Volume 21, Number 30 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | DECEMBER 5 - 11, 2008
Downtown Express file photo by Jennifer Weisbord
Pedestrians dodging construction on Dey St. two years ago. Below, the underground Dey St. corridor which will connect the Fulton Transit Center to the W.T.C. train station.
By Julie Shapiro
John Chawki stood on Dey St. beside his yellow cab, pointing north, then south, then east, then west.
“Construction, construction, construction, everywhere construction,” he said. “Fulton St. is closed, there is closed, everywhere is closed.”
But Chawki still had reason to smile on Monday afternoon: The block where he was standing, Dey St. between Broadway and Church St., reopened to traffic Nov. 24 after being closed for more than three years.
“That’s good,” Chawki said.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority closed Dey St. in 2005 to build the underground passageway that will connect the Fulton Transit Center to the World Trade Center PATH Hub. Now that the structural box of the passageway is complete, the M.T.A. was able to repave Dey St.
The street remained open to pedestrians over the past several years, but the noisy construction and tall barriers made it difficult to navigate the street. On Monday, a week after the street opened, a handful of taxis and delivery trucks used the block but few other drivers appeared to have discovered it. Tourists and office workers on their lunch breaks flowed down the street, often jaywalking or even walking in the street because no traffic was coming.
The reopened block of Dey St. is home to the Millenium Hilton on the north and Century 21 on the south, along with several cafes and office buildings. An employee of the Starbucks on Dey St. said business had already improved.
The reopened block gives Chawki and other taxi drivers a place to queue up for Milennium’s guests. Chawki, 45, used to get tickets when he idled on Church St. in front of the hotel.
The Dey St. construction marked the second time the M.T.A.’s Fulton Transit Center work affected Marlene Burke, a psychotherapist. Burke had an office on Broadway near Fulton St., but the M.T.A. used eminent domain to acquire and demolish that building and several others to make way for the Transit Center in 2005. Burke then moved to 7 Dey St., and she again found herself in the midst of the M.T.A.’s work.
The M.T.A. has since said it does not have money to complete the aboveground portion of the Fulton Transit Center, but underground work continues. The contract for the station’s foundation will be awarded within the next few weeks, and contracts for the A/C mezzanine and J/M/Z elevators will be awarded by the middle of next year, M.T.A. spokesperson Aaron Donovan said. He would not give a timeline for when the cash-strapped M.T.A. would have more information about the aboveground station building.
While Dey St. was closed, Burke’s clients often had trouble finding her office and had to spend part of the time allotted for their appointment wandering the street. She herself even got stuck on the street occasionally, when the M.T.A. stopped pedestrian traffic down the block to move a large piece of equipment.
“It’s a great relief that it’s done,” Burke said. “It’s comfortable, it’s clean, there’s no noise and you can get where you need to go.”
The Millenium Hilton’s guests are also enjoying the newly quiet street, said Jacqueline Concepcion, assistant front office manager. More of the hotel’s rooms are quieter now, though noise from the World Trade Center is still a problem, and Concepcion still offers guests earplugs and white-noise machines when they check in.
Century 21 also stands to benefit from the reopened street, as pedestrians now have a more direct path to the men’s department entrance on Dey St., said Betty Cohen, Century’s director of corporate relations.
“We’re very, very happy,” Cohen said. “The more they get done in the area, the more the area comes back to life, and the happier we are.”
Century 21 receives deliveries on Dey St., and while the trucks were able to squeeze in during most of the construction, the deliveries are going more smoothly now.
Deliveries are also easier for Lacor Mechanical, an air-conditioning company whose office is at 7 Dey St. For the past few years, people dropping off equipment had to park four blocks away and carry it to Dey St., said Richard Ryan, a partner at Lacor. The delivery companies didn’t charge extra, “but they were very mad,” Ryan said.
Everyone who spoke to Downtown Express was glad the street reopened, but not everyone was glad to hear a reporter was writing about it.
“Right now it’s like a secret,” said a middle-aged man in a suit and black trench coat as he hurried along the sparsely populated street. He gestured behind him to Broadway and ahead to Church St., pointing out the crowds and traffic that seemed to be pressing in every direction except Dey St.
“Don’t tell anybody,” he called over his shoulder as he sped down the street. “You’re going to give it away.”