Volume 23, Number 10 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 16 - 22, 2010

C.B. 1 committee hears plans for two temporary outdoor projects

BY Aline Reynolds

Plans are in the works for a new outdoor café on Pearl Street and a new plaza at Whitehall Street. The two projects were presented to the Community Board 1 Financial District Committee at its July 6 meeting and both were met with approval.

The café, which will open to the public in August, will supplant three or four parking spaces with a wooden patio, seats and shrubbery. It will be a temporary extension of the Pearl Street sidewalk, modeled on similar outdoor spaces in San Francisco. The NYC Department of Transportation will remove it in November as the temperatures begin to drop. D.O.T. plans on reinstalling it next year if it is successful.

A few board members raised concerns about lost parking spaces along Pearl Street, which they fear will compromise availability to nearby residents.

“I’m not happy about it. It’s yet another instance in which the public and residents are going to be adversely effected,” said board member and Gold Street resident Mariama James, who would prefer to see the café be constructed elsewhere, where metered parking spaces would not be taken away.

Another board member, Michael Ketring, said it shouldn’t cause too much of an inconvenience for nearby residents.

“The only people using the spaces [during the day] are commercial trucks and placard [government official] parking,” he said.

Regular parking does not open up until 7 p.m.

“When people are coming home from work, they can’t park their cars,” James replied. “That’s even worse.”

D.O.T. staff said the department is reexamining the parking regulations in the Financial District and Tribeca in hopes of creating additional spots for metered, public parking. Nicole LaRusso, senior vice president for planning and economic development at the Alliance for Downtown New York, said the café would prove beneficial to the merchants along Pearl Street, particularly those lacking outdoor space.

“The restaurants and businesses are looking to increase foot traffic and patronage,” she said, with an eye on the success of the outdoor café at Stone Street.

Zeytuna, a high-end fusion restaurant on Maiden Lane, said it’s in need of extra seating for its customers. “Our lunch place is so crowded, people are just stepping out,” said Oner Hoca, general manager of Zeytuna.

Hoca says that extra foot traffic will help attract customers on the go. “They can grab some snacks from me and go sit outside [at the café] when the weather is good,” he said.

Meanwhile, the D.O.T. plans on building a temporary public plaza at Whitehall Street to spur on commercial growth and make the area more pedestrian-friendly. Similar to the pop-up café, the plaza would consist of additional outdoor space and public seating for passersby. The plaza is a microcosm of the Downtown Alliance’s larger plan to transform Water Street into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly place.

“[The plaza] is a great kickoff to a lot of additional work to improve Water Street,” said LaRusso. “The configuration to the street doesn’t do justice to the value that Water Street has as a place for businesses.”

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