Volume 18 • Issue 23 | October 21 - 27, 2005

This rendering shows one park option the state Transportation Dept. is considering for West St., between W. Thames and Albany Sts.

A dog-eat-tennis-ball world in Route 9A plans

By Ronda Kaysen

At Promenade South, the question du jour isn’t whether or not the city should renovate the park, it’s what sorts of activities it should put there. The tennis enthusiasts are jonesing for a new court. Basketball devotees insist the court that is already there should not be nixed. And the dogs? They’re howling at the thought of a new dog run. But the West St. promenade is only a narrow swath of green at the southern tip of Manhattan and some contingent is not going to get what it wants.

The New York State Department of Transportation is renovating the promenade, located between Battery Place and Albany St., as part of an overhaul of Route 9A or West St. The $965 million project also includes 9A improvements near the World Trade Center site. The south end is expected to be completed next spring.

The community has consistently requested D.O.T. incorporate “active uses” when it landscapes the sliver of parkland between West Thames and Albany Sts. In response, D.O.T. presented several ideas for the area at a Community Board 1 Battery Park City Committee meeting last week, igniting something of a turf war among board members and the public over just what the preferred “active uses” for the promenade might be.

The existing promenade includes nearly 20,000 sq. ft. of lawn spaces, a playground, a basketball court, community garden space and a 9,000 sq. ft. parking lot.

State D.O.T. suggested revamping the promenade with a nearly 5,000 sq. ft. dog run, a tot lot, a playground, community gardens, a seating area, a basketball court and about 15,000 sq. ft. of lawn space. The promenade will also include a reconfigured pedestrian walkway adjacent to a renovated bike path, part of the five-mile bikeway that runs along with western edge of Manhattan, along the Hudson River.

“We’re approaching the community and asking what elements you want,” D.O.T. deputy director Heather Sporn told board members.

The community, however, wants all sorts of things. The tennis buffs were not thrilled by the absence of a four-person court. Tennis courts “were something that were a part of our community, thousands of people used the courts and it would be welcome to have them back again,” said board member Tom Goodkind.

Courts at the Battery Park City ballfields were closed after 9/11 for emergency vehicle use. They were removed soon after to build the permanent ballfields. At the time, the Hudson River Park Trust promised to replace the courts and did build ones to the north, near Spring St.

D.O.T. shied away from adding courts to the promenade mix because a single, court occupies more space than a basketball court and can only accommodate four people, unlike basketball, which can comfortably accommodate a dozen at a time. Also, the basketball court currently at the promenade is heavily used.

Several board members echoed the D.O.T.’s thinking. “It’s logical to look at how many people would use it. It is a large space to take up when only four people could use it at a time,” said board member Bill Love.

As for the dog run, the bigger the better was the consensus from dog lovers.

Although no one objected to a renovated tot lot, some board members worried about what sort of structures D.O.T. might incorporate. “We don’t have any designs yet,” said Sporn, adding, “We’re looking at something durable.”

Board member Pearl Scher suggested a public restroom for the promenade, a request that was immediately rejected by D.O.T. Restrooms “take an enormous amount of space and maintenance,” said Sporn.

D.O.T. is also toying with the idea of building a pedestrian bridge that would carry pedestrians over West St. from Morris St., unloading them south of West Thames St. Unlike the other Battery Park City pedestrian bridges that are plagued by elevator failures, this bridge would use a ramp opposed to an outdoor elevator.

“We are looking at the need for pedestrian bridges,” Sporn said in a telephone interview, adding that a location has yet to be finalized. “We came up with a sketch to show what might be possible.”

Board members were not thrilled with the possibility, however, worrying that pedestrians would be shuttled to an isolated block that is as difficult to navigate as the west side of West St. is. “When you get out south of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, you’re cut off,” said board member Jeff Galloway, suggesting the exit might better serve the public if it were moved further north.

That option “is not impossible, but it’s very problematic,” said Sporn.

Failing to reach a consensus, board members held any decision over until next month, requesting D.O.T. to return on Nov. 1 for another round of discussions at the Regatta at the west end of W. Thames St. The public meeting will begin at 6 p.m.


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