Lower Manhattan’s Local News
Higher, Wider, Handsomer
Finalists Announced in Design Competition to Improve Pedestrian Access to Brooklyn Bridge
On some weekends, as many as 15,000 pedestrians and 3,600 cyclists compete with each other and souvenir vendors for as little as 10 feet of width on the deck of the Brooklyn Bridge, creating an unpleasant and potentially unsafe bottleneck.
The City Council and the Van Alen Institute (a New York nonprofit architectural organization, dedicated to improving design in the public realm) have named the shortlist of contenders in a contest that aims incubate fresh ideas for better pedestrian access to the Brooklyn Bridge.
The competition, announced in February, was sparked by the fact that, after 13 decades, the Brooklyn Bridge may need some surgical enhancement. A report released in 2017 by the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) noted that the span’s pedestrian and cycling deck is the No. 1 tourist attraction in Brooklyn and among the top five in Manhattan. The report also documented that between 2008 and 2015, the number of pedestrians crossing the bridge each weekend almost tripled (reaching 15,000), while the tally of cyclists has more than doubled (topping out at 3,600).
“Back to the Future” from the Bjarke Ingels Group and Arup
This has led to a massive squeeze in which walkers and bikers compete for space as narrow as 10 feet across—a 1.1-mile bottleneck made worse by the profusion of food and souvenir vendors who also set up shop on the bridge’s deck each day.
The “Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge” competition invited both professional designers and members of the general public, including high school and college students, to submit ideas. Entrants were welcomed to work individually, or form teams. Three finalists were selected from the adult category, and will be awarded $13,000 each to develop their proposals. Three additional finalists were designated among participants younger than 22 years old, and will be awarded $3,000 each.
“Bridge X” from ScenesLab, Minzi Long, and Andrew Nash
One proposal in the professional category, titled “Back to the Future,” is the result of a collaboration between two highly regarded design firms—the Bjarke Ingels Group and Arup. This idea seeks to “return the bridge to its original state, both architecturally and functionally, and pilot innovations in autonomous mobility and public space design.” The plan envisions banning cars from the bridge entirely, and repurposing its vehicular approach ramps to create more space for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit.
A second finalist, dubbed “Bridge X,” from the design firms ScenesLab, Minzi Long, and Andrew Nash, “reimagines the upper and lower decks to reclaim space for greater pedestrian and cyclist access, to make room for vendors and small businesses.”
“Brooklyn Bridge Forest” from Scott Francisco and the Pilot Projects Design Collective
Another nominee in the professional category is “Brooklyn Bridge Forest” from Scott Francisco and the Pilot Projects Design Collective. This idea aims to upgrade mobility while also acknowledging history. “The historic wooden walkway is expanded using planks sustainably sourced from a partner community in Guatemala that protects a 200,000-acre rainforest,” the proposal says, adding that, “a dedicated bike path and reclaimed traffic lane create new space for cyclists and low-carbon transit, while biodiverse ‘microforests’ at either end of the bridge serve as green spaces.”
While there is no guarantee that the City will implement any of these plans in full, there is a strong possibility that elements from one or more of the proposals will be incorporated into an upcoming plan to revamp the Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian accessibility.
This competition follows a 2016 decision by the DOT to hire engineering firm AECOM to develop ideas about how to ease the Brooklyn Bridge’s chronic pedestrian logjam. The consultant’s primary recommendation was that DOT consider widening the deck, by partially covering the traffic lanes beneath with additional boardwalk. But the firm also suggested that DOT wait until an upcoming inspection of the bridge’s cables (the first in three decades), originally slated for 2019, to confirm that the structure can handle the additional weight. AECOM said it was highly confident that the bridge can bear the load of the new deck structure, but less certain that it could handle the heft of the additional thousands of people likely to be drawn onto the bridge by an improved promenade.
An earlier proposal to alleviate the crowding is to raise and widen the pedestrian deck.
