Volume 17 • Issue 11 / August 06 - 12, 2004

Chatham Towers leaders oppose parking garage idea

By David H. Ellis

Fearing potential traffic, as well as business and environmental consequences, neighbors of the Chatham Green Houses announced their objection to the idea of constructing a 750-space parking garage underneath the housing complex.

After reaching a consensus, the nine-member board of the adjacent Chatham Towers apartments issued a statement on July 16 that simultaneously condemned the proposed location and supported an alternate garage site at Collect Pond, located just north of Worth St. between Centre and Lafayette Sts.

“We do need more parking and I do understand that, but the other site seems better for traffic and its environmental impact,” said David Cheng, president of the 240-unit Chatham Towers co-op, situated across Park Row, just northwest of the Chatham Green Houses.

With Lower Manhattan commuters and residents strapped for parking since Sept. 11, 2001, discussions between the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and Chinatown leaders resulted in the idea of creating an underground parking garage underneath the Chatham Green Houses or the Collect Pond site.

While Chatham Green and Chatham Towers are next door to one another and share a similar name, the two complexes have completely separate management — and, on occasion, diverging views.

Opponents of the Chatham Green site, which includes some Chatham Green Houses shareholders as well as members of the Chatham Towers board, believe that creating a garage will intensify traffic problems along St. James Pl., increase exhaust fumes in the area and further complicate the position of business owners, who already struggle to make deliveries due to traffic congestion.

Although the Collect Pond location would be directly adjacent to both the criminal and civil courts buildings, supporters indicate that the location is ideal since it houses a municipal parking lot already and is easily accessible to the major thoroughfares of Lafayette and Centre Sts.

Ed Lam, a Chatham Green board member, contends that even if the project is considered, a decision is still several months away. “It’s still an idea - nothing has come to fruition,” said Lam. “If you look at Collect Pond versus Chatham Green however, Chatham Green is a better site.”

Although a price tag has not been attached to either project, Lam says if the garage were installed underneath the Chatham Green Houses, a portion of its revenue is expected to revert back to the co-op while the parking shortages plaguing Chinatown could be alleviated.

Even though the decision is ultimately up to shareholders in the Chatham Green Houses and the L.M.D.C., Cheng and the other members of Chatham Towers believed the statement was necessary for their opinion to be heard.

“Being here everyday and walking through the neighborhood, we already understand how bad the impact on the community is,” said Cheng. “Any change might make it worse.”

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