At its full monthly meeting this evening, Community Board 1 (CB1) will weigh a resolution, ratified by the panel’s Battery Park City Committee earlier in October, calling for a halt to a recent project by the Battery Park City Authority (BCPA) to study scenarios under which South End Avenue could be redesigned. In a separate (but related) development, the boards of eight condominium buildings that would be affected by any changes to South End Avenue have passed resolutions calling for a freeze on the BPCA’s South End Avenue undertaking.
At its October 5 meeting, the Battery Park City Committee passed the resolution that CB1 as a whole will consider tonight. This resolution reviews the history of a City Department of Transportation (DOT) study and proposal from 2013, which was produced in collaboration with community leaders, and calls upon the BPCA to scrap its current study, in favor of an updated version of the earlier DOT proposal. The resolution also demands that the Authority not implement any plans for South End Avenue without approval from residents, and that it disclose its goals, methods and proposed funding mechanism for the project.
The eight condominium buildings that have enacted measures opposing the project are Battery Pointe, the Cove Club, Hudson View East, Hudson View West, Liberty Court, Liberty Terrace, Liberty View, and the Soundings. These resolutions were ratified in August, September, and October. Similar resolutions are expected from more buildings soon.
Although no one at either of two recent meetings of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee spoke in support of the initiative to reconfigure South End Avenue, some local residents see merit in the idea. David Goodman, who has lived on Rector Place for 18 years, says, “South End Avenue is a very wide street for New York City, and doesn’t have very much traffic compared to Broadway or Church Street. This is not very functional. It takes a long time to cross the street, and the extra space ends up being used by Uber cars picking up or dropping off, and people looking for parking.”
“I just got back from two weeks in Spain,” Mr. Goodman continued. “In the big cities in the southern part of the country, they dress up their streets with planters and flower pots in the middle. An island in the middle of South End Avenue would discourage taxis from zooming around and making fast u-turns. Something should be done, and it’s a little disappointing to hear people say, ‘we don’t want anything to change, it’s wonderful the way it is.’ There’s nothing wonderful to preserve there.”
Many other residents appear to disagree, with more than a dozen raising objections at the September and October meetings of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee. One current feature of the South End Avenue streetscape that a redesign might modify or eliminate is the arcades — a series colonnades that adorn the sides of four large residential buildings on the west side the street, stretching from Albany Street to the South Cove cul-de-sac — which, under some preliminary design options circulated by the BPCA, would be converted them into new retail space. Referring to the possibility of enclosing these arcades, Jane Mancino, a resident of 200 Rector Place, said at the October 5 meeting, “it’s a stupid idea and a waste of money and takes away something that I like; a convenience that I want to keep.”
Jeff Mihok, co-chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, observed at the same meeting that, “distrust is the issue. The BPCA suddenly removed Tessa Huxley from the Parks Conservancy, got rid of the operator at North Cove Marina, and forced out the Parks Enforcement Patrol officers. All of these decisions were made against the will of the community. This is another in a terrible set of ideas from an organization that has proved itself unworthy of trust. It’s crazy that we have to be telling an Authority that’s collecting so many millions of dollars from our community not to ruin it.” He added, “the Authority spent $272,000 to get 540 survey responses. That’s about $500 per response, which is absurd.” (This was a reference to a series of opinion polls conducts by consultants on behalf of the BPCA, the results of which guided the preliminary options for reconfiguring South End Avenue, which the BPCA presented to the community in August.)
Nick Sbordone, a spokesman for the BPCA, said at the same meeting, “our South End Avenue/West Thames Street study, rather than replacing the DOT’s previous suggestions for South End Avenue improvements, seeks to optimize them — and minimize attendant construction time — by taking a comprehensive look at potential improvements to the streetscape. This includes traffic and parking concerns, public amenities, and street vitality and appeal.”
Tonight’s CB1 meeting will be held in the Aniello Bianco Room of Pace University, located at Three Spruce Street (between Nassau and William Streets). The meeting, which begins at 6:00 pm, is open to the public, but identification is required to enter the building.