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Posts from the "Financial District" Category

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Eyes on the Street: New Pedestrian Spaces Pop in Financial District

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Clarence snapped these photos of painted sidewalk expansions on Water Street, where DOT and the Downtown Alliance are working to revitalize street life in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The top photo shows one end of the newly car-free Coentis Slip, between Water and Pearl Street.

A couple of weeks ago the City Council cleared the way for privately owned public spaces (POPS) on Water Street to host public events (markets, concerts, etc.) and amenities (like plazas) without requiring the approval of the City Planning Commission chair. The zoning text amendment will be in effect until January 1, 2014, after which the results will be evaluated by property owners, people who use the spaces, and Community Board 1.

Painted curb extension at Water and Broad.

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Eyes on the Street: Bike-Share Takes Manhattan

Citi Bike's first Manhattan installation, at Fulton Street and Cliff Street in the Financial District. Photo: CitibikeNYC/Twitter

Citi Bike station installations began in Bed Stuy about ten days ago, working west through Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn. Now, with about 60 stations installed, bike-share has crossed the East River, the Citi Bike Twitter feed informs us that the system’s first Manhattan installation has gone in at Cliff Street and Fulton Street in the Financial District. The system is scheduled to launch next month, and thousands of New Yorkers have subscribed since annual memberships went on sale Monday.

So, after this latest development, will any Manhattan City Council members join their Brooklyn counterpart in signing up for bike-share?

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New Plazas Could Reclaim Two Blocks in the Financial District

With painted curb extensions expanding the pedestrian realm on Broadway and Whitehall Street in the Financial District, public space projects are now expected to spread around the corner to Water Street. The area is also on track to receive a first-in-the-city rule rule change making it easier to host public events in privately-owned off-street plazas.

DOT is proposing to transform two short streets in the Financial District to plazas. Above, Coenties Slip. Image: DOT

The proposals come after a 2010 plan from the Downtown Alliance, the local business improvement district, to transform Water Street into a boulevard and boost the area’s street life.

On March 6, DOT presented a plan to Manhattan Community Board 1′s Financial District Committee that would expand pedestrian space and install new pedestrian plazas along Water Street [PDF].

The existing pedestrian plaza at Whitehall Street would be expanded and extended an additional block to Broad Street, while Coentis Slip, between Water and Pearl Streets, and Gouverneur Lane, between Water and Front Streets, would be converted to pedestrian plazas. The plan also adds painted curb extensions to shorten crossing distances between Whitehall and Fulton Streets.

In addition, traffic moving southbound on Water Street beyond Old Slip would be reduced from two lanes to one. The travel lane would be replaced with a striped buffer zone between curbside parking and the remaining moving lane.

The changes could be completed by Labor Day, according to DNAinfo. DOT may also consider reducing or adjusting the number of bus stops on Water Street in the future.

Also last week, CB 1′s planning committee voted unanimously to support a regulatory change from the Department of City Planning that aims to bring more programming and events to privately owned public spaces — the bonus plazas developers created in exchange for the right to build taller, for instance — along Water Street.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Sidewalk Extensions Sprout in Financial District

Sidewalk extensions on Broadway and Whitehall Street in the Financial District. Photo: Stephen Miller

Late last week, DOT completed the installation of gravel epoxy sidewalk extensions in the Financial District along Broadway and Whitehall Street, from the area surrounding the famous bull statue south to an existing plaza between Pearl and Water streets. The additions feature planters and flex-post to keep drivers out, but no seating.

Before the sidewalk widening, DOT counted 390 pedestrians walking in the street south of Stone Street during the peak afternoon hour.

Left, a customer orders from Houda Elali's food truck. Right, pedestrians near Bowling Green. Photos: Stephen Miller

Food truck operator Houda Elali said her truck was back to its usual location on Friday after construction wrapped up on Whitehall Street. “It’s not bad,” she said. Saying that she preferred the gravel epoxy to the usual blacktop, she added that the expanded pedestrian space is useful. “Lots of tourists come through here,” Elali said.

When the plan was unanimously approved by the Community Board 1 Financial District Committee in May, committee chair Ro Sheffe said, “What’s not to like?”

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70 Year-Old Man Crushed, Killed by Security Truck Driver in Financial District

A reader sent in this photo of the crash that killed a man this afternoon on Broad Street.

At least two pedestrians were pinned by a pickup truck used as a movable security barrier on Broad Street near the New York Stock Exchange at approximately 1:30 p.m. this afternoon. One of the pedestrians, an unidentified 70 year-old man, has died. NY1 is reporting that the victim was a NYSE security guard who was eating lunch when the crash occurred.

