NEW YORK—Construction to re-channel car traffic between Civic Center and Chinatown is set to begin mid-2009, as the New York City Department of Transportation (NYDOT) has planned. But opponents are throwing a wedge into the gears with a petition saying that the department has violated its terms of agreement by not involving the community in project planning.
Though NYDOT has begun to issue contracts, the Lower Manhattan Development Company (LMRC) has not released funds for construction to begin. Chinatown residents and elected officials delivered petitions from over 140 small businesses and residential buildings to the LMDC asking them not to let the plan go through. The LMDC has allocated $30,690,000 to the reconfiguration.
City Council Member Alan Gerson, who chairs the council’s Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, says that the NYDOT has “not fulfilled its obligation to consider community input.”
Since the plan was drafted in 2008, officials and residents have raised concerns with the City and the NYDOT over the viability of the plan, its implications for local business, and pedestrian safety. Ever since, residents have repeatedly stated their opposition to the NYDOT's plan and called for dialogue. They say it hasn’t happened.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the NYPD headquarters on Park Row was cited as a possible terrorist target. Park Row was then cut off to unauthorized car traffic, another source of contention for residents, rendering obsolete Chatham Square, which connected Park Row traffic with Bowery St.
The question then was what to do with Chatham Square. The NYDOT is planning to put a park in its place and reroute traffic around it. Community Boards 1 and 3, which represent the Chinatown/Lower East Side region have drafted their own alternate plan, which they have suggested to the NYDOT for consideration.
[subhead]The NYDOT Version[subhead]
The Department's map draws a park space, which extends Chatham Square northward, replacing the portion of Bowery that becomes Park Row. Traffic on Bowery will flow directly into St. James Place, wrapping around the south end of the Square. Worth St. traffic will flow into East Broadway, also on the south side of the Square, at the same intersection.
[subhead]The Community Boards' Version [subhead]
Residents propose instead that Chatham Square become an island—a small street will allow traffic from St. James Place to enter East Broadway. Worth and Bowery will connect via the north side of the Square. Bowery traffic will be allowed to make a left onto East Broadway. This plan essentially uses the Square to separate Worth-Bowery traffic from St. James-East Broadway traffic.