Crossing Vesey Street remains problematic

The Vesey St. bridge is still an issue for pedestrians wishing to cross the busy West St. Photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

BY Terese Loeb Kreuzer | With around 11, 000 residents in Battery Park City plus numerous office workers, the Vesey Street bridge that crosses eight-lane West Street (Route 9A), is usually thronged. However, people with mobility issues and anyone pushing strollers or carrying heavy packages often find they can’t get across the highway that separates Battery Park City from the rest of Manhattan.

Sometimes the elevators at one end of the bridge or the other don’t work. And for six months between September 2009 and March 2010, the escalator at the western end of the bridge was broken.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the street crossing at Vesey Street has been officially closed, though people frequently scurry across anyway. The alternative is to walk one block, out of their way, to Murray Street and then retrace their steps.

For several months, members of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee and New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have been pushing to get the street crossing reopened, however, the New York City Department of Transportation, which could make that happen, is balking.

On Feb. 18, 2011, Speaker Silver wrote to N.Y.C. Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan expressing his “strong desire” to see the street crossing at Vesey and West Streets reopened.

“While the Vesey Street bridge is useful and necessary,” Silver said, “many pedestrians cannot or do not use it and it is not an acceptable substitute for a safe, at-grade crossing. I would be happy to work with you in getting pedestrian managers assigned to that intersection to make sure it is safe.”

Speaker Silver’s letter went unanswered. On May 16, 2011, a D.O.T. spokesperson said the department was reviewing his letter and would get in touch with him. The proffered reason for not reopening the Vesey Street crossing was that construction on both sides of West Street made it unsafe.

“It is long past time to reopen the street level crossing at Vesey Street,” Speaker Silver said in a written statement on May 16. “I have offered to work with the city Department of Transportation to get pedestrian managers assigned to that intersection to address safety concerns — as I have done at other nearby intersections — and I will continue to fight on behalf of our residents who want to see that street reopened.”

Adam Levine, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, said that if the Vesey Street crossing were reopened, some changes would have to be made to accommodate the large number of people who would want to use it, but the issues could be resolved.

“Once those issues were resolved,” Levine said, “the New York State D.O.T. would be comfortable reopening the crossing.”

However, Levine said that the N.Y.C. Dept. of Transportation “still had concerns” about reopening the crossing. He also mentioned that the N.Y.P.D., which is responsible for the security of the area, would have to be party to the decision.

The 220-foot-long Vesey Street bridge, which opened in November 2003, was supposed to be in place for five years while a pedestrian tunnel was built under West Street, but delays at the World Trade Center site have pushed the estimated date for the opening of that tunnel to late in 2012. Eventually it will connect the Fulton Street transit hub with the World Financial Center in Battery Park City.