Volume 20, Number 40 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 16 - 23, 2011
No left turns on Albany Street, says the D.O.T.
BY Aline Reynolds
Left-hand turns on Albany Street will not be an option for drivers until 2013, at the earliest, according to the New York State Department of Transportation.
The prospect of adding a left-hand turn — which was never legal but unofficially accepted by drivers and even the city — will be reassessed in 2013, according to Joseph Brown, the Route 9a project director of the state D.O.T.
The announcement didn’t sit well with members of the Community Board 1 Financial District Committee. Committee chair Ro Sheffe stressed the need for an east-west thoroughfare in the neighborhood.
“For ten years, we’ve had no east-west thoroughfare across the Financial District — it’s a zig-zag path no matter where you go,” said Sheffe. “There must be some sort of eastbound access into that area. This is a critical issue for us.”
Drivers have to make convoluted loops in the area to get to their destination, echoed committee member Michael Ketring. The only options drivers have at the moment is to make a right turn onto the southbound side of Liberty Street, cross through Battery Park City, and come out onto Albany Street; or, alternatively, make a U-turn at Battery Place.
Committee member Catherine McVay Hughes noted that out-of-towners driving to and from nearby hotels are in need of the left-hand turn. “No matter what,” she said, “taking that left-hand turn has less impact on the community, and on air quality issues as well.”
Brown said the committee could possibly get to work on an Environmental Impact Study to prove a more timely need for the left turn on Albany Street, but they would first need approval from New York City agencies to proceed with the study.
Brown also noted that Vesey, Fulton and Liberty streets will be closed for construction later this year and won’t reopen in time to provide access to the World Trade Center by the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The D.O.T., however, said it will ensure access to the National September 11th Memorial when it opens in the fall, principally via West Street.
“There will be temporary access on Route 9a for a period of time until construction of the streets has progressed,” said Brown.
The Route 9a project, which includes refurbishments to the frontages of the World Financial Center, will continue through 2014. Work on the area in front of W.F.C. 1 will be completed by the fall.
The final product will be a continuous boulevard stretching from Battery Place to 59th Street. The future W.F.C., meanwhile, will have medians, plantings, bikeways and walkways.
“We’re able to accomplish our plan to complete the project by 2014 while allowing the World Trade Center to continue to occupy Route 9a right away,” said Lisa Weiss, urban design director of the Route 9a project.
The Seaport-Civic Center Committee, also held last week, voted in favor of several street fairs Downtown, including the Chabad of Wall Street Civic Community Fair in May; the NYC Business Expo in May; and the Tribeca Community fair in June.
Loretta Thomas, however, complained about the fairs that take place along Murray Street, where she lives.
“It’s completely disgusting,” said Thomas. “There’s smoke and garbage from them all day long.” Traffic along the street has also been a “nightmare” lately, she said, now that parts of Chamber and Vesey streets are blocked off for construction.
“We’ve debated this issue hours upon hours,” responded Sheffe. The community board is “treading a fine line” in evaluating the street fairs, since “it’s a beneficial — and sometimes, the only — source of revenue for many individuals and organizations, including nonprofits.
“If we get rid of them,” said Sheffe, “they go away forever.”
Joseph Giovanni, president of Mardi Gras productions, which promotes the fairs, said there is a strong possibility the ones now on Murray Street be relocated to Warren Street for the next year or two.
One of the hurdles in selecting locations for the fairs, Sheffe explained, is that they can only occupy certain streets, per city regulations — ones that are under construction or have entrances to parking garages, for example, are ineligible.
Downtown Alliance President Elizabeth Berger said in a statement, “We reinstate our position that we continue to oppose weekday street fairs on major streets with, or adjacent to, construction.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Sheffe asked the committee members to come up with appropriate locales and guidelines for new greenmarkets and newsstands in Downtown. Giovanni said that his company was going to try to encourage the participation of greenmarkets in future multi-block fairs in the neighborhood.