Volume 18 • Issue 43 | March 10 - 16, 2006

Art Commission blocks promenade plan for West St.

By Ronda Kaysen

The city Art Commission nixed the designs for activity stations at Promenade South, the southernmost part of the West Street promenade, undoing months of planning and delaying the project indefinitely.

“The Art Commission has serious concerns with the design,” director of city operations for the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center Joshua Rosenbloom said at a Community Board 1 Battery Park City Committee meeting on Tuesday. “We do not have the resources to go through with the design that the Art Commission wants.”

Rosenbloom worked on the 9A project while at the city’s Transportation Dept.

Promenade South, a swath of the pedestrian and bike path that runs along West St., is being redesigned as part of the $965 million overhaul of Route 9A, including improvements near the World Trade Center site and north to Chambers St. Construction on Promenade South, which stretches from Battery Place to West Thames St., is already underway and is expected to be complete this summer.

New York State D.O.T., which is leading the redevelopment, wanted to incorporate activity stations into the promenade. Their concept designs included a sculptural garden at First Place, a “whimsical arbor” at Second Place and a boulder garden at Third Place.

But the Art Commission, a mayoral-appointed body of 11 commissioners who review and approve permanent installations on city-owned property, blocked the proposal. The project cannot proceed without the commission’s approval. Though it is made up of mayoral appointees, the commission has an independent streak and in the past has clashed with the city’s Parks Dept., whose commissioner is also a mayoral appointee.

In its written ruling, the Art Commission asked state D.O.T. to collaborate with major artists on the design elements and “rethink it entirely” so it better fits with the “grand” promenade that runs along West St. and the Hudson River, according to Rosenbloom, who read sections of the decision to community board members.

With the activity stations now cut, the promenade will reopen with temporary design elements that include granite pavement, World’s Fair benches, plantings and stone walls. “It will look very beautiful and elegant,” Heather Sporn, deputy director of the Route 9A project for State D.O.T., told Downtown Express.

It is unclear when the neighborhood might see the activity stations incorporated into the promenade. “We don’t have a plan of what to do at this point,” said Rosenbloom.

Community board members, who had collaborated with D.O.T. for months to reach an agreement on the activity stations, were outraged at the Art Commission.

“They have completely erased the concept of what we wanted in those three spaces,” said committee chairperson Linda Belfer.

“This is clearly another way to postpone another part of the rebuilding process,” said board member Tom Goodkind. “You have a neighborhood that wants it done. You have a city that wants it done. You’ve heard from this committee. Let’s get it done.”

D.O.T. is moving forward with plans to renovate West Thames Park, part of the Route 9A overhaul between West Thames St. and Albany St., along West St. D.O.T. recently hired landscape architect Signe Nielsen to work out the design, which includes 55 community gardens, a 156-ft. long lawn, basketball courts, a playground, a pre-teen basketball court and a dog run. D.O.T. is considering building a pedestrian bridge that might empty out at the north end of the park, near the dog run, although the plan is still under consideration.

Board members voiced concern that the Art Commission might block this design as well, which was vetted by the board in previous months. But Sporn was less concerned. “It’s a little less out of the ordinary than the other work,” she said.

The design stage of the Route 9A project from West Thames St. to Chambers St. will be completed by the end of the year and construction will begin in the spring of 2007, finishing in the middle of 2009.

Ronda@DowntownExpress.com


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