Volume 17 • Issue 20 | October 08 - 14, 2004

Talking Point

The Port Authority has proposed Options A, B, or C for a delivery truck entrance ramp. Community Board 1 favors Option B and the author prefers C.

Taking a wrong turn on W.T.C. ramp question

By David Stanke

The Port Authority is now designing the less glamorous parts of the World Trade Center, the ugly little underground facilities that actually allow the beautiful buildings to function. They have narrowed the options for a W.T.C. bus, truck and auto ramp to underground parking to three locations at the corner of West and Liberty Sts. This location was clearly chosen as the result of the past years of lobbying by every neighborhood and constituency to keep these ramps off their own turf. So when Community Board 1 suggests that all three P.A. options are bad, I ask where might be a better option?

Options north of the W.T.C. site are threatening to Tribeca and to the Freedom Tower being built at the site. Residents fought possibilities in Battery Park City, north of the World Financial Center. Lobbying to preserve the footprints has eliminated any entrance near the old Twin Towers. Neighborhoods east of Church St. in the Financial District don’t have sufficient road capacity to handle volumes of large vehicles. South of Liberty St. and west of Church, seems to be the only politically acceptable possibility for the truck traffic.

The community board, which plays an advisory role in the decision, unfortunately rejected the best option for our neighborhood and for pedestrians on the W.T.C. site — based on unfounded fears of traffic complications. They also failed to notice that the biggest problem isn’t the location of the ramps; it is the tour bus drop off on Greenwich and Fulton Sts. that turns the site into a traffic loop for tour busses in all plans.

Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t like any of the options. They will dramatically affect my neighborhood, south of the W.T.C. between Broadway and the West Side Highway (West St.). But politics are politics, and if we can’t keep the ramps out of our neighborhood, the residents living closest to the ramp should at least have primary community input on the exact location of the ramps.

The best option, Option C, places the ramps directly off West St., dipping below the new Liberty Park between Liberty and Albany Sts. This option, rated the best for pedestrians by the P.A., allows bus and truck traffic to enter and leave the W.T.C. parking without ever leaving West St. By keeping this commercial traffic on a highway, smaller side streets are protected, enhancing pedestrian usage and avoiding permanent barriers between the W.T.C. and its southern neighbors.

The primary problem with Option C is that traffic could cut through Battery Park City to use Albany St. as an access road for W.T.C. parking. This type of scenario is possible under all of the options. Through traffic in B.P.C. is not acceptable. But it can be prevented in Option C with simple traffic rules regulating left turns from Albany St. north onto West St.

The other problem with Option C is that southbound traffic destined for the W.T.C. is routed to a U-turn on Battery Place to reach the ramps off northbound West St. While inconvenient, this is nothing compared to traffic routes into Midtown destinations. And though traffic on West St. south of Liberty will undoubtedly increase, this stretch of highway experiences very limited traffic congestion because it is mostly south of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. For pedestrians who already cross West St. only with traffic lights, there should be little incremental impediment to walking in and out of B.P.C.

C.B.1 recommended Option B, which places the ramps on the south side of Liberty St., east of West St. This places pedestrian traffic directly across the ramp entrance without any traffic light protection. This congests the primary access from southern B.P.C. to mass transit connections. It also creates a barrier to north/south pedestrian movement across Liberty St. And finally, it exposes the memorial directly to the ramps and associated traffic.

The Port Authority has experts on traffic flows. They have devised their options with knowledge of West St. traffic patterns and W.T.C. specific traffic patterns. The traffic congestion periods on West St. are not generally the heavy periods for W.T.C. bus and truck traffic. The West St. ramp option cannot be eliminated simply because West St. is crowded. Busses, tucks and cars will use West St. no matter where the ramps are placed.

The principle behind community boards is that residents and businesses in a community should have input into government decisions that affect their neighborhoods. But in New York, there are many ways of defining communities. The neighborhood directly south of the W.T.C. will bear the obvious and overwhelming brunt of W.T.C. access ramps. But C.B. 1 is comprised primarily of members from Tribeca, Battery Park City, and areas east of Broadway. These areas will be impacted only marginally by the W.T.C. ramps. So when members of C.B. 1 tell the P.A. where in our neighborhood to place vehicle ramps, I am simply amused. Contrary to popular opinion, 9/11 didn’t change the world. The politics of self-interest continue as normal.

While supporting Option B, C.B. 1 did acknowledge problems. Liberty St., the primary pedestrian crossing of West St. south of the W.T.C., will become a truck and bus route. The ramp will place a ? to ? block long barrier running along the south side of Liberty. It will block pedestrian movement from south of Liberty to the W.T.C.

I recommend that the Port Authority and associated agencies recognize the biases behind the community board recommendations, and design the W.T.C. ramps and surrounding traffic patterns to support the following objectives:

Protect pedestrian movement within the site and pedestrian connections to adjacent communities from large vehicular traffic.

Keep the big vehicles on the major roads, especially West and Church Sts.

Locate tour bus drop off sites on Church or West St., avenues large enough to handle this traffic.

Position drop off sites and W.T.C. parking to minimize circular traffic within and around the site.

Protect the memorial visually from the ramps and associated traffic.

Establish east and west vehicular traffic south of the W.T.C. With Cedar St. now a through street from Broadway to West St., a two-way Liberty St. is not required, as C.B. 1 recommended.

Modify street regulations in surrounding areas to protect them from unwelcome traffic intrusions.

Ensure the ability of Fire Trucks from the 10/10 station to move quickly in any direction.

If the Port Authority does this well, the W.T.C. parking ramps will blend peacefully with our community. Burying the ramps beneath an elevated park (Option C) is a great idea from an aesthetic perspective. Consider the design of Battery Park City’s new Teardrop Park with its tiered elevations. With all of the Liberty Bond money and other 9/11 funds that have gone to commercial interests, developers, and more distant community development — no money should be spared in making the these ramps neighborhood friendly.

David Stanke owns a condominium across from the World Trade Center site and frequently writes about Lower Manhattan issues.

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