Volume 19 • Issue 7 | July 7-13, 2006

Governor, mayor take a walk on new promenade

Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel
Trip Dorkey, left, chairperson of the Hudson River Park Trust, Tom Madison, state Transportation commissioner, and Gov. Pataki walk on the newly renovated promenade near West St. in Battery Park City.

By Jefferson Siegel

It was a carnival of celebration at the opening of the West Street Promenade South, a new portion of the Hudson River Park, on Wednesday. Musicians played, stilt-walkers walked and a bluegrass band provided entertainment. Guests and passersby were handed free hot dogs, popcorn and green-iced cupcakes as they enjoyed the festivities.

“It’s really a testament to the tremendous amount of cooperation between every level of government,” said State Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Thomas Madison, as guests began filling a tent for speeches. “We really wanted to make this project a pretty, resplendent promenade, a wide boulevard with integrated parkway and bikeway.”

The new walkway, bounded by Battery Park City and West St., spans the stretch of West St. between West Thames St. and Battery Place. Once a barren, utilitarian stretch of roadway, it is now lined with trees and hedges. To one side is a narrow street, on the other, is the bike path.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment that a highway is being converted into a usable public space,” said Stefan Pryor, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the agency overseeing the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan.

Rod Surut, a West St. resident for five years, happened upon the ceremony while pushing his nine-month-old daughter Leah in her stroller. “Improvements, lots of improvements,” was Surut’s assessment of the new section of park. “It seems like it can only get better.”

Surut also thinks more services are warranted for the neighborhood. “Downtown, I would think, needs more shops and restaurants,” he said.

Liberty St. resident David Stanke walked by the ceremony with his daughter. “It’s great that it’s here,” said Stanke, who is also a Downtown Express columnist. “But it would have been nice if they had integrated some active areas into it for local use, as opposed to another place to walk.”

Governor George Pataki, meanwhile, was ebullient. “I cannot tell you how pleased I am with the progress on this particular segment… All you have to do is look behind you,” he said, turning, with a sweep of his hand, “and you can see that what was once just a transportation corridor has been transformed into this grand promenade.”

Recognizing the ongoing construction enveloping large swaths of Downtown, Charles Maikish, executive director of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, spoke of the benefits of the ubiquitous construction. “Providing people with a real sense of what they will be seeing in the not-too-distant future goes a long way toward easing the inconvenience of the construction activity,” he said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also saw the Promenade South ribbon cutting as a sign that the redevelopment is moving along — despite mounting criticism that the pace has been halting, at best. “Back in 2002, when West St. was still closed to traffic, nobody could have imagined how quickly Lower Manhattan would come back to life,” Bloomberg said.

The mayor said he envisioned a completed promenade that would rival the grand boulevards of Europe. “This community continues to expand at a record rate,” he said. “Downtown’s population has increased by some 10,000 people over the past five years. And during that time, 5,700 residential units have been built here, with another 7,400 slated for completion by the end of 2008.”

Officially designated “Segment 2,” the Promenade South walkway, unlike most of Hudson River Park, is not adjacent to the Hudson River. After taking 18 months to build, the promenade adds over 200 trees and 7,000 shrubs to the landscape.

Funded with a Federal Transit Administration grant of $59 million and additional funding from the Federal Highway Administration and the city, the next phase of construction, from W. Thames St. north to Chambers St., is scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2007 and finish in 2009. That section will include rebuilding and repaving the roadway adjacent to the World Trade Center site. It will also involve landscaping the promenade, widening sidewalks on the east side of West St., adding new pedestrian crossings and rebuilding the playgrounds between West Thames and Albany Sts.


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