City bullish, but West Thames Bridge project still a work in progress

Rendering of the West Thames Bridge.
Rendering of the West Thames Bridge.

BY CYNTHIA MAGNUS  |  Planners for the proposed West Thames Street Pedestrian Bridge want the project to start next fall and end late 2016. It includes a 220-foot-long steel and concrete span, with open-air metal mesh sides, and a glass roof.

“We’re full steam ahead,” Matt Best of the mayor’s capital project development office said at the Dec. 3 meeting of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee, where the design got the group’s support.

But other agencies involved with the project are being more cautious about the project’s steam level. The city and the project’s architects showed the designs to the Public Design Commission at a private meeting on Dec. 9 and officials are not commenting on the discussion. The bridge would rise 18 feet above West Street and feature a 12-foot-wide walkway with a glass-roofed staircase and 9-person elevator at each end. The “green” features would include LED lighting and a bioswale that will capture rainwater from the roof and divert it to a planting area on the ground.

Some C.B. 1 members voiced concern over the absence of ramps, and said they need the new bridge’s elevators to be reliable, and have emergency phones and cameras.

Tom Goodkind told the planners, “If you’ve been around this neighborhood, you see that elevators are always out, so if you’re going to spend money on something, please spend it on the elevators, it’s very important to us.”

Adding to that problem is that maintenance responsibility differs for each of the neighborhood’s bridge elevators.

The cost for the project’s design phase is $2.02 million, to be paid for by the Battery Park City Authority through a grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The estimated $27.5 million construction cost for the project is to be shared by the two agencies.

A spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation said the design funds have been released, and construction funds are anticipated to be available summer 2014.

Lower Manhattan Development Corporation President David Emil pointed out that the final design has not yet been approved but said on Dec. 9 that the federally-funded corporation does want to see the project completed.

Once the design is set, there will be an environmental review followed by a construction cost estimate. Best told C.B. 1 that the bridge will be owned by the city, under the purview of the Department of Transportation, which will be responsible for all its structural elements. He said the Battery Park City Authority will be responsible for its routine maintenance, and said “it is understood that the Battery Park City Authority will maintain the elevators, and will be involved “in talk down to cleaning the glass.”

Kevin McCabe, the authority’s spokesperson, said on Dec. 10 that the B.PC.A. has set aside $7.5 million of its 2014 capital budget toward the project, but that “the contractual commitment has not been determined.” He said the authority’s maintenance duties post-completion of the project is “to be determined, subject to further negotiation.”

Len Greco of the Economic Development Corporation said that the Rector Bridge will stay in service until the West Thames Street Bridge is up. Anthony Notaro, chairperson of C.B. 1’s Battery Park City Committee, said the group will require regular updates once the construction schedule is announced and a construction manager is appointed.