Volume 16 • Issue 43 | March 26 - April 1, 2004



Letters to the editor

Comforting column

To The Editor:
I just read an article by Sara Spielman (Youth column, Feb. 6 – 12, “Feminist ideals confront separation anxiety”), and I just wanted to thank you so much.

The topic and sentiments resonated with my own situation and I suddenly felt that I was not alone in my feelings. Being at home with your child and having your own intellectual development is tough but many mothers have survived it and I intend to come out shining on the other side.
 
Rhian S. Robinson


Chinatown traffic

To The Editor:
Re “Chinatown residents hear traffic plan changes” (news article, March 19 –25):

I would like to offer a slightly different perspective on the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation presentation of their Chinatown Traffic Study and Preliminary Suggestions at Mariner’s Temple on March 16th.

While there was much discussion of the need for parking in and around the historic Chinatown area, the greater focus at the meeting was that of access, of which parking is but one important component. The point that was made was that traffic flow improvements do not help the community if our streets only wind up serving as a conduit for traffic through our area and not as a destination in and of itself. Without adequate parking, even friends and relatives and former residents no longer want to come to visit.

But there are other important aspects to access. The potential closing of streets for either security or to improve traffic flow needs further study and discussion.

One suggestion that was made at the meeting but was not reported in your article was the establishment of a secure shuttle through the “secure zone.” While dismissed as impractical because of security concerns, many feel that a secure shuttle, operated in conjunction with the N.Y.P.D., would only need to establish weight limits on passengers and packages.

Since the area within the secure zone is accessible to pedestrians, those same people on a shuttle with light packages should not be an issue on a secure shuttle through the area. In fact, a secure shuttle would make the area more secure because the riders would be kept on a well-defined route.

Another important point raised at the meeting that was not reported was economic and cultural redevelopment. The street closures of the past two and a half years has left the community economically and culturally devastated. As reported in the meeting, houses of worship in the area are seeing smaller congregations because the area is no longer hospitable to visitors. We need infrastructure to regain what has been lost. A cultural center and perhaps a major supermarket (anchored by reasonable and accessible parking) can help bring jobs and people to our area and keep people in our area.

The meeting did have a positive feel and we hope that the L.M.D.C. will continue to work with us to actually implement solutions to the problems presented by the presence of a police headquarters that no longer feels comfortable being neighbors with tens of thousands of multi-ethnic residents of Lower Manhattan. In fact, an N.Y.P.D. headquarters that feels the need to distance itself both physically and spiritually from its neighbors in Lower

Manhattan really no longer belongs in Lower Manhattan but that is a topic for another letter.

Danny Chen


In praise of superblocks

To The Editor:  
David Stanke is right about what he said about running more streets through the World Trade Center site (Talking Point, March 19 –25, “Don’t run mores streets through the W.T.C.”).  As a matter of fact, the site shouldn’t even have any streets running through it at all.  The idea of the superblock was to allow for open space and bring people together rather than apart.  In numerous responses in the past, many have opposed the reinstating of the street grid yet it was ignored by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., who believed that it would bring neighborhoods closer together.  Even visual artists agree on keeping the superblock.  In reality, this plan is actually to destroy anything that would remind George Pataki of the W.T.C. and make it as it never existed.  If people could drive around it then, they can drive around it now.

Tal Barzilai
Pleasantville, N.Y.


Head

To The Editor:
David Stanke’s opinion essay, “Don’t run more streets through the W.T.C.” (Talking Point, March 19 –25) makes an enormous amount of common sense.  Simply put, Mr. Stanke argues that making way for additional vehicular traffic through this site serves no legitimate purpose but creates a number of problems instead.  (Actually, allowing any vehicular traffic through the site would be a tremendous step backward for Lower Manhattan from the original World Trade Center site plan and is likely to create even more problems than those mentioned by Mr. Stanke.)

