FINALLY! City agrees to fund Downtown traffic study

New York Public Library Downtowners are looking for new ideas to deal with the modern problems affecting New York City’s oldest neighborhood.

New York Public Library
Downtown’s ancient streetscape is straining under the demands of modern life and a population boom, and the city is finally funding a study of how to make it work better.

BY COLIN MIXSON

The city’s transit agency has finally agreed to fund a study seeking solutions for the traffic nightmare created by the Financial District’s medieval streetscape.

Department of Transportation hasn’t released any information regarding the scope of the planned study, but locals are hailing the announcement nonetheless as a welcome move towards less chaotic streets.

“This is only the first step, but it’s an important first step,” said Patrick Kennell, president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association and co-chair of Community Board 1’s Land Use Committee.

The agency announced it was on the hunt for a contractor to assess the current streetscape design and conduct pedestrian and traffic studies within the Financial District in a letter to local elected officials dated June 8.

The Financial District is located in the footprint of the original Dutch settlement of Manhattan, and the area’s 17th century roots are obvious today in the narrow, disjointed traffic grid that remains better suited for the horse and buggy than double-decker tour busses.

This issue is compounded by modern nuisances including the security zone surrounding the New York Stock Exchange, construction scaffolding, placard parking, and towering piles of garbage that add to a depressing pedestrian and traffic situation that will only get worse as the neighborhood population continues to boom.

CB1 has included the Downtown traffic study in the annual budget request it sends to the city for at least two years running, according to Kennell, and the FiDi neighborhood association created a petition last year calling for a study that has since garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

In February, Downtown elected officials including state Sen. Daniel Squadron, assemblymembers Yuh-Line Niou and Deborah Glick, Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Margaret Chin, and Rep. Jerry Nadler threw their weight to the pressure, firing off a letter to the DOT demanding the study.

CB1 is still seeking to wrangle the city’s transit agency into forking over details on plans the study, but the DOT hasn’t released any information beyond the bare-bones summary included in the letter to the pols.

Squadron thanked the DOT for finally coming around to ponying up cash for the much-needed study.

“It is critical that our street infrastructure meets the needs of our growing community,” Squadron said. “I thank DOT for responding to the community’s call for a pedestrian and traffic study for our neighborhood, and I look forward to seeing this project move ahead.”

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