A Year of Openings!


Downtown Express Photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Catherine McVay Hughes

BY CATHERINE MCVAY HUGHES    |  We are only two months into 2014, and already we see change all around us. We have new city leaders, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer.  Last month our borough president came to the January Community Board 1 Executive Committee — a first.

Our new mayor brings in new commissioners for the city agencies and they in turn bring in new support staff. We have welcomed these appointments, but we anxiously await others that affect our daily living. These appointments matter because C.B. 1 works on a range of issues with a multitude of agencies.  C.B. 1 protects the quality of life and the delivery of city services to our district and advocates on behalf of those who live or work in the district. C.B. 1 is under the jurisdiction of the Community Affairs Unit, and its new commissioner, Marco Carrion, came in person to the February C.B. 1 Executive Committee — also a first.

We are very pleased that our new City Planning Commissioner, Carl Weisbrod, knows Downtown well from his time as president of the Downtown Alliance. His participation will be important as we continue the dialogue about the revitalization of the historic South Street Seaport. C.B. 1 has been working with our elected officials to undertake a participatory, community-centered, collaborative process by creating a Seaport Working Group – by doing this we have jumpstarted the dialogue before the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) has even begun — another first.

Two other key Downtown organizations now also have new leadership. Shari C. Hyman is the new president of the Battery Park City Authority. She wants to increase the dialogue with the community and we look forward to that increased openness.  Jessica Lappin is the new president the Downtown Alliance and she has already presented to C.B. 1 and has been warmly received.

Two thousand 14 will be a year of many more firsts — openings.

Downtown Express photo by Scot Surbeck | Inset photo by Josh Rogers   One World Trade Center, a.k.a.  the Freedom Tower, as seen earlier this month from Battery Park City. Later this year, the first companies will begin moving into the 1,776-foot building. It is being built by the Port Authority and the Durst Organization.  Insert: Platform A, the first platform of the new W.T.C. Transportation Hub, opened to PATH commuters Tuesday. “The design, the architecture, truly makes a statement and that statement is ‘we’re back and we’re better than ever,’” Steve Plate,  who oversees W.T.C. construction for the Port, said at the platform opening. The new design by Santiago Calatrava also gives the public its first view of the W.T.C. slurry wall since the site has been rebuilt to street level. The wall, which helps protect the site from flooding and survived 9/11, took on symbolic meaning for many after the attack.
Downtown Express photo by Scot Surbeck
One World Trade Center, a.k.a. the Freedom Tower, as seen earlier this month from Battery Park City. Later this year, the first companies will begin moving into the 1,776-foot building. It is being built by the Port Authority and the Durst Organization.

On Feb. 25th, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey opened the first World Trade Center Calatrava-designed PATH Station platform. The fully modernized platform features new lighting, speakers, illuminated signs, escalators and elevators. The completed station will be the center of the new W.T.C. Transportation Hub that will include several similar platforms. The hub will continue to open in phases through 2015.

This spring the National September 11 Memorial Museum will be opening. The fences around the Memorial will be coming down along West St., Liberty St. and the southern portion of Greenwich St. This is a critical step towards re-integrating the World Trade Center back into the surrounding neighborhood.

Across the street from the Memorial and Museum in Battery Park City, at Brookfield Place, both the Market and Quick Casual Dining will open in the spring. This summer we will be able to enjoy Pier A on the Hudson River Promenade. Pier A was originally constructed in 1886 and was designated a New York City landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the late 1970s. It has been vacant since 1992 and its physical condition deteriorated severely. For the first time in over two decades this will be open to the public.

Governors Island will re-open this May. For the first time ever, the island will be open 7 days a week, from Memorial Day weekend through the end of September. Visitors will be able to enjoy for the first time 30 new acres of park and two ball fields: the biggest new park to be built in New York City in my lifetime.

One block east of the W.T.C., the Fulton Center will open this summer as well. It will improve connections between six existing Lower Manhattan subway stations and 11 subway lines. It will connect to the W.T.C., PATH trains and Hudson River ferries at Brookfield Place, improving the travels of 300,000 people a day.

Later this year we hope that the 3-acre Town Green and Phase 1 of The Battery Garden Bikeway will be complete. It will link the Hudson River Park Bikeway to the East River Esplanade. The bikeway will include new park entrances, unique perennial gardens, and separate areas for bikers and pedestrians.

The exterior of 4 W.T.C. is completely finished. The exterior of 1 W.T.C.  will be completed this spring. The interiors for both buildings are being built out. Companies will begin to move into both buildings in late 2014. The Vehicular Security Center will be completed within the year with the rooftop public space open spring 2015. The Greek Orthodox Church foundation is being built and fundraising for the church structure is underway.

Recently the W.T.C. Performing Arts Center took an important step forward by announcing their artistic leadership and releasing a preliminary sketch of the building.  It will need to raise additional funding and hopes to open in four to five years.

We are ready to build on this momentum and see our hard work being realized as Lower Manhattan continues to be a premiere international city. However, we cannot forget the big picture and the importance of protecting our precious waterfront. We must step up and fund “climate resilience” to research ways to prepare communities and infrastructure for climate change. We are proud to have taken challenges and made them into opportunities; we love our small corner of our city’s beautiful fabric and are more committed than ever to making it livable, welcoming and prosperous for all.

—  Catherine McVay Hughes is chairperson of Community Board 1.