The City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), will be reviewing, “the prior-approved plans to redesign South End Avenue, and the new ideas from BPCA, which includes South End Avenue and all of the intersecting streets in Battery Park City,” explains Committee chair Tammy Meltzer. “This is not only about improved pedestrian safety, as it also includes potential movements to bus and taxi spaces, as well as redesigns to the street and sidewalk landscaping.”
After a series of announcements, meetings and plans in 2015 and 2016, the South End Avenue redesign process appeared to enter a dormant phase last year. The most recent significant development was a January, 2017 letter from City Council member Margaret Chin to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, urging 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 was a reference to calls by members of CB1 for a direct, formal role in deliberations about South End Avenue.
Ms. Chin’s 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.”
As early as last June, 2016, 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 a series of subsequent meetings hosted by the BPCA, the Authority invited the public to review the results of that study, as well as to weigh in with reactions and suggestions. This input resulted in significant modifications to the BPCA’s approach to rehabilitating South End Avenue. Most prominently, the BPCA announced in October, 2016, that it would 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 envisioned for this process was to be another public meeting, co-hosted by the BPCA and the City DOT, but this meeting was never scheduled during 2017. During that period, Ninfa Segarra (then the chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee), repeated a call she had 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. It now appears that the BPCA and DOT have heeded this call, by scheduling their latest review session for tomorrow’s CB1 session, rather than convening a stand-alone meeting without CB1’s participation.
In 2016, Ms. Segarra reviewed this history of the South End Avenue redesign effort, noting that, “context is very important.” She continued, “we’re the ones who sparked the conversation,” as she recalled of a 2011 partnership between CB1’s Battery Park City Committee and the DOT, which included an analysis of vehicular traffic and pedestrian safety along South End Avenue, and resulted in a series of recommendations that were (for the most part) never implemented. “These were robust community engagement conversations,” Ms. Segarra continued.
Ms. Segarra then handed the floor to Ms. Meltzer, who recalled the reasons for, and the results of, DOT’s 2011 study. “The community reached out to DOT specifically because of traffic accidents,” she noted. “We said we need to improve pedestrian safety — we had new schools, and an influx of shoppers into Brookfield Place. So we wanted to calm traffic along South End Avenue.”