The planned inspection never started in 2019, and was rescheduled for this year. (Given the public health crisis triggered by the pandemic coronavirus, and the economic downturn that followed, this project now appears likely to be delayed until 2021.) Regardless of when it starts, such an evaluation of the cables will take at least two years, which means that construction on the enlarged deck (if it is ultimately approved) could not begin before 2022, and would not be completed until at least 2024.
In the interim, DOT is considering implementing some additional proposals, but has rejected others. One option the agency deems viable is restricting the number of food and souvenir vendors allowed onto the bridge deck. Among the proposals it has rejected is the idea floated by biking advocates for closing one lane of vehicular traffic and giving that space to cyclists.
Also still under evaluation is a scheme to build a new ramp, entirely for cyclists, that would bypass the constricted approach path over the bridge’s anchorage. Instead, this new viaduct would let bikers ride directly from the central span of the bridge to Park Row, which has been closed to the public since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, because of its proximity to One Police Plaza. This perpendicular connection would run north and south, at a 90-degree angle to the bridge’s east-west orientation.
Lights, Camera, Violation
Local Traffic Monitoring Device is Part of City-Wide Expansion
A work crew installs a new traffic monitoring device at the corner of West and West Thames Streets.
Lower Manhattan residents may soon be slightly safer, if lighter in the pocket, thanks to a new traffic monitoring device that has been installed at the corner of West Street and West Thames Street. The camera and radar unit, mounted on a silver pole, combines red light monitoring with speed enforcement for vehicles proceeding south along Route 9A (West Street).
Open Space Advocate Wants City Hall Park Returned to Community
A local advocate for Lower Manhattan open spaces is sounding the alarm about City Hall Park, which has recently been closed and cordoned off by police, while the park’s paved plaza (near Chambers and Centre Streets) has been taken over by Occupy City Hall protestors.
Lower Manhattan resident Skip Blumberg, the founder and president of Friends of City Hall Park (FCHP), says, “our park is closed, commandeered by the NYPD inside the fences and by the occupying protestors on the Northeast Plaza. The park has suffered littering and destruction by irresponsible individuals within those groups, with trash thrown over the fence by both.”
Been There, Done That
Theseus Aweighs Anchor on Troubled Waters
WPA Photo Library of Congress
We’re only halfway through 2020, but already, many of us have the sense that we will someday regale the as-yet-unborn grandkids with tales of mythic adversity amid transformational times.
Most of us are grimly confident that our nation’s current afflictions are without precedent. And most of us are dead wrong. A pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans, and may yet fell as many more? Been there. Times of bitter, seemingly irreconcilable division? Done that. Leadership that seems incapable of leading, and instead plays Americans off against one another? We have overcome that, too. All of these things we have faced down, in worse forms than confront us now, and more than once.
Appeals Court Considers Whether to Let Stand Decision About Two Bridges
A recent hearing before the Appellate Division court of New York’s First Judicial Department indicates that the controversial plan to erect four massive new towers in the Two Bridges neighborhood on Lower Manhattan’s East River waterfront may yet come to fruition.
Greater Goods and Lessor Evils
Gateway Affordability Protections Expire; Discussions Continue
Rent stabilization at Gateway Plaza expired June 30. Despite more than two years of behind-the-scenes negotiations between the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) and the LeFrak Organization (which operates the complex), no agreement has been announced that will extend affordability protections at Battery Park City’s largest residential complex.
Negotiations are ongoing, and may yield such an agreement soon. In a recent statement, the BPCA said that, “the Authority and the owners of the Gateway residential complex remain committed to the extension of a limitation on rent increases for the pre-June 30th, 2009 tenants who reside in the complex. The proposed agreements may not be signed until after the current June 30th, 2020 expiration, but please be assured that the shared understanding is that they be retroactive back to that date and both parties are working diligently.”