As someone who’s been trained in the field of urban planning, however, I would like to warn those who are opposed to additional vehicular traffic through the W.T.C. site that they are up against a very formidable adversary — i.e., a mindless application, to this unique-in-all-the-world redevelopment site, of urban planning dogma that says, “pedestrianized streets never work; superblocks are always bad;  vehicular streets are always good.”

Perhaps the best criticism — and, also, the best defense — of pedestrianized streets is given in Jane Jacobs’ landmark book on urban planning, “Death and Life of Great American Cities.”  In Chapter 18, “Erosion of cities or attrition of automobiles,” she discusses the problems with the pedestrianized street schemes that were being suggested for small towns and cities in the late 1950s.

  Basically the problem with these pedestrianized street schemes is that no practical way was provided for people and goods to reach the businesses and stores on these streets once the autos and trucks had been banned.  As a result, although these streets were prettified, they were also de-populated and de-vitalized.

But, unlike the W.T.C. site, none of these areas with pedestrianized streets sat on top of, and adjacent to, one of the planet’s greatest concentrations of mass transit facilities. And none of these schemes were the focus of a memorial that is likely to attract vast numbers of visitors from around the city, around the region, around the nation and, indeed, around the globe.

As Mr. Stanke suggests, the problem with the original W.T.C. superblock was not that it was a superblock per se, but that it was an extremely poorly designed superblock.  There was little provision for retail along the perimeter of the site;  the siting of the W.T.C. buildings was such that they blocked off surrounding streets and created entrances and exits to both the plaza and the concourse that were perversely situated.

One only has to look elsewhere in Manhattan to see that pedestrianized streets, both the open-air kind (like the recently pedestrianized Rockefeller Center private street) and the weather- protected kind (like those in Grand Central) can just as easily embody the very essence of New York.

What are the additional problems that I believe Mr. Stanke overlooks?

The elimination of vehicular streets through the W.T.C. site over thirty years ago created an unintentional traffic impediment that discouraged unwarranted automobile usage in Lower Manhattan. 

So rather than relieving traffic congestion in Lower Manhattan, as proponents claim, putting vehicular streets through the W.T.C. site — especially a vehicular Greenwich St. — is actually more likely to create a new traffic magnet for Lower Manhattan instead.  And given the world-wide interest in the “Ground Zero” site, this is likely to be a “world-class” traffic magnet at that.  One can see these streets becoming a year-round, Downtown equivalent to the streets surrounding the tree at Rockefeller Center at Christmas time.

But this isn’t the worst of the problems.  While perhaps it is too late to do anything about it any more, it should nevertheless be mentioned to show just how pernicious the unthinking application of this dogma will actually be for Lower Manhattan residents.  Putting Greenwich St. through the site as a vehicular street means that the weather-protected transportation and shopping concourse, which once was essentially street-level at Greenwich St., will now have to be “pushed down” two levels below the surface of Greenwich St. in order to pass below the #1 train (which runs, of course, one-level below Greenwich St.). 

But even with the current layout of streets, City Planning can do a much better job of creating lively urban streets if it let’s go of the dogma that says these streets must have vehicles on them, and instead minimizes the negative urban effects of the overabundance of deadening open space (especially in bad weather) and store-less street frontage on the site.
 
Benjamin Hemric


Keep the Peking

This letter was also sent to the South Street Seaport Museum.

Dear South Street Seaport Museum,

I was sad to hear you want to sell the Peking! I love the Peking. I have been going on that ship since I was little. I have had so much fun on that ship. I have learned all about sailing big ships on the Peking. I also learned shipping was important. The South Street Seaport Museum is all about the history of ships and South St. Without the Peking it would not look like the South St. of the past. Kids would not learn about ships of the past. I think less people would want to come without the Peking. If you want my ideas on how to save the Peking, call me.

Love,

Jill Trazino
Jill Trazino, 8, is a Southbridge Towers resident and a second grade student at P.S. 42.


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