Volume 22, Number 11 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 24 - 30, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Jared T. Miller
A new proposal calls for expanding the existing Edgar St. plaza, in left foreground, into Edgar St. where two men are seen walking, above.
Underused lanes should be pedestrian space, BID says
By Jared T. Miller
A new plaza near the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel may be on its way, according to an announcement by the Downtown Alliance business improvement district last Wednesday.
The plan, which involves the expansion of the existing Edgar St. plaza, would be funded as part of the New York City Plaza Program. The program, established by the city Dept. of Transportation, allocates funding for transforming underused streets into public plazas in neighborhoods lacking open spaces for pedestrians. As part of the Downtown Alliance BID’s proposal to D.O.T., the new plaza would expand into two lanes of traffic on Edgar St., a four-lane road.
Proponents of the plan say the extra lanes of the 63-foot-long street are rarely used, or are used as parking space. The proposal was announced at the Community Board 1 Planning Committee meeting last week. Though the committee voted to write a letter of support for the Alliance’s plan, the plaza’s construction is dependent upon D.O.T.’s decision to award funding. D.O.T. is still reviewing the plan, and will likely announce the decision by October.
“As the community evolves further and gains a more residential neighborhood feel, the need for a heart and center becomes more and more important,” said Christopher Reynolds, assistant vice president of planning for the Downtown Alliance. “The potential for that plaza to serve that role becomes more and more heightened.”
Edgar St. is wedged between Greenwich St. and Trinity Place, and is situated next to a Metropolitan Transportation Authority parking garage. The street is primarily used for traffic in and out of the garage, Reynolds said. As part of the proposal to D.O.T., the Downtown Alliance must secure the support of the surrounding community. C.B. 1’s Planning Committee is already on board.
Currently, the Edgar St. plaza is sparsely landscaped, with shrubs and benches lining the perimeter. The majority of the plaza is concrete, allowing for the flow of pedestrian traffic through the area. NYCwireless, a nonprofit group that advocates for widespread wireless Internet access, hopes to install Wi-Fi capabilities for the plaza if the proposal is approved, said Bruce Brodoff, spokesperson for the Alliance.
If D.O.T. approves the proposal, planning and design work will commence in the fall and construction will conclude by the middle of 2012, according to the Downtown Alliance’s preliminary timeline. The Downtown Alliance will be responsible for future maintenance of the redesigned plaza.
“It certainly could be much nicer than it is now. And it will be,” said John Foss, co-chairperson of C.B.1’s Planning Committee, explaining that he supported the idea of expanding the plaza into the underused lanes of Edgar St. “Anytime there’s outdoor space we can improve, I think that benefits everyone.”
Ryan Hoffecker, 29, who works nearby at One Liberty Plaza, was sitting in Edgar St. plaza as he checked his BlackBerry last Friday. He said he supported the idea of expanding the current space.
“It’d be nice to have more green, less concrete,” said Hoffecker, noting that he rarely sees cars in Edgar St.’s extra lanes. “Green is always better in the city.”