Visionary Plans for Getting Around Downtown Focus on Two Wheels and Two Feet
The City plans to create 80 miles of additional bike lanes, like this one near City Hall,
in the near future.
A pair of new studies outlines a future for Lower Manhattan that is highly cyclical. The first of these, a report from the Downtown Alliance titled, “Bicycle Infrastructure & Commuting in Lower Manhattan,” notes that more than 20 percent of people who are employed Downtown currently walk or bike to work, while nearly one-third of people who live here get to and from their places of business in the same way.
These hardy souls are among some 49,000 New York City commuters (concentrated mainly in Manhattan and Brooklyn) who get to the office and back under the power of their own legs each day — a figure that has jumped 55 percent since 2012, and is growing by roughly nine percent each year.
According to the Alliance report, Lower Manhattan ranks among the bike-friendliest communities in the nation, with 2.3 miles dedicated cycling infrastructure packed into the area’s one-square mile footprint, along with 28 Citi Bike stations.
The Downtown Alliance is proposing that more Lower Manhattan buildings create safe, indoor bike parking facilities, such as this one at 85 Broad Street.
Below: Downtown Alliance president Jessica Lappin: “For both employers and employees, having a robust collection of options of how to get to and from the office will now be more important than ever.”
From Downtown’s 600-plus acres, the Alliance points out, a 15-minute cycling radius puts commuters within range of most of Manhattan up to 23rd Street (along with parts of Brooklyn), and offers access to more than 60 miles of bikes lanes, as well as 130 Citi Bike stations. Indeed, according to 2019 data from the cycle sharing service, nearly 20 percent of all Citi Bike trips begin or end in Lower Manhattan (defined roughly as the area south of Chambers Street).
These trends come against the backdrop of ongoing tectonic shifts in commuting habits, which have accelerated in the wake of the pandemic coronavirus. The Alliance report notes that Mayor Bill de Blasio committed earlier this year to an aggressive expansion of cycling infrastructure throughout the five boroughs, including more than 80 miles of new protected bike lanes (along with improvement to existing lanes), the installation of traffic signals that favor cyclists, the creation of 2,000 new bike parking spaces each year, and a doubling (by 2023) of the geographic area served by Citi Bike.
To accentuate this transformation in Lower Manhattan, the Alliance proposes five local initiatives, the first of which is expanding capacity at existing Citi Bike stations across Lower Manhattan and adding new stations near transit stops (including around the World Trade Center).
The Downtown Alliance study recommends that local deliveries transition to bicycle-based conveyances, rather than motor vehicles, noting that, “bikes take up less street and sidewalk space, making the public realm safer for bicyclists and pedestrians alike.”
The report also suggests enhancing Downtown’s numerous publicly-owned private spaces (such as plazas in front of office buildings) by installing bike racks and protected bike parking. Third, the study urges that vacant local storefronts (which are proliferating during the economic downturn) be provisionally repurposed to serve as protected bike parking, which would offer the further benefit of improving bike access to commercial buildings. (Such a plan would also mitigate the blight caused to the streetscape by vacant retail spaces, and give building owners an ancillary source of revenue.)
In a proposal sure to find favor with Downtown community leaders, the Alliance also pushes for “improved bike infrastructure on the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, allowing for greater ease of access to residential and business communities between Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.” And finally, the study recommends that local deliveries transition to bicycle-based conveyances, rather than motor vehicles, noting that, “bikes take up less street and sidewalk space, making the public realm safer for bicyclists and pedestrians alike.”
A coalition of transportation planners, led by Sam Schwartz Engineering, proposes creating three new bridges — for pedestrians and cyclists only — connecting Manhattan with Queens, Brooklyn and New Jersey. At least one of these spans (possibly two) would touch down in Lower Manhattan.
“The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has forced us all to rethink many of our most basic routines,” says Alliance president Jessica Lappin. “For both employers and employees, having a robust collection of options of how to get to and from the office will now be more important than ever.”
