downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 • Issue 22 | October 13 - 19, 2006

C.B. 1 backs cobblestones, green space for Peck Slip

By Skye H. McFarlane

In a heated debate Wednesday night over the future of Peck Slip, compromise won out. Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee resolved to split the difference between the two most popular concepts for the space — piazza and parkland.

Though no design has been finalized for the plaza outside the old Fulton Fish Market, the committee passed a resolution stating that any plan for the space must “incorporate a historic harbor design with landscaped areas with plantings as well as seating areas….”

Proponents of making the area an open cobblestone piazza, specifically members of the Seaport Community Coalition, stressed the area’s identity as a historic district and the touristic appeal of an uncluttered space surrounded by bustling sidewalk cafes. The park supporters, including many Seaport residents, highlighted the need for green space in the neighborhood and expressed fears that an open plaza would attract noisy street fairs by day and loitering youths by night.

“Whatever takes place there has an impact on a historic district,” said Kit White of the Seaport Community Coalition. “It doesn’t just belong to the people who live there, it belongs to everyone…It was an open, working, urban space and it should be left open as a reminder of the past.”

Jake McCabe of the Seaport Parents Association countered that as the old industrial areas become increasingly residential, local families find themselves starved for play space.

“We want to keep the history and bow to that aesthetically, but we are really interested in having green space that is usable,” McCabe said.

Coalition members also argued that as an industrial space, Peck Slip has been paved with cobblestones for over a century and that the stones give the plaza texture and character.

“I love that you use the word ‘texture,’ because people are falling all over those cobblestones,” responded Don Walsh, referring to the general state of disrepair that has emerged as Peck Slip awaits redevelopment.

Walsh, a landscape architect and Water St. resident, pointed out that historically, before Peck Slip was an industrial plaza, it was a boat slip. History, he said, was fluid and could be molded to accommodate the needs of the community — namely, wider sidewalks, through traffic and green space. After the meeting, Seaport Committee chairperson John Fratta agreed, saying he didn’t think that the Coalition members had listened enough to other Seaport residents before making their proposal.

As to traffic, the committee spurned the Coalition’s request to block the area to cars, siding instead with a city Department of Transportation recommendation to allow through traffic and on-street parking on the sidewalk side of the street (away from the center space).

The city’s Parks Department, which will oversee the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation-funded redevelopment of Peck Slip, said that Parks designers plan to take their cue from the Seaport Committee’s resolution.

“We will take into consideration the requests the community has made in this resolution and attempt to incorporate as many of the elements as possible into the design of Peck Slip,” a Parks Department spokesperson said.

Skye@DowntownExpress.com



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