Lower Manhattan’s Local News
CB1 Session Tonight Will Consider Resolution on Saving
Now-Closed Rector Bridge
Work crews fenced off the Rector Street pedestrian bridge on Monday morning, a preliminary step to prepare for the structure’s scheduled demolition.
Also on Monday, the informal coalition of residents who are fighting to preserve the span announced that they have now collected 2,779 signatures on a petition asking that the plan to remove the viaduct be put on hold, pending a further review of its value. These developments follow a contentious discussion at the November meeting of Community Board 1 (CB1), when a delegation of ten petitioners showed up to speak on behalf of keeping the bridge in place.
That debate will be reprised tonight (Tuesday, January 7) at a meeting of CB1’s Transportation Committee, the agenda for which includes a reference to a resolution about the Rector Street bridge. The language of this proposed measure (specifically, whether it will endorse the keeping or removing the bridge) has not been made public in advance of tonight’s session. But a combative debate appears likely.
At the November CB1 meeting, a phalanx of speakers rose to make the case for retaining the structure, led by resident Bob Schneck, who said, “this is an issue of democracy, of whether people who live in the community and pay taxes can get what they want in a reasonable way. We have gathered more than 2,000 signatures on our petition. We have to make sure that the bridge is preserved as a public asset.” He added that, “once upon a time, we were promised an evaluation of how much it would cost to preserve the bridge, but we never received that.”
Mr. Schneck was followed by a brigade of speakers who focused on safety (especially for the elderly, the handicapped, and parents with small children), convenience (because the existing bride connects directly to three subway lines on Rector Street, while the new one requires that pedestrians detour blocks out of the way), and fiscal prudence (in that more will be spent to demolish the older bridge that was originally budgeted to build it).
Proponents of demolishing Rector Bridge argue that is has become irrelevant and redundant since the opening, nearby, of the new West Thames pedestrian bridge, which was long planned as a replacement for the older span. They also allege that the existing structure is out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, that it impedes emergency access to Metropolitan College (at the bridge’s eastern landing) and creates dangerous pedestrian bottleneck on West Street, while also obstructing access to sub-surface utilities.
Each of these claims is disputed or dismissed by supporters of keeping Rector Bridge in place. Martin Heilweil, a Battery Park City resident who uses the bridge daily, says, “redundant, cross-highway pedestrian access is always a plus,” adding that, “the hypothetical need for West Street subsurface infrastructure access seems a newly discovered — even contrived — issue. This applies to any structure, anywhere.” He also argues that, “sidewalk pedestrian traffic congestion is also contrived. The bridge’s footings are a minimal bottleneck and there is minimal sidewalk-level pedestrian traffic there.”
Betty Kay, who chairs CB1’s Transportation Committee responded at the ovember meeting that, “the Board’s position for well over a decade is that we are in agreement that this bridge would be taken down, once the West Thames Bridge was operational. It has been long under-serviced, and the State Department of Transportation is very anxious to take it down, because they have done no work to maintain it. And there is zero funding available to maintain it.”
CB1 member Bob Townley inquired on behalf of the large constituency who wish to preserve the bridge, and have attended a succession of meetings trying to make this case. “These people have come to the committee and talked about it, and committee told them, ‘we’re not going to do a resolution’?” Proposing and debating such a resolution would have the effect of giving members of CB1 an opportunity to vote, one way or the other, on a concern shared by several thousand residents of the community they represent.
“No,” Ms. Kay replied. “We didn’t do a resolution. State officials just reinforced to the community,” why they have decided to take the bridge down.
At that point, chairman Anthony Notaro tried to proceed with the meeting’s agenda, but CB1 member Joe Lerner insisted, “some of us have questions.”
Mr. Notaro retorted, “this is one of those I-agree-or-I-don’t-agree issues,” but argued that in the absence of a resolution to vote on, there was nothing further to discuss.
CB1 member Roger Byrom said, “so let’s send it back to the Transportation Committee.”
Mr. Notaro responded, “I’m happy to send it back to committee.”
Mr. Byrom’s position was echoed by CB1 member Paul Goldstein, who said, “just do a resolution — up or down.”
Such a resolution did not appear on the agenda of CB1’s Transportation Committee in December, while the bridge was still open. But the issue is now slated for discussion this evening.
In the interim, Mr. Schneck drafted a “community resolution,” on his own, which concludes with by urging that, “the community engagement process, initiated by Community Board 1, result in a comprehensive engineering analysis of retaining the bridge along with complete financials and, that the City and the community engage together to find solutions for preserving and restoring the Rector Bridge, with a guarantee that the bridge not be demolished until this process is completed.”