A second study, by transportation visionary Sam Schwartz (in collaboration with the Institute of Design & Construction Innovation Hub of the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, along with engineering firm T.Y. Lin International), proposes a bold expansion of biking infrastructure, in the form of three new bridges, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey. These spans would be open to pedestrians and cyclists, but closed to motor vehicles. “The two forms of transportation that are most risk-free from both infections and crashes are walking and bicycling,” the report, titled “The Queens Ribbon,” observes. “These ‘active transportation, options are also healthy modes that burn calories, and build muscle, bone, heart, and lung strength while improving mental and emotional health.” The study also notes that the new bridges, “would be equitable. Costs to use them would be a pair of shoes or a bicycle.”
The three bridges would each consist of a 20-foot roadway, large enough to accommodate cyclists and walkers, and would each handle approximately 20,000 people per day. This combined total of 60,000 people is the equivalent of 60 packed subway trains, or roughly 50,000 cars per day. The plan draws inspiration from a recent wave of pedestrian-bicycle bridges being erected in cities around the world, including Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Singapore.
Lower Manhattan is home to miles of dedicated biking infrastructure, along with dozens of bike share stations.
Below: Sam Schwartz: “The urban travel mode of the future won’t be flying cars, or robo-cars or even cars. It will be shoes and bikes. Cities can best thrive on these low-impact, non-polluting, equitable, and healthy forms of transportation.”
“The urban travel mode of the future won’t be flying cars, or robo-cars or even cars,” says Mr. Schwartz. “It will be shoes and bikes. Cities can best thrive on these low-impact, non-polluting, equitable, and healthy forms of transportation.”
The Queens Ribbon proposal notes that New York’s recent explosive growth in bicycle commuting faces an uncertain future, because the cycling/pedestrian paths on, “the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Ed Koch Queensboro [bridges] have nearly or already reached their capacity, allowing for very limited future growth in bicycling.”
Noting that the City’s Department of Transportation, “is predicting that one out of every ten trips in the City will be taken by bicycle by 2050,” the study also laments that no new bridge connecting Manhattan’s central business district (the area south of 59th Street) has been completed since 1909, the year that the Manhattan Bridge was finished. The team also notes, disapprovingly, that there has never been a direct way for cyclists to enter Manhattan from New Jersey, apart from the George Washington Bridge.
At least one of these three proposed bridges (and possibly two) would be anchored in Lower Manhattan. The report calls for a span stretching from the Financial District to Governors Island, and then on to the pier area at the southern end of Brooklyn Bridge Park, along the border between Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights.
For the span crossing the Hudson River to connect New Jersey with Manhattan, the Queens Ribbon team suggests a trio of possible alignments: from Union City to the West 50s, from Hoboken to the West 20s, or from Jersey City to Lower Manhattan. This third scenario would touch down either in northern Battery Park City, or else in the Tribeca section of the Hudson River Park. (A final bridge would connect Long Island City, in Queens, to the East 40s, while also providing access to Roosevelt Island.)
A rendering of one of the new pedestrian/bike spans.
Mr. Schwarz and his team estimate that the cost of construction for these bridges would run to approximately $100 million each. For perspective, this is less than half the price of converting an unused railroad viaduct into the renowned park now known as the High Line, and amounts to roughly one percent of the cost to build a new subway line.
“Imagine the ability to use active transportation in a safe and simple manner to get to work — free of automobiles — knowing that you are contributing to a reduction in air pollution,” the report exhorts. “Imagine walking or cycling with family and friends for a leisurely outing along the water, gazing at the New York skyline knowing that you are participating in a heart-healthy activity. Imagine having tourists and New Yorkers alike finding a new and iconic ‘destination’ and marveling at the beauty of a ribbon bridge, knowing that sustainability is at the core of this entire venture.”
“Imagine no more,” it concludes. “It is time to make imagining reality. New York deserves nothing less.”
