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BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC AND JOSH ROGERS | The placement of a CitiBike docking station at Peck Slip this month has spurred mixed reactions from Lower Manhattan community members.
Peck Slip was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and was filled with construction equipment that had been recently cleared.
“We finally got this back,” said Paul Hovitz, a Community Board 1 member. “I don’t understand why they would put the bikes racks here now, other than they could.”
Residents and their children had been using the open area to play soccer, skateboard, walk dogs, and other activities.
“There are so few open spaces Downtown,” said Hovitz. “The West Side has a number including ball fields and all. And we have so little down here that its very challenging.”
No one disputes that the community did want a CitiBike station in the area, but Community Board 1 had requested one at a different location. Last December, Community Board 1 adopted a resolution that requested the city’s Department of Transportation and CitiBike “examine the usage of CitiBike stations in our district in order to relocate a station from an underutilized area to the South Street Seaport, on South St. between Fulton St. and Peck Slip.”
“Also, it is our understanding at the community board, that D.O.T. would discuss future locations of bike racks with the community board before installing them,” said Hovitz. “This was not done. They simply appeared.”
“It’s kind of tough,” said Marco Pasanella, a Community Board 1 and Old Seaport Alliance member. “I’m surprised that they had decided to put a partition right there.” But, he added, “we’re happy to have CitiBike.”
At the board’s Seaport Committee meeting Tuesday, Michael Kramer suggested another alternative site for a bike docking station, the northeast corner of Peck Slip and Front St., and it was quickly endorsed by committee members, including Amanda Byron Zink, a local shop owner and resident.
“It’s helping in some way to draw traffic to our street although, I’m sad because I have kids and we like to play in the park,” Zink said of the bike station. “Mike’s recommendation is perfect.”
The majority of people are very happy with the station, Whitney Barrat of the Old Seaport Alliance, said in a phone interview. “We all agree that Peck Slip is not the ideal location,” she said but “to have it gone, it would be an incredible loss.”
At the meeting, Barrat, said the city Dept. of Transportation plans to soon examine the bumpy section to determine if it was suitable for pedestrians and playing activities. She said she expects there will be tables and chairs added to the area this summer.
The Seaport Alliance expects to manage the public space and has taken out liability insurance as the city requires.
There are still ongoing plans to turn Peck Slip into a permanent park space and the committee hopes to meet with the Parks Dept. in September to get an update on the project, which was approved in 2006.
Both Parks and D.O.T. declined to comment for this article.
The current open space, said Gary Fagin, “has been a great boon to the community — especially for the children.”
The area used to be a loading zone for the Fulton Fish Market until it closed in 2005, Fagin said, and now that Peck Slip is open, he doesn’t want to see it cluttered up with generic and unhistoric accouterments.
Angela Wong, 30, and her co-worker Kathlene Penaflor, 29, have been working at Suteishi, a Japanese restaurant across from Peck Slip for six years. SUteiShi was shut down for a year after Sandy, offering only delivery and take-out services. Wong and Penaflor remember when Peck Slip was a cobblestone street used for parking. They were using the space to tan, lying on one of the many square white boulders that dot the area. They were glad that the CitiBike station was there — it could help bring in customers.