Downtown Digest, Week of Oct. 17, 2012

Trinity Church cancels Halloween festivities   |  Families celebrating Halloween will have to pencil out a Trinity Church visit from their calendars as a planned activity for the last weekend of October. The church’s annual movie night, originally scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 26, has been canceled for safety reasons, according to the parish’s spokesperson Linda Hanick. This year, the parish was going to screen “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! Tricks and Treats,” and hold an organ performance by Trinity’s organist Julian Wachner.

Protesters loosely or directly affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement have been camped outside of the church for several months now, causing a potential security problem for children who would be coming to the church around dusk, Hanick said. “It’s dark, there are candles and it’s Halloween. Out of an abundance of caution, we wanted to make sure it was a safe environment,” she explained.

The event cancellation follows an alleged assault on a Trinity maintenance worker earlier this month. According to the parish, the demonstrator who was arrested for the crime was out on the street again the very next day. The perp was one of nine people who have been arrested in the church’s vicinity since the beginning of the month. Regarding the security issue, Hanick said, “We’ve installed security cameras under the scaffolding, and we’re reporting any illegal or abusive activity [to the police].”

All of the church’s other programming and religious services are taking place according to schedule. However, the parish has closed off its restrooms from the public because of recent instances of vandalism.

New naturalization service comes to Downtown   |  City Council Member Margaret Chin has partnered with the City University of New York’s “Citizenship Now!” program to offer free naturalization and deferred action services at her district office, located at 165 Park Row.

The program, made possible through $600,000 from the City Council, will finance 30 service sites throughout the five boroughs through June 2013. It will provide qualified immigrants with one-on-one consultations with attorneys and paralegals, along with assistance in applying for citizenship, deferred action and citizenship interview coaching.

The deferred action services, part of President Obama’s DREAM Act, are intended for young immigrants ages 15 to 31 who are seeking U.S. citizenship. To be eligible, they have to have come to the U.S. before age 16 and have been living in the country for at least five years.

Those interested in applying for one of these services should call 212-587-3159 to make an appointment.

C.B.1. Calls for Dey St. Concourse Opening   |  The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced that, rather than wait until the opening of World Trade Center 1 and 4, the Dey Street Concourse will open to the public once the Fulton Center is completed in June 2014. But members of Community Board 1 are calling for the M.T.A. to open the pedestrian tunnel as soon as it’s completed and to allow subway riders to transfer between the Cortlandt Street ‘R’ station and the other neighborhood subway lines for free.

The concourse, once open, will connect the R line and the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, J and Z lines at the future Fulton Center.

In a resolution dated Oct. 3, C.B. 1’s Financial District Committee asks that the M.T.A. open the concourse immediately upon completion and allow for free access and prominent signage in order to “encourage use of mass transit in an area increasingly affected by vehicular congestion.” Until the opening of the Dey Street Concourse, the resolution continues, “C.B. 1 strongly urges that the M.T.A. immediately establish a policy of free transfers for passengers who must exit and re-enter these stations.”

Though construction of the below-grade tunnel is nearly complete, it would be too costly to maintain the pedestrian passageway until the entire transit center is finished, since a very small number of straphangers regularly use it.

“Our study, when we first rolled out the project, came up with a number of about five people a day that would utilize that transfer,” said M.T.A. spokesperson Kevin Ortiz, adding, “There are numerous options where you can connect to the ‘R’ from other lines already in existence in both Brooklyn and Manhattan.”

Currently, the R train connects with the 4/5 lines at Canal Street and at Union Square, Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center and Borough Hall. The R also connects with the A/C at Times Square and at the Jay Street-MetroTech station.

More high-tech trash cans installed in Lower Manhattan  |  New solar compacting waste stations boasting five times the capacity of a conventional trash can have been installed on select streets in the Financial District, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York, the area’s Business Improvement District.

A total of five BigBelly stations adorned with maps of Lower Manhattan can be found at the northeast corners of Broadway and Maiden Lane and Church Street and Cortlandt Street; and the southwest corners of Broadway and Vesey Street and Water Street and Fulton Street. The fifth BigBelly is on the northwest corner of Water Street and Wall Street. The installations follow the ceremonious placement of a BigBelly on Canal Street in Chinatown last November and three others in Thomas Paine Park earlier last year.

The machines, which derive their energy from solar-powered panels, automatically compress trash content, decreasing the need for trash pick-ups and garbage bag replacements, according to the Downtown Alliance. An electronic sensor built inside the BigBellies alerts sanitation units when they are maxed out on trash. The BigBellies are also known to curb rat infestations of streets, parks and other public spaces.

The recent installations came on the heels of a City Council hearing led by Council Member Margaret Chin focused on the need for additional sanitation services to accommodate the growing influx of tourists in the area.

“With thousands of people walking our bustling streets each day, BigBelly solar stations are sure to be a big success in Lower Manhattan,” said Joseph Timpone, the Downtown Alliance’s senior vice president of operations. “[They will] lower fuel emissions and streamline sanitation services by compacting the litter.”

Bowling Green renovations underway  |  The city Department of Transportation has begun to spruce up Bowling Green Park and the surrounding area. By the D.O.T.’s estimates, nearly 400 pedestrians per hour use Whitehall Street and, currently, the sidewalks can’t handle the load. As a result, Downtown residents and workers are spilling out onto the street and facing risks from oncoming traffic, a cause for concern among city officials.

A redesign of the area’s streetscape, featuring an expansion of the pedestrian plaza, is poised to give people a lot more safe walking room. In order to reduce overcrowding, the sidewalk at Whitehall Street between Broadway and Pearl Streets, among others, will be widened, and several crosswalks will be narrowed. The plan will also open up public space around the Charging Bull. The statue currently stands at a narrow intersection in the middle of Whitehall Street, leaving little room for people to approach it safely amid moving traffic. Police have partitioned off the bull in recent months due to ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests.

Aesthetic changes are also on the horizon for Bowling Green, including the installation of nearly two-dozen decorative planters, courtesy of the Downtown Alliance.

Community Board 1 recently passed a resolution in support of D.O.T.’s plan.

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