On a rare trip tp midtown, I was walking west on East 41st Street as the morning sun illuminated the New York Public Library. This bronze plaque in the sidewalk, part of Library Way, stopped me in my tracks.
New Doc on the Block
Tribeca Pediatrics Founder Gets CB1’s Blessing to Renovate Historic Seaport Building
Community Board 1 (CB1) is giving its approval to a proposal to alter a building within the South Street Seaport Historic District, while also noting that the developer has gone out of his way to address the concerns of community leaders.
The property is 107 South Street (between Beekman Street and Peck Slip), which dates from 1900, and has been vacant for decades. In 2019, the building was purchased (for $6 million) by Dr. Michel Cohen, who will be familiar to many Lower Manhattan residents as the physician who founded Tribeca Pediatrics, and has helped care for a generation of Downtown kids.
It’s interesting that in face of falling rents and vacancies, how tenants under a supposedly sympathetic democrat administration in NYC can’t get good deals.
To the editor,
I am thrilled to see this coming to fruition. I remember the old church and my many visits to it and of course the old World Trade Center buildings in the 80’s and 90’s.
Sounds like a good deal for the Orthodox community and eagerly anticipate visiting the finished product.
To the editor:
In response to: “Being Vigilant about the View CB1 Opposes New Restaurant Planned for Public Land Proposed in Seaport” …
How closed minded could CB1 possibly be?
They’ve shut down all the good ideas to make the waterfront a premier destination that will bring in visitors and revenue to our area. They are upset the view will be blocked?
What’s better … the vagabonds that have taken up residence under the FDR?
To the editor,
Thank goodness for CB 1 and members such as Bruce Ehrmann who, in denying the application for a restaurant under the FDR Drive that would block street level views of the river and our tall ships understand New Yorkers walk and look!
We have lost so many open vistas around the Seaport area due to overdevelopment we need more fighters like Bruce and those at Community Board 1 who treasure what preserving River and Seaport views means to all who love Our City.
Grotto Restaurant and Pizzeria FiDi’s hidden gem for over 35 years.
The large and diverse menu will please anyone. From Italian specialties to Hand Spun Pizza, Gourmet Salads and more,
let Grotto feed you and your family tonight.
Grotto sits between
The New York Stock Exchange and Bowling Green on New Street, steps from from the Bull at Bowling Green.
CB1 Opposes New Restaurant Planned for Public Land Proposed in Seaport
A rendering of the plan for a restaurant beneath the FDR Drive, in the Seaport neighborhood.
Community Board 1 (CB1) is stating its opposition (for the fourth time) to a plan that would create a new restaurant beneath the FDR Drive, in the South Street Seaport neighborhood.
The proposal would demolish an existing storage shed (located alongside South Street, between Fulton and John Streets) that contains two public bathrooms, and replace it with restaurant housing a 2290-square-foot dining area with 30 tables and 85 chairs, along with a 700-plus square foot bar area with 26 seats. The new structure would largely eclipse the view corridor that frames panoramic vistas of the East River (and the tall ship Wavertree) from John Street.
Perseid meteors are seen every year from mid-July until the last week in August when we, along for the ride on planet Earth, delight in orbiting through the debris field left by comet Swift-Tuttle, a periodic comet that returns every 133 years. Most recently, the comet, named after its modern day discoverers, was visible with the aid of binoculars in 1992.
The Perseid meteor shower is celebrated as one of the year’s best, with 100 meteors per hour expected under optimum conditions. This year, we are challenged to watch for the meteors in the presence of a waning moon. Fifty meteors per hour are likely in dark sky locations. Although the Perseids are most prolific in the hours before dawn when the constellation Perseus has climbed high in the sky, it is worth skygazing before moonrise and again before dawn.
The average speed of Perseid meteors is 37 miles per second, creating fast-falling streaks of light with long, lingering tails. We could be swept away by colorful fireballs, too.