Support for preserving the Rector Street bridge has been building for months. At the September 24 meeting of the BPCA board, Nancy Wann said, “our family, like many families in the Battery Park City community, relies heavily on the Rector Street Bridge. It’s not a convenience, but a safe means to get to and from one side and the other.” She noted that dozens of children cross the span each day to play in West Thames Park, which has a large lawn beneath the Rector Street Bridge.
If the overpass is demolished, Ms. Wann predicted, “people will be running across the West Side Highway, and there’ll be unnecessary accidents. So we just request respectfully that you consider not taking down the bridge.”
She added that, “a lot of financial resources will go into taking down the bridge. So if all that money is going toward taking down the bridge, we respectfully request that you take the money to invest it into making it a stronger bridge, so that it could last for a longer period of time.” This was a reference to the fact that the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has budgeted $3.8 million in federal funds to cover the cost of demolishing the Rector Street Bridge, which is $300,000 more than the span cost to build in 2002.
The Rector Street Bridge was originally constructed on an expedited basis, as a temporary way for residents to access Battery Park City in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when most other routes in and out of the community were blocked. Initially slated to be demolished within two years of its opening, it was given a new lease on life by the BPCA a decade ago, when the Authority shored up the structure by removing half of its width, which enabled the footings beneath to support more easily the weight of the portion that remained.
At the September BPCA board meeting, Authority chair George Tsunis replied to Ms. Wann, “would it be disrespectful if I pointed out that there’s a brand new bridge immediately next to it?”
She answered, “we’re aware of the bridge and we’ve been on it. But so many people rely on this specific bridge. It’s a bit of a walk for us to go down by the tunnel. A lot of people did not even know that the Rector Street Bridge was going to come down, and a lot of people moved into the neighborhood not knowing that the bridge was going to come down. They see it as an easy means to get to the Financial District,” and the subways beyond.
“May I respectfully ask what is the current plan for the bridge?” Ms. Wann pressed.
Mr. Tsunis replied, “I’m going to respectfully point you in the direction of the New York [State] Department of Transportation, who has ownership of it. And although I think this is wonderful awareness for our community, and I appreciate you coming down and sharing your thoughts, it’s their decision.”
These concerns are echoed by City Council member Margaret Chin, who said in an August 9 letter to James Patchett, president of the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), “I write to join residents of Battery Park City to call on the EDC, the BPCA and Manhattan Community Board One to reconsider the demolition of the Rector Street Bridge. Connecting the bustling commercial hub of the Financial District with Battery Park City, the Rector Street Bridge provides a vital and safe pathway for pedestrians to cross both the West Side Highway and the bicycle greenway. The bridge also offers residents, tourists and workers with easy and safe access to more than ten subway lines.”
Ms. Chin continued, “since its construction in 2002 at the cost of $3.5 million, the Rector Street Pedestrian Bridge remains one of the best returns on investment in the area. With the West Side Highway remaining one of the most heavily utilized thoroughfares in New York City, this bridge has dramatically reduced the safety risk for pedestrians — especially the seniors and children who cross it every day to go to school or their neighborhood community center. If New York City is to achieve its Vision Zero goals, then the Rector Street Pedestrian Bridge should be preserved and renovated, not demolished.”
She concluded, “while I understand that the demolition of the Rector Street Pedestrian Bridge was part of the discussion around the construction of the West Thames Bridge, I urge you to delay the demolition and join my office in starting a community engagement process that weighs all options and alternatives.”
This goal is seconded by Mr. Schneck, who says, “the destruction of the Rector Street Bridge would be a victory for a government that imposes its will over the voices of the people. In a City where every liquor license application requires notice and a fair hearing, the people have asked to be heard about this, but the government gangs up and says ‘no.’ What’s going on here?”
Tonight’s meeting of the Transportation Committee will be held at CB1’s office, in the David Dinkins Municipal Building, located at One Centre Street, near the corner of Chambers Street. The session, which starts at 6:00 pm, will be held in room 2202A.
To the editor:
The Seaport Coalition is asking our neighbors to send their comments before January 16th to NYSDEC, the agency that will be overseeing the cleanup of toxins found under the 250 Water Street (formerly Millstein) parking lot.
Here are some talking points:
1. Mercury Action Levels should never exceed background at the site perimeter
2. Double the number of mercury vapor and soil samples taken
3. Double the number of air monitoring stations around the perimeter of the site
4. Use more sensitive mercury detection monitors such as Jerome 505 or Lumex RA915M
5. Establish a “hot line” so community concerns about the site can be called in.
6. Provide real time air monitoring data in an on-line data room for easy access.
7. Curtain or Tent drilling sites to reduce noise, light and vapor releases
8. Notify the schools, residences and commercial establishments 24 hours in advance of perimeter work.
9. Immediate community notification when work site is shut down for any reason.
10. Coordinate emergency response of police, fire, hospitals, DOT prior to any ground intrusive activities.
Responses can be sent to:
Happy New Year,
Michael Kramer for The Seaport Coalition
Cuomo Vetoes Legislation Sought by HRPT to Allow Development on Pier 40
On New Year’s Eve, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill passed earlier this year by both houses of the State legislature that would have allowed limited commercial development on Pier 40, the massive former cruise ship terminal on the Hudson River waterfront, adjacent to Houston Street, which covers 14 acres and now houses athletic and recreational facilities.