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City Plans Black Lives Matter Street Mural for Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan has a new piece of street art: the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned a Black Lives Matter mural for Centre Street, between Worth and Reade Streets. The painting consists of large letters emblazoned on the roadbed, and is among five such installations, with one planned for each borough.
This project was inspired by the impromptu creation of a similar mural on Fulton Street, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn a week ago. When word spread of this project, Mr. Blasio showed up at the site and helped paint it. A few days later, he announced that this section of Fulton Street was to be closed to vehicular traffic for the remainder of the summer.
Putting a Dent in Rents
Pandemic and Economic Downturn Impact Local Leasing
A new report from brokerage Douglas Elliman and appraiser Miller Samuel indicates that rents are trending downward in Lower Manhattan, while the inventory of vacant apartments is ballooning. These tidal shifts appear to be attributable to the health crisis associated with the pandemic coronavirus, and the economic slowdown it has triggered. The monthly Elliman Report for May documents that new lease signings have fallen at an unprecedented rate, while vacancies have surged to a new record.
For all of Lower Manhattan, the report finds that the median rent is now $3,895, which represents a 7.3 percent drop from one month earlier when the median rent was $4,200, but a slight increase of one-half of one percent from last May, when the median figure was $3,875.
Tribeca Community On Display
All of Us Thank All of You
Fine artist and long time Downtown resident Adele H. Rahte has spent the stay-at-home period designing and creating these fabric collages representing the people in our community as a special form of thank you to the essential workers of our community and city for keeping us safe.
On display during the month of July at the Tribeca Community Window Gallery located at 160 West Broadway.
Honorable WilliamWall Is Open for Business
The Honorable William Wall is open.
for more information.
July 10: Today in History
Howard Hughes flies over New York City in 1938.
1212 – The most severe of several fires in London burns most of the city to the ground.
1499 – The Portuguese explorer Nicolau Coelho returns to Lisbon after discovering the sea route to India as a companion of Vasco da Gama.
1553 – Lady Jane Grey takes the throne of England.
1850 – U.S. President Millard Fillmore is sworn in, a day after becoming President upon Zachary Taylor’s death.
1925 – Scopes Trial: In Dayton, Tennessee, the so-called “Monkey Trial” begins of John T. Scopes, a young high school science teacher accused of teaching evolution in violation of the Butler Act.
1938 – Howard Hughes begins a 91-hour airplane flight around the world that will set a new record.
1940 – World War II: The Vichy government is established in France.
1962 – Telstar, the world’s first communications satellite, is launched into orbit.
1985 – The Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior is bombed and sunk in Auckland harbour by French DGSE agents, killing Fernando Pereira.
1991 – Boris Yeltsin takes office as the first elected President of Russia.
1992 – In Miami, former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega is sentenced to 40 years in prison for drug and racketeering violations.
1997 – In London, scientists report the findings of the DNA analysis of a Neanderthal skeleton which supports the “out of Africa theory” of human evolution, placing an “African Eve” at 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.
1792 – George M. Dallas, American lawyer and politician, 11th Vice President of the United States (d. 1864)
1834 – James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American-English painter and illustrator (d. 1903)
1856 – Nikola Tesla, Serbian-American physicist and engineer (d. 1943)
1871 – Marcel Proust, French novelist, critic, and essayist (d. 1922)
1927 – David Dinkins, American soldier and politician, 106th Mayor of NYC
1943 – Arthur Ashe, American tennis player and journalist (d. 1993)
1947 – Arlo Guthrie, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor
138 – Hadrian, Roman emperor (b. 76)
1851 – Louis Daguerre, French photographer and physicist, invented the daguerreotype (b. 1787)
1978 – John D. Rockefeller III, American businessman and philanthropist, founded the Asia Society (b. 1906)
1979 – Arthur Fiedler, American conductor (b. 1894)
1989 – Mel Blanc, American voice actor (b. 1908)
Swaps & Trades
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Photograph by Dorothy Lipsky.
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