Volume 22, Number 34 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 1 - 7, 2010
Community can lessen the pain on Chambers St.
Any of the hundreds of thousands of Chambers St. users wondering about the probable construction nightmare coming to this crucial street need only walk over a few blocks to Fulton St., where the city has been replacing a water main for over two years.
As we report this week, a similar, three-year water main project is likely to begin on Chambers this spring. There should be no doubt that this work needs to be done – water mains don’t last forever and our taxpaying forefathers and mothers got more than their money’s worth now that the Chambers pipes have made it a few decades more than a century.
Regardless of how this work is scheduled, it will almost undoubtedly cause disruptions, water shutoffs, small business losses and more traffic congestion. If it is not done thoughtfully, it could also lead to safety problems.
Seven schools in five buildings are on Chambers St. in or near the construction area. The street is one of the few long, east-west thoroughfares in Lower Manhattan and feeds in and out of the Brooklyn Bridge and the West Side Highway.
This is just to convey the magnitude of the potential problems and is not to say that there is anything wrong with how the project planning is proceeding. City and state officials still have enough time to fully consult with the community and together figure out the best and least disruptive way to schedule the work.
The city’s Dept. of Design and Construction will be in charge of the bulk of the work. Before the big project begins, the state Dept. of Transportation will be doing some work around the highway near Chambers St. The state is expected to attend a C.B. 1 meeting Jan. 13 to talk about the effects to the area between West and Greenwich Sts., which will start in another month or so. We are pleased to report the state has put off moving forward for at least a few weeks. This preliminary phase is not likely to be as disruptive as when the work moves east so it should not be hard to come up with a reasonable mitigation and detour plan quickly.
That can’t be said for the entire project and we hope to see city officials at public meetings soon to outline some of what’s in store and to hear the concerns and suggestions of Downtown residents and businesses. So often these meetings are attended by people who know and care a great deal about Lower Manhattan, and who raise concerns and ideas that no one else has thought about.
The city’s Dept. of Transportation, which will be responsible for figuring out the detours, should be soliciting and incorporating some of these ideas. The city should be talking to the community while it is still weighing the traffic options rather than presenting a near final plan with little time to make adjustments.
On Fulton St. there have been many pedestrian safety complaints over the last few years and we hope some lessons were learned there and will be applied to Chambers.
Some Chambers St. businesses will be eligible for Lower Manhattan Development Corp. grants intended to ease construction disruptions. But the program expires at the end of this new year, and as we have said before, it does not solve all of Downtown’s small business problems so more help will be needed.