Volume 16 • Issue 47 | April 16-22, 2004

Vesey elevators coming this summer to a bridge near you

State Transportation diagram of the Vesey St. bridge, which opened last November. The escalator on the west side is expected to open April 16, the eastern escalator in June and the elevators by late June or early July. The raised walkway or panel bridge adjacent to the World Trade Center site will open in June.

By Josh Rogers

By late June or early July, nearly three years after the Twin Towers were destroyed, officials hope to restore the first safe and reliable way near the World Trade Center site for wheelchair-bound people to enter Battery Park City.

State Transportation Dept. officials told Community Board 1’s Battery Park City committee Tuesday that elevators on the east and west sides of the Vesey St. pedestrian bridge will be running by the early summer and should not have the same mechanical problems that have plagued the neighborhood’s other pedestrian bridge elevators in the winter. The escalator on the west side of the bridge is expected to open Friday, April 16, and the escalators on the east by mid-to-late June.

Since 9/11, B.P.C. residents and commuters going to World Financial Center offices have had a choice of crossing a six-lane highway, climbing stairs to one of the pedestrian bridges, or relying on unreliable bridge elevators. The handicapped lift for the Liberty St. bridge, immediately south of the W.T.C., has broken down the most, which means parents pushing strollers, many handicapped people and people with difficulty with stairs often take their chances crossing Route 9A while the more able-bodied can avoid the traffic completely.

The Vesey bridge, immediately north of the W.T.C., opened last November in conjunction with the reopening of the W.T.C. PATH commuter station. Richard Schmalz, project director of the Route 9A project for the Dept. of Transportation, said with the elevators and escalators the cost of the bridge will be $15 million.

There will also be a 120-foot-long raised walkway leading to the bridge on the east side to shield pedestrians from the construction repairing the Verizon Building at 140 West St. The building was badly damaged on Sept. 11. The walkway, about 20 feet above street level, will open in June when an escalator connecting it to the street opens. People who need to use the elevator will walk on the north side of Vesey St. under the Verizon pedestrian arcade.

In addition to the Verizon work, there is also construction on Vesey St. rebuilding 7 W.T.C. and repairing a Post Office building at 90 Church St. Construction of the Freedom Tower at the W.T.C. site is expected to begin in September.

Schmalz said Vesey is “a street that has become a construction area yet it is vital to the movement of pedestrians.”

During a typical hour during the morning rush, about 1,300 people take the Vesey bridge and 1,300 cross Route 9A at street level. He said the reasons that more people don’t take the bridge are “impatience, lack of an escalator.”

Originally, state D.O.T. had thought about closing the street-level crossing with the opening of the elevators, but Schmalz said they were now considering keeping it open.

Like the Liberty St. elevator, the day-to-day maintenance and operation of Vesey will be handled by the owners of the nearby W.F.C. offices, Brookfield Properties Corp. The Liberty St. lift was installed by the city and Brookfield estimates it would cost between $500,000 to $1 million to upgrade the elevator. A few months ago, a Port Authority official, requesting anonymity, said the agency was reluctant to spend more money on the Liberty elevator since it may have to close or move soon with the pending demolition of the Deutsche Bank building.

Stefan Dallendorfer, a senior architect with Earth Tech, said the Vesey elevators he designed will be different from Liberty in several respects. They will be bigger, accommodating at least 10 people, will not require an operator and most importantly, they are designed to work in the cold weather. “The elevators are as high-quality, winterized elevators as you can get,” said Dallendorfer, who made a point to tell C.B. 1 members of his familiarity with cold weather as a native of Sweden.

State Transportaion is also studying ways to make street level crossings of Route 9A (West St.) easier, either by building a vehicular tunnel adjacent to the W.T.C. site or by making street-level pedestrian improvements. Schmalz said under either scenario, the Vesey St. bridge is expected to be torn down five years from now, but nothing was certain.

“We’re calling it a temporary bridge,” he said. “We have had temporary bridges in place for 20 years.”

The escalators and elevators are being constructed in Germany and Austria and members wanted to know why the wait was so long.

“We had a little bit of a learning experience in what the lead time is,” Schmalz said

The escalators will only be one-way so B.P.C. residents on their way to the subway in the morning will not be able to use them since there will be more PATH and subway commuters walking in the other direction to the Financial Center.

Schmalz said it would have cost about $2 million more to install two-way escalators along the route.

“We’ve already got a budget that’s pretty high for a temporary bridge,” he said. He said he was open to ideas as to which direction to run the escalators during the weekend and the board kicked around a few ideas. Jeff Galloway suggested that since the escalators will be used less frequently on weekends, maybe they could remain stationary when not in use and start in either direction at the push of a button when people walked up to them.

Anthony Notaro, the committee’s chairperson, said maybe they should go up on both sides of the bridge. “I really don’t want to climb those stairs on the weekend,” he said.


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