Here’s the Chinatown Intersection Where NIMBYs Killed a Pedestrian Overhaul

The view across Chatham Square, looking east from Worth Street. Image: Google Street View

Just a reminder: Chatham Square, the intersection where Chinatown NIMBYs have fended off the reclamation of street space for pedestrians, is a huge expanse of asphalt with chaotic traffic patterns and a terrible safety record. According to CrashStat, dozens of pedestrians and cyclists were injured in traffic crashes at Chatham Square from 1995 to 2005, and five schools are located within three blocks.

In 2008, the city put out a conceptual plan for pedestrian improvements at Chatham Square that would have simplified intersections and added significantly more sidewalk space. But a contingent of opponents, contending that the economic health of Chinatown depends on auto access to Park Row, mobilized against the project. (The Chatham Square project would have altered the street pattern at one end of Park Row, but the street, which goes by NYPD headquarters, has been closed to private traffic since the days after 9/11.)

Today DNAinfo reports that opponents have succeeded. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will be taking the $30 million set aside for those pedestrian improvements and spending it on other things. Jan Lee, owner of the antiques showroom Sinotique and a vocal opponent of the project in his role as leader of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, told DNAinfo that “at least some of the money should remain in Chinatown.” Now that an actual safety improvement is off the table, Lee suggested spending some cash to study the feasibility of re-opening Park Row to traffic.

Here’s one more look at what Lee and other opponents have thwarted:

Chatham Square layout under the proposed redesign...

...and the intersection as it is today.