The shooting stars appear everywhere in the sky, although it is useful and enriching to be aware of the apparent radiant, or source, in the northeastern sky at the edge of the constellation Perseus.
During the pre-dawn hours, looking east, greet the rising of winter constellations and the goddess of love and beauty, brilliant planet Venus. Venus is visible through morning twilight.
The Downtown Calendar
Saturday, August 15
GrowNYC’s Teaching Garden
Governors Island Trust
Aspiring urban farmers can grow their knowledge at this 21,000 sq ft working urban farm! Learn all about urban agriculture and green infrastructure through workshopsand family-friendly activities. The Teaching Garden features over 20 vegetable beds made from recycled plastic lumber, farm-style rows, an aquaponics system, an outdoor kitchen, a large solar oven, a high tunnel greenhouse, fruit trees, several rainwater harvesting systems, a rain garden, and more. Governors Island
Blessing of the Boats: River to River
Blessing of The Boats: River To River is an installation that invites all of us to thoughtfully consider our role as individuals within our greater community. We have an opportunity to set sail towards a new future.
What society would you build and how do we get there?
Fold a piece of paper into an origami boat and on it, write your answer to the prompt above. Bring your boat to Belvedere Plaza in Battery Park City and add it to the installation by Muna Malik. It will create a quiet and meaningful place to commit to the rebuilding of a more just, equitable and sustainable future.
Battery Dance Festival: India
Free virtual performances from August 14-22, 2020, available online nightly via YouTube. Films will remain online for ten days after their premiere. The Battery Dance Festival brings together 52 filmed performances including 28 premieres from 19 countries.
Sunday, August 16
GrowNYC’s Teaching Garden
Governors Island Trust
See program above.
Out of the Ashes
After Two-Year Hiatus, Work Resumes at St. Nicholas Church
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday led a ceremonial resumption of construction at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, within the World Trade Center complex.
The building, designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava (who additionally created the nearby Oculus, also in the World Trade Center) is slated to replace the historic structure, dating from the 1830s, that hosted Orthodox congregations from 1922 onward, when Greek families living in Lower Manhattan raised sufficient funds to purchase building, which had previously served as a private home and a tavern.
Eight decades later, that building (located on Cedar Street, between West and Washington Streets) was destroyed by falling debris from the Twin Towers, on the morning of September 11, 2001. To read more…
‘W’ As in ‘Wave Goodbye’
Another Downtown Luxury Hotel Closes Its Doors
Lower Manhattan’s W Hotel, a 56-story trophy building erected amid the wave of giddy real estate speculation that followed the terrorists attack of September 11, 2001, then was nearly shuttered by the economic downturn of 2008, has succumbed to the latest recession.
The upscale lodging accommodation, which closed temporarily at the outset of the pandemic coronavirus, has announced that it will never reopen, according to legal notices filed with Albany regulators.
This is the latest in a wave of hotel implosions in Lower Manhattan in recent months. To read more…
To Revitalize Local Enterprise
Downtown Alliance Throws Lifeline to Downtown Restaurants and Retailers
The Downtown Alliance is inaugurating twin projects that aim to boost Lower Manhattan small businesses, which are struggling in the wake of the pandemic coronavirus and the economic downturn it has sparked.
In the first of these, the Alliance has teamed with BentoBox, an e-commerce platform that creates individualized online tools for restaurants, so that Downtown eateries can set up their own web-based ordering interfaces.
“Our program with BentoBox will eliminate the need for third-party services that eat into restaurant profits,” says Alliance president Jessica Lappin. “Our local eateries, which already operate on razor-thin margins, are facing a once-in-a-generation crisis. This will empower New Yorkers to better support the local favorites that need our help.”
Need a safe and breezy break from your apartment? Several cruise operators have reopened in North Cove and are offering opportunities to get out on the water, including Tribeca Sailing, Ventura, and Classic Harbor Line. All cruise operators are adhering to social distancing guidelines; check individual websites for details.