Volume 21, Number 43 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 6 - 12, 2009
The State Dept. of Transportation showed the new layout and timeline for West Thames Park Tuesday night. Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee had objections to earlier versions of the plan, but endorsed the current one, which includes something for the big and small: play areas for toddlers and older children, basketball hoops for children and adults and dog runs for large and small dogs. See D.O.T.’s full slide presentation in PDF format.
Rector bridge to close this month
By Josh Rogers
The Rector St. bridge isn’t falling down but the stairs need repairs and the pedestrian overpass will close for about eight weeks starting March 18.
It was one of several issues related to West St. traffic and safety that were discussed at a meeting of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee Tuesday night.
Officials from the State Dept. of Transportation and Battery Park City Authority said they are coordinating their work on both sides the bridge to minimize the closure time.
Members were concerned about the street-level crossing of Route 9A/West St. in the interim, particularly in light of the recent death of Marilyn Feng, 26. As Feng was crossing West St. at Albany St. early in the morning last month, she was killed by a motorist, who is now charged with drunk driving and manslaughter.
Joseph Brown, director of the Route 9A project for D.O.T., said contractors have just made safety improvements at the Albany St. intersection which should serve pedestrians well when the Rector bridge is closed a block away.
He said he recently confirmed the board’s concerns about the stairs’ safety. “I tripped on those steps,” said Brown, 44. “They’re too steep.”
He said there will be personnel to assist with crossing at busy times and board members asked for someone to be there at night when drivers have more trouble seeing pedestrians.
Leticia Remauro, the authority’s spokesperson, said she hoped to reopen the bridge’s elevator when the work is done, which will allow most handicapped people to use the bridge and avoid highway traffic. The elevator closed because it had no emergency phone. Remauro said there are logistical difficulties for a land line but she thought a wireless company will be able to come up with a solution and have it installed when the bridge reopens in May.
Conn MacAogain of the city’s Dept. of Transportation said that the agency will continue to monitor the problem intersection of West Thames St. and Battery Pl., but there are not likely to be any changes made in the next year and half.
Residents have complained that drivers often speed through the stop sign as they go from Battery Pl. to South End Ave. to avoid traffic on West St. In a Downtown Express article published three weeks ago, a reporter visiting the intersection also noticed many drivers speeding and not stopping at the sign. C.B. 1 has asked for a traffic light.
The city follows federal guidelines for traffic lights, and MacAogain said there is not enough volume yet and there have not been enough accidents to meet the criteria for a light. He said there have been an unusual number of traffic summonses there, but that does not factor into the decision.
MacAogain said the city would likely do something in the fall of 2010 when pedestrian volume is expected to increase with the opening of P.S./I.S. 276 nearby.
“We will keep an eye on the intersection,” he said. “It bears paying attention to.”
He said normally the city will wait a few years before reevaluating an intersection, but MacAogain said they will continue to return every six months.
Linda Belfer, the B.P.C. Committee’s chairperson, said the board will ask for more police enforcement in the meantime.
The authority’s Remauro said traffic engineer “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz will also study the area for the authority.
Goldman Sachs told the committee that reports of the firm’s insistence on demolishing the Vesey St. pedestrian bridge soon have been exaggerated.
Timur Galen, a managing director at Goldman, said the firm is pressing for a series of improvements to be made near its headquarters under construction near Vesey and West Sts. and wants all of the changes, which include taking the bridge down, to be made as quickly as possible.
“Why is it taking years and years for things to get done,” he asked.
Galen said he shares the board’s safety concerns and the firm would not want any change to be made that would make it harder for thousands of its workers to get to the headquarters, which could open by the end of the year.
In 2005, the governor at the time, George Pataki, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg convinced Goldman to build across from the World Trade Center site with a comprehensive series of commitments that included over $1.6 billion in tax-free Liberty Bonds.
The state and city have missed or will miss many of the rebuilding progress targets in the agreement and could be subject to penalties of up to $320 million. One of the commitments was to bring the bridge down this month.
Galen said the firm does not want the bridge to be taken down that quickly and he did not want it to be done until it would be safe.
Judy Norinsky, a C.B. 1 staffer, said that at a recent Route 9A meeting several officials said Goldman wanted the bridge down soon.