Volume 21, Number 46 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 27 - April 2, 2009
Downtown Express photos by Vadim Shepel
With the Rector St. pedestrian bridge now closed temporarily, people are crossing on Albany St. The bridge could reopen as soon as April 3, but it is likely to close for eight weeks starting in June.
Pedestrians have to bear crossing Albany
By Julie Shapiro
Domenic Turziano walked slowly up to the corner of Albany and West Sts., his walking stick twitching back and forth in front of him.
At the intersection, Turziano paused before the six lanes of speeding traffic he cannot see, and within a moment, an N.Y.U. grad student offered him her arm. Together, they safely made the crossing.
But hoping to avoid cars and trucks on a highway is not the way Turziano, 50, prefers to get to work. Turziano, who is blind and lives in Battery Park City, always took the Rector St. pedestrian bridge instead of the Albany St. at-grade crossing, until the state Dept. of Transportation closed the bridge on March 9.
“I need that bridge,” Turziano said. “That bridge is essential for me to cross the street.”
State D.O.T. closed the Rector bridge earlier than it had planned because facade work on a nearby building made the bridge’s eastern staircase unsafe. That building, 40 Rector St., will build a shed over the staircase to protect pedestrians and will likely reopen the bridge by April 3, said Adam Levine, a spokesperson for state D.O.T.
But this won’t be the bridge’s last closure. Once 40 Rector’s facade repairs are done in mid-June, the state will shut the bridge for eight weeks to do utility work and move the bridge’s stairs as part of the Route 9A project. That work was supposed to start this month, but state D.O.T. had to delay it because of 40 Rector’s construction, Levine said. While the D.O.T. work is happening, the Battery Park City Authority will also refurbish the bridge.
Philips International, which owns 40 Rector, an office building, declined to comment. It does not look like the facade work has begun.
State D.O.T. made several improvements to the Albany St. intersection to help people cross at grade while the bridge is closed, including widening it to 21 feet and adding more traffic agents on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
But many people say the intersection is still unsafe, especially once the traffic agents leave at night and on weekends. Marilyn Feng, 26, a B.P.C. resident, was killed in February while crossing West St. at Albany after 3 a.m. and her boyfriend was seriously injured.
Turziano said he cannot cross at grade without assistance. Sometimes a good Samaritan stops to help and sometimes the traffic agents help, but on a recent Sunday, no one was around and Turziano was unable to cross. Turziano is concerned that the Rector bridge, built after 9/11 as a temporary structure, could be exceeding its lifespan and may be taken down.
“I hope they keep the bridge up,” he said.
The Battery Park City Authority has said the Rector bridge will remain standing until they find a location for a permanent bridge in the south neighborhood.
The West St. crossings are getting renewed local political attention. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is holding a meeting with officials and community leaders on Fri., March 27 to address the safety concerns, and Community Board 1 is forming a taskforce on the same topic.
Many people who crossed West St. at Albany St. this week said they missed the safer alternative that the Rector bridge offered.
“It’s already a nightmare here,” said Ann Longmore, 50, who works in the World Financial Center. “This just makes it worse. Now it’s a living nightmare.”
Longmore said she is tired of Lower Manhattan being a construction staging zone, where pedestrians are not prioritized.
P.J. Dalton, 35, was pushing his 1-year-old daughter across the intersection on a recent afternoon.
“You should be able to use the bridge,” he said. “It’s definitely not safe.”
The next day, another man pushing a stroller saw this reporter interviewing pedestrians and called over his shoulder, “Put down that it’s incredibly dangerous, and they’re not going to do anything to fix it until a kid gets killed.”
Mara Mazzartto, 43, a teacher, said if she had to, she would not take her students to cross the street because it’s not safe. For adults, she said the bridge closure was more of an annoyance. She was running late for a meeting in Battery Park City and said the bridge should have had a sign giving people a detour.
The east side of the bridge has only a sign saying the bridge is closed until further notice, while the west side has a sign with a little more information, including a map showing alternate crossings.
Several people also said the bridge closure was a hassle but not a major safety issue.
“If you work in the city, I hope you know how to cross by now,” said Catherine, 48, who was heading to work in the World Financial Center and did not give her last name.
But Catherine also wanted the bridge to reopen.
“I miss my StairMaster,” she said. “[The bridge] was my morning and evening StairMaster.”