Plan to Create Safe Dropoff Space at FiDi School Remains Unimplemented
Years after City officials promised that traffic safety concerns at P.S. 150 in the Financial District would be addressed, parents are still waiting. Tricia Joyce, who chairs the Youth and Education Committee at Community Board 1 (CB1), reported at the panel’s October 24 meeting that “all the protections that we spent four years putting in place for that school open to seamlessly, with the south plaza on Edgar Street—none of that happened.”
This was a reference to a 2020 agreement from the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to close the west-bound lane of Edgar Street, a seldom-used one-block byway that connects Greenwich Street and Trinity Place, dead-ending where the southern terminus of Greenwich Street meets the Battery Garage. This agreement was significant because, under the plan, that street was to become the drop-off point for hundreds of elementary school students.
That 2020 assurance tracked precisely to a CB1 resolution enacted in April 2017 at Ms. Joyce’s behest. This measure urged that “the westbound lane of Edgar Street, between Greenwich Street and Trinity Place adjacent to the school, be closed to traffic and paved to create an outdoor area for school children and their caregivers to safely gather next to the school.”
But, by the time P.S. 150 opened its doors last September (after moving from its former home in Tribeca), no part of this plan had been implemented. “It’s been a mess,” Ms. Joyce continued. “The application has still not been approved for that open street in the morning. Even though we already agreed on it.”
Converting only the westbound side of Edgar Street into a plaza represented a compromise relative to CB1’s original position (dating from 2016), which proposed that both sides of the street be converted into pedestrian space. That earlier plan would also have delivered a significant benefit for P.S. 150 and the community. Elizabeth Berger Plaza is located directly across Edgar Street from the school. Turning both sides of Edgar Street into a pedestrian plaza would have linked the school to the small park, and made it possible for small children to use the outdoor space as a recreational facility.
This original vision was scuttled by the need for police, fire, and emergency medical vehicles to be able to move between Greenwich Street and Trinity Place, and also because closing Edgar Street entirely would have turned Greenwich Street into a dead end, with no room for vehicles that entered to turn around and exit. “We understand that buses have to come up through the Battery Tunnel and turn onto Greenwich street and Trinity Place in the afternoon,” Ms. Joyce continued, “so we worked the whole thing out. But it’s still not happening.”
The delay may be attributable, at least in part, to a procedural requirement that before such a change can be approved, a formal traffic study must be conducted to gauge its impact. For this reason, CB1’s 2017 resolution urged, “either the Department of Transportation or the School Construction Authority conduct the appropriate study to enable the closure of the westbound lane of Edgar Street to enable the creation of a student plaza.” Six years later, that study has never been conducted.
Meanwhile, the fifth graders at P.S. 150 have conducted a traffic study of their own. Ms. Joyce invited them to present it at an upcoming committee meeting. “We’re sure that it will be better than anything we have seen so far,” she said. She added that DOT officials, after months of declining to appear at CB1 meetings, also promised to attend.
In its budget request to City administrators for the fiscal year 2024, CB1 included “funds to complete the Edgar Street project to close a lane and create an expanded sidewalk or pedestrian area on the south side of the school. Planning and approval of the needed bus stops are also requested that will accommodate the children before and after school.” The request noted that P.S. 150 “lacks adequate outdoor gathering space and a safe place designated for buses to stop and let children on and off.”
The official reply to this request from DOT was: “temporary improvements have been made at this location until permanent improvements can be made.”