City Council member Margaret Chin is echoing calls by the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 for a greater voice in planning any changes to the streetscape of South End Avenue. In a January 25 letter to Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT), Ms. Chin urges the City, “not to approve any changes to South End Avenue without meaningful engagement and opportunities for public input by the community — particularly from members of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1.”
This appears to be a reference to calls by members of Community Board 1 (CB1) for a direct, formal role in deliberations about South End Avenue. While there have been several public meetings about an initiative by the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to redesign the thoroughfare, these have not included any substantive role for CB1, which is designated as the official voice of the Lower Manhattan community in dealing with government agencies and elected officials.
As early as last June, Anthony Notaro (then chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, and now chair of CB1 as a whole) requested that the BPCA share preliminary results of its study about South End Avenue with that panel, in advance of July 20 public meeting about the project. That request was declined.
In subsequent meetings, the BPCA has invited the public to review the result of this study, as well as to weigh in with reactions and suggestions. This input has resulted in significant modifications to the BPCA’s approach to rehabilitating South End Avenue. Most prominently, the BPCA announced in October that it will no longer consider filling in the arcades that line the west side of the street, in order to create new retail space. (This possibility stirred controversy, and moved the boards of 12 condominium buildings to adopt resolutions opposing such a move.)
The next step slated for the process will be another public meeting, to be co-hosted by the BPCA and the City DOT, the date for which has not been announced. At the February 7 meeting of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, members Tammy Meltzer and Justine Cuccia asked once again that the BPCA circulate information about its latest proposals to the panel in advance of this meeting, so that the members could deliberate and reach a consensus on how to respond. They also stressed the importance of announcing the date and location of this meeting several weeks in advance.
Ninfa Segarra, chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, repeated a call she has made in the past, for CB1 to be invited to co-host the meeting, and to play an official role in the process of making decision about any changes to South End Avenue. Whether any of these requests will be granted by the BPCA remains to be seen.
Ms. Chin’s January 25 letter to Commissioner Trottenberg is significant, because few — if any — of the changes contemplated in the BPCA study of options for South End Avenue could be legally implemented without the approval of the City DOT, as well as several other agencies.
Ms. Chin letter continued, “Since the Battery Park City Authority began its South End Avenue assessment, there have been few opportunities for residents to engage in the process to redesign one of Battery Park City’s most important thoroughfares.” She continued, “I strongly believe that community representatives should be able to fully participate in any discussion regarding the future of this unique neighborhood’s main artery — including at an upcoming joint DOT/BPCA public meeting to consider recommendations for street and pedestrian improvements along South End Avenue.”
A BPCA spokesman responds, “as always we look forward to continuing our discussions with, and receiving additional feedback from, the Battery Park City community about its ideas for the future of South End Avenue.”