Hub snub! Boerum Hill residents jilted by surprise Citi Bike station

Hub snub! Boerum Hill residents jilted by surprise Citi Bike station
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

Talk about coming out of the blue!

A new cobalt-colored Citi Bike station in the Boerum Hill historic district is grinding residents’ gears because the city stuck it there without asking their opinions on the location or even giving them a heads up, instead allowing a local official to choose the site on their behalf.

“I think Citi Bike is a good idea, but this is a very obtrusive thing to show up on a landmarked side of a short block, especially since we had no idea we were getting it,” said C. Claiborne Ray, who has lived on Bond Street for 20 years.

Had Department of Transportation honchos asked locals’ opinion before installing the 27-bicycle rack on the street between Wyckoff and Bergen streets on Aug. 18, they say they’d have told them it’s a bad location because the dock eats up several parking spaces on a short block, and that the solar-powered hub’s modern aesthetic detracts from the area’s antique charm — although the Landmarks Preservation Commission does allow Citi Bike stations in historic districts.

Nearby Wycoff Street — a less-trafficked long block outside the landmarked area — would be a better choice, said Claiborne Ray.

Instead, transportation officials only consulted Community Board 2’s district manager — a paid staffer who runs meetings, deals with community complaints, and processes street permits for the volunteer advisory panels — asking him in April if he thought it made more sense to place the station on Pacific Street or Bond Street. He says he suggested the site he thought the community would prefer.

“I had been asked which I thought was the better location for the docking station,” said district manager Rob Perris. “I provided my opinion, which I thought was the preferable of the two. It was not reviewed by the board at all.”

Perris said he didn’t bother consulting board members or letting residents know about the incoming bike-rental rack because, in his experience, the city doesn’t actually take residents’ complaints on board.

Proving his thesis, transportation Borough Commissioner Keith Bray and agency officials last week met with Perris, the leader of a local civic group, and a rep from Councilman Steve Levin’s (D–Boerum Hill) office, where they agreed to present three more planned stations coming to the nabe at a community board meeting on Sept. 20 — then said they might just go ahead install new docks before the gathering, according to one attendee.

“They said, ‘Don’t be surprised if you see more stations,’ ” said Boerum Hill Association president Howard Kolins.

Indeed, workers subsequently installed one on Hoyt and Dean streets on Aug. 30. The other new bike docks are slated for Smith and Bergen streets and Pacific and Nevins streets, according to Citi Bike’s map.

The city also recently began rolling out new Citi Bike docks in neighboring Community Board 6 — which covers Park Slope, Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Gowanus — but presented those sites to the advisory board in October last year.

Boerum Hill residents aren’t against the bulky blue bikes, Kolins said, they just want the same chance to give their two cents.

“I do think what upset a lot of Boerum Hillers was there was a lack of process,” he said.

The transportation department refused to outline its policies for consulting communities about Citi Bike locations.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill