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BY COLIN MIXSON
The Department of Transportation has agreed to fund a study of traffic surrounding the future elementary school at Trinity Place, despite past claims that it was up to local elected officials or even the building’s landlord to finance the analysis of how to safeguard youngsters on city streets.
The transit agency finally agreed to do its job after realizing that nobody else would step up, according to the vice chairman of Community Board 1 and a member of the Lower Manhattan School Overcrowding Task Force.
“They were not prepared to commit, so they were looking for an out, and when it was clear no one else was picking up the pieces, they understood it was their responsibility to do so, and, to their credit, they did,” said Paul Hovitz.
The new K–5th-grade school is slated for a mixed-use residential building currently going up on Trinity Place between Rector and Edgar streets, and heavy traffic flowing from the nearby exit of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel has locals concerned that the narrow sidewalks bordering the site would leave pint-sized pupils spilling onto dangerous streets.
Civic honchos serving on the Lower Manhattan School Overcrowding Task Force proposed closing the west-bound lane of Edgar Street nearest the school and extending the sidewalk to create a pedestrian plaza where kids can congregate as they come and go, arguing that the roughly 100-foot roadway connecting Trinity Place and Greenwich Street isn’t used much anyways, according to Task Force member Eric Greenlief.
“We’ve heard that little street is used very, very, very little,” Greenlief said.
The DOT told the task force that a traffic study was required to test the feasibility of the plaza plan, but said first that it was the responsibility of Trinity Place Holdings, the developer of the residential building where the city planned to build its school.
“As is typical with new developments, a traffic study would need to be conducted by the developer,” DOT spokeswoman Alana Morales to Downtown Express in April. “Any costs associated with traffic changes would be the responsibility of developer [or] property owner.”
The agency would later change its tune and plead poverty, saying it needed local elected official to pony up from their discretionary funding to fund the study, according to Hovitz.
“Originally the responsibility was shifted, and then finally [DOT Borough Commissioner] Luis Sanchez said we just don’t have the money to do this,” Hovitz said. “That’s when it was shifted back to the elected officials.”
Throughout the process, the School Construction Authority also denied any responsibility for funding the study, according to Hovitz, so it’s somewhat ironic that the SCA chipped in some funding to make the study happen, as confirmed by DOT spokeswoman Gloria Chin.
“The study is able to move forward at this point thanks to partial funding from the School Construction Authority,” Chin said.
DOT has not released details about the study’s cost, timeline, or extent, but it will focus on the impact of closing the westbound lane of Edgar Street, according to Chin.
Community Board 1 is hoping for a broader study aimed at exploring multiple solutions to the safety issue, according to CB1 Chairman Anthony Notaro, who said the board isn’t married to the pedestrian plaza pitched by the task force.
“CB1 doesn’t have a firm position yet on this,” said Notaro. “Our position has been, ‘let’s study it,’ and the plaza is just one option.”