Police say a woman was taken to New York Downtown Hospital with scraped knees after jumping out of the way. According to eyewitness reports, at least one other pedestrian had an injured leg.

The pickup trucks are moved to allow other vehicles to continue up Broad Street from Beaver Street at a security checkpoint. Gothamist is reporting that the drivers of the trucks, which are used when the security barriers are broken, have a reputation for dangerous behavior.

The driver in today’s crash, a 50 year-old man employed by T&M Protection Resources, a security company contracted by NYSE, remained on the scene and has not been charged with anything. NYPD says that no criminality is suspected. “Looks like an accident,” an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog. Because the crash resulted in a death, NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad is investigating.

“Not sure if the pictures show it,” our tipster writes, “but there’s a large puddle of blood next to the wall. Having those trucks pull in and out of the path has always seemed like a bad idea.”

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Big Sidewalk Extensions Coming to Bowling Green

Proposed sidewalk extensions along Whitehall Street would keep pedestrians out of auto traffic. Image: NYC DOT

Pedestrians at the southern-most tip of Manhattan are getting a lot more space to walk, thanks to a DOT proposal [PDF] first reported by DNAinfo last week.

New sidewalk extensions along Whitehall Street, as well as a new plaza at the famous statue of the bull at Bowling Green, will make conditions safer for people walking to the subway, the Staten Island Ferry, or the Battery.

Right now, there’s just not enough room for all the pedestrian activity in Lower Manhattan. Along one block of Whitehall, for example, 390 pedestrians walk in the roadway during a single peak hour, according to DOT. Existing sidewalks can’t handle the capacity.

Under the DOT plan, sidewalks on both sides of Whitehall would be extended into the street between Broadway and Pearl Street. The extensions would be even larger at intersections in order to shorten crosswalk distances. The effect is a sizable expansion of the pedestrian realm.

Read more…

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Applications for Special Parking Permits Keep Rolling in to City Planning

City Planning needs to decide whether to legalize this parking garage make its illegal extra cars

City Planning will decide whether to let this 44th Street parking garage buck the Clean Air Act and store 90 more cars than currently allowed by law. Image: Google Street View.

With two days until the City Planning Commission votes on the parking-heavy Riverside Center mega-project, the commissioners had a chance yesterday to ask any final questions about the project before the vote. As it happened, they didn’t bring up parking at that section of the meeting, but parking was a hot topic elsewhere on the commission’s agenda, including a pair of requests for special permits to build more parking below 60th Street.

First up, though, was an example of more enlightened planning: Courtlandt Crescent, slated to be the next development in the South Bronx’s much-heralded Melrose Commons revitalization project. This 217-apartment project, which will also house a 10,000 square foot child-care center, will include 29 spaces for cars, according to Department of City Planning staffer Vineeta Mathur. Courtlandt Crescent will also have parking for 110 bicycles.

When planning commission member Angela Battaglia wondered why there was so little car parking included, chair Amanda Burden responded, “It’s expensive. As you know, it would affect the affordability.” Battaglia then agreed that the affordability levels were indeed admirable.

Next was a request for a special permit to build a 42-space garage on the ground floor of a downtown office building. The building, located at the corner of Water and Broad Streets, is going to be the new home of the New York Daily News, and the News is requesting the garage so that its reporters and photographers can quickly get in a car and drive off to cover a story, according to DCP’s Grace Han. The garage would convert an existing loading bay and an under-used mailroom.

The desire to use ground floor space for a parking garage stands in sharp contrast to the Downtown Alliance’s new vision for Water Street, which calls for remaking the entire length of the corridor to put pedestrians first and revitalize street life. That vision has started to take shape with a DOT pedestrian plaza at Water and Whitehall Streets [PDF].

Read more…

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DOT Unveils New “Pop Up Café” in Financial District

PopUpCafeJSK.jpgNicole LaRusso of the Downtown Alliance, David Byrne, and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan enjoy coffee and mango lassis at Pearl Street's new pop-up café. Photo: Noah Kazis
The narrow streets of Lower Manhattan date back centuries and pose a set of challenges nearly unique in New York City. With the city's first "pop-up café," DOT is testing out a solution to one of those challenges: the lack of public space caused by cramped sidewalks.

The wooden platform of the café takes the place of a few parking spaces along Pearl Street, sitting on top of the roadbed. With 14 tables -- the same red model now familiar from Times Square -- and 50 chairs, the space will be able to absorb some of the neighborhood's lunchtime rush. Sidewalk cafés are generally not allowed in the neighborhood because the sidewalks are too narrow.

