Volume 17 • Issue 37 | February 11 - 17, 2005

Transportation officials propose West St. exercise stands

State Tranportation’s plan for West St. south of West Thames St.

By Ronda Kaysen

Downtowners are going to get in shape — whether they like it or not. The city’s Department of Transportation unveiled plans last week to pepper promenade south, a stretch of parkland between Battery Place and West Thames St. now under development, with artsy exercise and activity stations.

In response to cries from community members to develop an “active” promenade at the tail end of Route 9A, the State D.O.T. — with the help of Vollmer Associates, a landscape architecture firm — presented an enhanced design for the area at a Jan. 27 Community Board 1 Battery Park City Committee meeting. Downtowners may soon frolic in a sculptural garden at First Place, a “whimsical arbor” at Second Place and a boulder garden at Third Place.

Construction began on the southernmost portion of the promenade late last year and will be completed in the spring of 2006. The new design elements, once finalized, will be added after work is finished, according to Heather Sporn, deputy director for the State D.O.T.

The design elements near Route 9A or West St. “really incorporate both visitors and residents with something that is visually pleasing,” Sporn said at the meeting.

Two-person strengthening bars, sit up benches and bars that can be used for push-ups or stretching will be scattered along the perimeter of the promenade at First Place so users will be able to work at a distance from one another and other visitors to the area will not interfere. “This is a really good way to incorporate exercise stations,” said Lauren Loscialo, a Vollmer representative, at the meeting.

Second Place will include a scattering of cubes that can be used for various activities including yoga and step exercises. Located around the main gathering area and beneath the shade of the Bradford Callery Pear trees that line the length of the South Promenade, the cubes will be made out of re-enforced cast stone and can also be used as seats or play objects for children.

The boulder garden at Third Place will include hand-selected boulders of various sizes scattered throughout the area. The boulders can be used for exercise or as playthings for kids.

“It’s a design that’s context sensitive,” said Loscialo. “[The objects] have a balance of aesthetics, functionality and long-term maintenance.”

Committee members responded favorably to the D.O.T.’s suggestions for the promenade, although some members had concerns about the activity stations.

“They’re weird. I don’t know if people actually use them,” committee member Tom Goodkind said of the exercise stations. “We asked for active recreation, not little exercise stations.”

Committee member Bill Love wondered if another block of Little West St., which runs along the promenade, could be converted into park space. In the current plan, Little West St. will be narrowed from three lanes to two and end at Third Place instead of West Thames St., converting a one-block swath of the street between Third Place and West Thames St. into a 100-foot wide strip of parkland.

Anthony Notaro, the committee’s chairperson, said no more of Little West St. can be sacrificed for the park. “Little West St. is a city-mapped street. To get that de-mapped is a major issue,” he said.

Landscaping plans for the acquired strip will be worked out at a later date. The remainder of the street will become a one way, northbound street.

“We are really looking at [the new parkland between Third Place and West Thames St.] as a placeholder for a development to come north of here,” Losciallo said. Once the development begins on the northern portion of the promenade, “the lawn could be designed to be what the community needs it to be,” she said. The D.O.T. will begin discussions with the community about design ideas for the northern portion of the promenade, from West Thames St. to Albany St., in the coming months.

Ronda@DowntownExpress.com


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