tram goes down.
    ps: i think that area was initially supposed to be a marina, but the tides were too strong...