The name "pop-up café" is perhaps a bit misleading. No food is being sold in the space -- it's just public seating. This first café is sponsored by two neighboring restaurants, Fika, a coffeeshop, and Bombay's, serving Indian food, but they don't offer table service and anyone who likes may sit down. 

The "pop-up" bit, though, is apt. Ro Sheffe, the Community Board 1 Financial District Chairman, said DOT approached the board with the idea on July 7. "Thirty-five days later and there it is," he said. "I wish we'd got you involved in the World Trade Center."  Read more...

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To Thwart Terror Trial Traffic Snarls, Curb Placard Abuse

The pending trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has thrown lower Manhattan into a tizzy, for good reasons. Foremost, of course, is the dread of revisiting the horrors of that day, mingled with fears of new attacks linked to the trial. But there are also concerns that the NYPD's aggressive countermeasures will impede movement, worsen traffic and suffocate the economy of the area, pockets of which never recovered fully from police-ordered street closures and other 9/11 aftershocks. These concerns could be assuaged by a tough, zero tolerance stance on parking placard abuse by government employees.

12_20_2007_NYPDTowsNYPD.JPGTo offset the effects of its terror trial security zone, NYPD should adopt a zero tolerance policy for placard abusers.
Two developments last week brought new attention to the traffic issue. First, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly disclosed the boundaries within which police will spot-check vehicles, restrict delivery times and otherwise impose a massive presence. The "soft perimeter" surrounding Foley Square is bounded by Canal and Frankfort Streets, Bowery and Broadway. (An inner “hard perimeter” will “include 2,000 interlocking metal barriers staffed by uniformed officers,” according to The New York Times.) Second, a proposal floated by Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin to move the trial to Governors Island won the support of new Council Member Margaret Chin and is expected to be formally endorsed by the board this Wednesday.

The soft perimeter appears to include around five-and-a-half linear miles of streets comprising 17 "lane-miles." (These figures exclude Park Row and other streets already taken out of service by the NYPD since 9/11.) Clearly, restricting vehicular travel on these streets will aggravate gridlock, but by how much, and at what “time cost” to travelers? City Hall isn’t saying, of course, but with the help of the Balanced Transportation Analyzer, it’s possible to make a rough estimate.

Assuming that the restrictions take away one-quarter of the carrying capacity of the affected streets (one-half for streets within the inner section), vehicles in the area can expect to spend 2,200 additional hours stuck in traffic each weekday. Scaled to a full year, that translates to $30 million in lost time for motorists, truckers, taxi riders and bus passengers. (Go to the “Cordon” tab of the BTA spreadsheet to view derivation.)

This is a mere drop in the regional bucket, which now loses $13 billion a year to gridlock, according to the Partnership for New York City [PDF]. But locally, where most of that lost time will tick away, the impact could be tangible -- particularly in Chinatown, the epicenter of post-9/11 business closings and a major component of the area targeted by the NYPD.

Read more...
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Film Scout Parking Permits Rescinded

spiderman.jpgThe other night in the Financial District, the buildings of Trinity Place were lit-up all noir-like, and light illuminated the steam temporarily wafting skyward from an orange stack. The lighting set up a visual image of a comic book, larger-than-life metropolis that will appear in Spiderman III.  I enjoyed watching a take or two of traffic on the streets as the star flew through the air on some kind of hoist, and generally I am a fan of Hollywood filming here because besides creating jobs, it usually improves the city's image, and encourages tourism, and reminds viewers around the world of the excitement that daily life here can include: New York remains the ultimate movie setting because it is the place where anything can happen. But the New York's huge film industry has been leaning on a not-so-secret crutch that has now been eliminiated. (Hat tip to The Oil Drum.) An essay by Francis X. Clines in the Times brings to light some news:

The industry also has a small army of locale scouts empowered with platinum-level parking permits. And there's the rub: Ordinary New Yorkers with no less a talent for divining authenticity have been complaining about the loss of parking spaces to scouts who have City Hall tags to park ticket-free, on the job or not, as diplomats.

And here's the happy ending: With the industry booming, enjoying tax breaks and creating jobs, the city decided it was wise to kill the parking perks for film scouts as of July 1. Call it Gotham Strikes Back. The big equipment vans will still have the permits on filming days, and the city will clear the rights of way. But the scouts will have to pay to park like, well, authentic New Yorkers.

Peakguy, writing over at the Oil Drum, hopes that this is the beginning of a general policy of taking away special parking privileges.  Can anyone else think of groups with special parking privileges they'd like to see revoked?