Volume 16 • Issue 18 | Sept 30 - Oct 06, 2003



Rampe on buses, Deutsche and Park Row

By Josh Rogers

The president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. said he has not ruled out building a tour bus garage under the World Trade Center memorial, but he thinks there will be enough room for buses at the preferred site across the street from the site.

“We will not, and have not ruled out underneath the memorial area,” Kevin Rampe, L.M.D.C. president said Monday at a lunch meeting with Lower Manhattan community reporters.

Rampe said Gov. George Pataki, who hired Rampe with the mayor’s approval, remains committed to keeping the buses away from the memorial, but all of the alternatives are still on the table. Rampe repeated his pledge not to allow commercial or retail space in the memorial section of the W.T.C. site

He disputed estimates by the Port Authority that a bus garage underneath the Deutsche Bank site would only accommodate 40-50 buses and Rampe said that may turn out to be the best location. The Port has said previously they want enough space for 120 buses transporting visitors to the W.T.C. memorial.

Last week, Anthony Cracchiolo, the director of capital projects at the P.A., estimated there would be space for 40 to 50 buses at the Deutsche building on Liberty St. Madelyn Wils, an L.M.D.C. director said Port and L.M.D.C. officials told her the same thing.

After Rampe’s comment, Greg Trevor, a Port spokesperson, said Cracchiolo’s estimate was preliminary and the environmental studies about to get started will determine the correct number.

Many family members of the Sept. 11 victims have agreed to allow the PATH commuter tracks to cross the “footprints” of the Twin Towers as they used to, but they have objected strongly to a bus garage anywhere underneath the memorial area and under the footprints especially.

“We have been told the bus terminal will not be there,” said Lee Ielpi, whose son was a firefighter killed on 9/11. “ If they try and put it back, that would be atrocious.”

Pataki has told family members that a garage under the memorial would be “awful.”

Andrew Winters, the L.M.D.C.’s vice president of planning, said last week that a garage under the memorial would be studied as part of the environmental impact statement process, but it was not under serious consideration because of objections from family members

Wils she would be in favor of any garage that is big enough and not too expensive to build. “If it could work safely and environmentally and financially, it would be best to not put it under the memorial,” she said. “If it can’t work, then under the memorial area and over the PATH tracks may be the best place.”

Site 26 in Battery Park City, which is immediately northwest of the W.T.C., is the third option under consideration for the underground garage. This site would require the construction of a second “bathtub” or slurry wall to protect the garage from the Hudson River.

Rampe said he does not yet know the costs of the three sites under consideration. He said if Site 26 were selected, there would definitely be an underground entrance to the garage, because he doesn’t want diesel buses near the neighborhood ballfields. “We did look at an at-grade alternative and that just does not work,” Rampe said.

Buses could get to the Site 26 garage either through the proposed Liberty St. truck entrance way and a tunnel under Vesey St. or from a possible tunnel under West St., Rampe said.

Ielpi said he sympathizes with residents who want to get the buses off the street and thinks Site 26 may be the best solution. “I don’t think Deutsche Bank is a viable site size wise,” he said. “Site 26 is more viable. I think that’s going to be the one.”

Rampe said discussions with the government entities about acquiring the Deutsche site and the Milstein Properties’ parking lot are proceeding well, although no decision has been made as to whether it will be the Port who will pay to acquire the sites.

“All of the players are working together for the acquisition of the site and demolition of the building,” he said of the Deutsche. “It gets rid of a building that has been a blight on the neighborhood.”

Deutsche remains locked in a legal dispute with some of its insurers who want the bank to repair rather than demolish the building. He said once the dispute is resolved and the building is acquired, demolition will take anywhere from one to three years to complete.

He said Gov. Pataki’s idea of replacing the building’s black netting with a giant mural of architect Daniel Libeskind’s W.T.C. design is likely to be scrapped because it will cost between $500,000 and $1 million. “We may not. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a mural if we’re going to take the building down,” Rampe said.

He said next month there will be an announcement about opening up some of the streets surrounding the New York Stock Exchange on Wall and Broad Sts. He said the Big Board originally said the security measures couldn’t be loosened, but that after the L.M.D.C. hired an independent security consultant, exchange officials and police agreed to move the barriers closer to the building. “On Broad St. we’re moving a lot of that in so it’s closer to the exchange,” he said. He said the new plan will turn the area into better-looking, pedestrian-friendly streets.

He said the exchange example could help convince the city to agree to reopen Park Row, which has been closed to pedestrians and cars since 2001. “I think we are constantly putting pressure on them,” Rampe said of the city. “We’d like to see them reopen it.”

The street, which runs by police headquarters, is the main connection between Chinatown and the Civic Center, and residents and businesses on both sides of Police Plaza have said the closure has had a severe effect on them.

Rampe said Libeskind’s proposed 150-foot waterfall adjacent to the memorial would be taken out of the design if the 13-mmeber jury decides it does not fit in with whatever plan will is selected. Exactly 5,200 artists or art teams made submissions for the memorial, which will be selected later this year. The guidelines told designers to assume the waterfall would be included, but Rampe and some juror members also made statements encouraging artists to be daring and break the rules.

Rampe said the proposed cultural facilities around the memorial may be adjusted to accommodate the selected design. “Cultural buildings may have to move, museums may end up moving,” he said. “The key is to provide a context for the memorial.”

On transportation, he said a link to J.F.K. airport and the Long Island Rail Road was a key priority and spoke highly of one of the more expensive options – a direct airport connection without a transfer. “One seat is what we’re focusing on,” Rampe said. “You can’t just build a connection. People are going to have to want to use it.”

Rampe said calls to expand the L.M.D.C.’s jurisdiction above Houston St. to 14th St. were not wise. “The lines were drawn to have some bearing on the impact of Sept. 11…. I do think Houston St. is a rational line.”

Josh@DowntownExpress.com


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