Such development would have helped to fund operations for the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT), which oversees the four-mile-long riverfront park that stretches from the Battery to West 59th Street.
“Pier 40 is a very key element of the Hudson River Park,” noted Paul Goldstein, who chairs the Waterfront Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1), at an April meeting. To read more…
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Eyes to the Sky
January 6 – 19, 2020
Sun’s New Year, dawn and dusk planets
Since the winter solstice, December 21, I have been particularly attentive to the Sun as it sets into the skyline to the southwest. Even though I know that the Sun is setting about a minute later everyday, I am impressed to notice that the location of the setting Sun has inched more westerly.
By the time of Vernal Equinox, March 19, sunset will be due west. Sunset today, the 6th, is at 4:43:33pm., an increase of 15 minutes from the earliest sunset on December 8th. Picking up momentum, we will experience a 14-minute gain of afternoon sunlight by January 19, when sunset time is 4:57:28pm. To read more…
Shutter to Think
Turns Out That Ignorance of the Law Is an Actually Pretty Good Excuse
A Tribeca building owner recently violated landmarks law by destroying metal shutters on a legally protected building, but both Community Board 1 and the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) have decided that there isn’t much to be done about this.
6 River Terrace
Stretching the Canvas Exhibition Tour
One Bowling Green
Transportation & Street Activity Permits Committee
Upcoming Community Board Meetings This Week
Wednesday January 8
Battery Park City Committee
Licensing & Permits Committee
Community Board 1 – Conference Room 1 Centre Street, Room 2202A-North
Thursday January 9
Landmarks & Preservation Committee
Click here for any changes to agendas prior to the meeting dates.
Today in History
1608 – Fire destroys Jamestown, Virginia.
1610 – Galileo Galilei makes his first observation of the four Galilean moons.
Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, the four largest, were recognized by him as satellites of Jupiter in March 1610.
1785 – Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries travel from Dover, England, to Calais, France, in a gas balloon.
1835 – HMS Beagle drops anchor off the Chonos Archipelago.
1894 – William Kennedy Dickson receives a patent for motion picture film.
1904 – The distress signal “CQD” is established only to be replaced two years later by “SOS”
1800 – Millard Fillmore, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 13th President of the United States. He became vice president under President Zachary Taylor, assuming the presidency after Taylor’s death in 1850. (d. 1874)
1899 – Francis Poulenc, French pianist and composer (d. 1963)
1922 – Jean-Pierre Rampal, French flute player (d. 2000)
1925 – Gerald Durrell, Indian-English zookeeper, conservationist and author, founded Durrell Wildlife Park (d. 1995)
1961 – John Thune, American lawyer and politician
1963 – Rand Paul, American ophthalmologist and politician
1985 – Lewis Hamilton, English racing driver
1536 – Catherine of Aragon (b. 1485)
Recalling Five Points
Epicenter of a Notorious Slum Proposed for Commemoration
In 1831, the City government considered a petition that warned, “that the place known as “Five points” has long been notorious… as being the nursery where every species of vice is conceived and matured; that it is infested by a class of the most abandoned and desperate character.”
A decade later, Charles Dickens, visiting New York, wrote of the same Lower Manhattan neighborhood that had inspired the petition, “what place is this, to which the squalid street conducts us? A kind of square of leprous houses, some of which are attainable only by crazy wooden stairs without. What lies behind this tottering flight of steps? Let us go on again, and plunge into the Five Points…. To read more…
Cruise Ships in New York Harbor
Arrivals & Departures
Sunday January 19
07:00 ~ 17:00
Sunday February 2
07:00 ~ 17:00
10:00 ~ 16:00
07:00 ~ 17:00
07:00 ~ 17:00
10:00 ~ 16:00
Many ships pass Lower Manhattan on their way to and from the Midtown Passenger Ship Terminal. Others may be seen on their way to or from piers in Brooklyn and Bayonne. Stated times, when appropriate, are for passing the Colgate clock in Jersey City, New Jersey, and are based on sighting histories, published schedules and intuition. They are also subject to passenger and propulsion problems, tides, fog, winds, freak waves, hurricanes and the whims of upper management.
Cass Gilbert and the Evolution of the New York Skyscraper
by John Simko
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