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Architects Take New Crack at Remaking Greenwich St. South

Architects Take New Crack at Remaking Greenwich St. South

Oct 02, 2009
By By: Josh Rogers | Downtown Express | Downtown Express

The Downtown Alliance has taken a new look at the neighborhood now known as Greenwich Street South with a $400,000 study and an outdoor exhibit displaying some of the ideas.

The neighborhood immediately south of the World Trade Center took on its new name in the aftermath of Mayor Bloomberg’s 2002 Lower Manhattan speech, in which he said a new residential neighborhood should be built there with parks, plazas and better pedestrian walkways. The approach to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel would be decked over creating open space. It would be funded at least in part by residential development in the 23-block area.

The Alliance study, on display in Zuccotti Park, was released this week and it builds on the work of the city and others on Greenwich St. South. Like the city and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which has also studied the neighborhood, the Alliance commissioned elaborate renderings of what the neighborhood could look like in the future with new parks and development.

The study was led by Architecture Research Office and Beyer Blinder Belle and includes several other high-profile architecture firms as well. It envisions between 6.5 and 8.3 million square feet of new development depending on whether the Floor to Area Ratio is 15 or 18.

Liz Berger, the Alliance’s president, said aside from the long-term possibilities, there are several things that could be accomplished relatively soon. She hopes to see more Alliance-sponsored art projects decorating construction sites, initial streetscape and fencing improvements, and work underway building a small park near Edgar St.

“It could happen in a year,” Berger said of the short-term goals, although there are not yet cost estimates.

The auto-centered neighborhood is also not inviting for pedestrians, but Berger said she thinks it’s getting better and walkers will begin to notice soon.

“People are crossing [into the neighborhood] – it’s just not a positive experience,” she said.

She said one of the goals is to convert the area from a “donut” into a destination, feeding off its planned connection to the W.T.C., which will have Greenwich St. running through it.

The city and L.M.D.C. began working together on their plans for the neighborhood a few years ago and eventually decided to scale most of it back to focus on what they and Community Board 1 agreed was a pressing need – garage space for commuter and tourist buses.

The idea was to expand the Battery Tunnel Garage to accommodate commuter buses during the week and the overflow of tourist buses visiting sites like the W.T.C. 9/11 memorial on weekends. It had looked like the garage project was close to being finalized, but the city’s Economic Development Corp. said earlier this year that the project was on hold until the economy picked up.

Berger said she hopes the study and exhibit help convince the city that a bigger garage is a bad idea regardless of the economy.

“Let’s hope we change their mind,” she said. The last thing Greenwich St. South needs is “an oversized piece of city infrastructure.”

An E.D.C. spokesperson said the agency had not yet reviewed the Alliance study.

Berger said Lower Manhattan’s narrow streets cannot accommodate more buses and the solution is a regional plan relying on public transportation Downtown.

Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee, said she would be open to a plan for alternatives to reduce the number of buses coming Downtown instead of building a garage, so long as anti-idling and no standing regulations were enforced against buses.

She said she agrees with the Alliance conclusions on the need for parks. She said there are also many mundane, short-term improvements like cleaning up dormant construction sites that could be done.

“There are lights that are burned out, the Deutsche Bank building needs to come down, stalled construction sites need to be taken care of,” Hughes said.

For example, construction stopped at 50 West St. many months ago, yet the sidewalks are still blocked because of construction barriers, Hughes added.

Berger said she wants to hear people’s ideas for the neighborhood and hopes they’ll visit the park at Liberty and Church Sts. and go to greenwichstreetsouth.net to learn more.

 

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