Volume 18 • Issue 39 | February 10 - 16, 2006

Officials discover the Pearl in the playground

By Josh Rogers

Downtown Express photos by Elisabeth Robert
Chamonix McAdam, 5, enjoying the playground near Pearl St. The city and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation have decided to improve not demolish the park.
The city and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation have decided to preserve one of the only play areas on Downtown’s East Side by canceling their plans to close the Pearl St. playground to build an apartment tower.

“We are thrilled,” said Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1. “The community board advocated very strongly for this. This is an enormous victory.”

L.M.D.C. board on Thursday is expected to approve a $38-million plan to revive the Fulton St. area and improve – not demolish —- the Pearl St. playground near Southbridge Towers on Fulton.

“We are very pleased we have preserved and enhanced the Pearl St. playground in this plan,” Stefan Pryor, L.M.D.C. president, said in a telephone interview. Pryor lives a few blocks away and has thought ahead to the day when he starts a family. “I hope to bring my children to the playground someday.”

Saving and improving the playground “makes the most sense,” said a city official who requested anonymity because the new plan has not yet been passed. The city had been looking to develop the property to help pay for improvements along Fulton. The playground is not on legally-designated park land.

The tower would have helped fund additional improvements to Fulton St. The east-west corridor will be extended through the World Trade Center site. The joint city-L.M.D.C. plan is focused on improving the look of the streets and retail spaces and will include improvements to intersecting streets like Nassau, Pryor said.

Burling Slip will be converted into a small park or plaza. Under the original plan, Burling Slip was to be turned into a playground to replace Pearl St., but community members argued that with so few play areas east of Broadway, it was better to add open spaces rather than maintain the status quo. Pryor said the L.M.D.C. and city would consult with the community board about the best type of park to build at Burling.

The L.M.D.C. board is also expected to approve $20 million in improvements to six Downtown parks Thursday:

Collect Pond Park, a neglected area near the courts, will “expand” to its original boundaries and add plantings, benches and a water feature. The Canal-Varick-Laight triangle, a long-delayed city parks project, will get trees, plantings and a new sculpture and fountain. The Pike/Allen St. malls will add plantings to seven center plots along the street. James Madison Plaza, which police used to park their vehicles in the first few years after 9/11, will get a garden, flowers and decorative grass.

Two parks, that received L.M.D.C. money for previous improvements will also get money in the new round. Washington Market Park in Tribeca will get a 900-square-foot bathroom house. Chinatown’s Sara D. Roosevelt Park is slated to get a reconstructed playground with a spray shower.

Pryor did not have cost estimates for the individual park projects or a timetable for the various plans.



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