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Downtown Alliance, October 2009

Downtown Dialogue

Where in the World is Greenwich South?

What if you could get there from here?

Few people know much about the 23 blocks of Lower Manhattan south of the World Trade Center between Broadway and West Street, an area some have started to call Greenwich South. Its rabbit warren of dead-end streets means you can’t see through it from the east, and it’s dominated by the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel entrance from the west. Looking north from Battery Park, what could be the beginning of a great New York street—stretching all the way to the High Line— is blocked by the Men in Black building.

Isolated from the rest of Lower Manhattan by steep grade changes and two centuries of outsized infrastructure, Greenwich South looks different and feels different. Although it has 6,000 residents, it seems more like the hole in the doughnut than the center of the action Downtown.

It wasn’t always this way. The southern end of Greenwich Street—today bent around the entrance to Robert Moses’ Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and cut off from the rest of Manhattan by the remains of the World Trade Center superblock—was once Millionaires’ Row, the best address in the borough. That caché had faded by the1860s, when the Greenwich Street Elevated Railroad was built.

Until the late 1940s, though, Greenwich Street still connected the Battery to the great neighborhoods facing the Hudson, what are now known as Tribeca, Hudson Square, the West Village, the Meatpacking District and Chelsea—a charm bracelet of exciting, intense, old-fashioned communities where visitors flock and, in the great New York tradition, people continue to live and work close to the water.

But what the Tunnel started with its opening in 1950, the original Trade Center finished with its completion in 1973. Gone was Radio Row, Downtown’s historic Syrian community and north-south and east-west connections. Greenwich South stood still as the rest of Lower Manhattan took off.

It doesn’t have to stay this way. By remapping and restoring Greenwich and Fulton streets, the redevelopment plan for the World Trade Center offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reverse history and reconnect Greenwich South to the rest of Manhattan. Battery Park shouldn’t be the dot on the exclamation point of a Lower Manhattan that starts in Tribeca when it could be the gateway to a new Lower West Side.

A reconnected Greenwich Street could be the lynchpin between the historic, cultural and entertainment destinations of the harbor, the new Trade Center’s Memorial & Museum, and the neighborhoods beyond. It could also make Greenwich South a seamless bridge between Battery Park City and the Financial District.

This won’t just happen by itself; we have to make it happen. For this reason, the Downtown Alliance has just released Five Principles for Greenwich South, our point of view on what could happen here and why.

We’ve asked a series of what-if questions, and come up with some practical and some visionary answers. Some we can do tomorrow, others will require future public and private investment and still others have yet to leap off someone else’s drawing board. Maybe yours? We’ve put our work on the Web at www.greenwichsouth.net, into 10,000 free booklets and on exhibition in Zuccotti Park through October 24 so that everyone who lives, works in, visits and cares about Lower Manhattan can tell us what they think.

What if you had a great idea about the future of Greenwich South? We’d like to know.

 

— Liz Berger is President of the Downtown Alliance




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