Hudson Square BID thinking freely about Freeman Plaza

By Albert Amateau

A one-square-block area with an access ramp, shrubbery and crushed rock at the Holland Tunnel entrance has been off limits to pedestrians for as long as anyone can remember.

Nevertheless, the Hudson Square Connection, a one-year-old business improvement district in the neighborhood, is joining with the Regional Plan Association to study the possibility of transforming the space, between Broome and Watts Sts. and Varick and Hudson Sts., into a thriving public space.

However, the Port Authority has for years had “No Trespassing” signs around the space, known as Freeman Plaza, after Milton H. Freeman, the second engineer in charge of the Holland Tunnel construction until he died in 1925.

Ellen Baer, the BID’s president, said the study should lead to a more-detailed investigation, with city and Port Authority participation, which would address tunnel security issues.

“The Port Authority is a member of the BID board of directors, and when we outlined the goals of the study to the board, the Port Authority representatives indicated they were as interested as everyone else in what we might turn up,” Baer said.

The study, funded by $25,000 in grants from The Atlantic Philanthropies and the Fund for the City of New York, began last week and will be completed in June or July.

“Our goal is to create a pedestrian-friendly district, and Freeman Plaza’s location at the Holland Tunnel entrance presents a great opportunity to start thinking about how we can integrate a regional transportation facility into the Hudson Square neighborhood,” Baer said.

The BID extends roughly from Houston St. to Canal St. between Sixth Ave. and Greenwich St. Freeman Plaza is near the district’s southern boundary.

The study is part of the Connection’s overall mission to address traffic congestion and streetscape conditions in the district. The findings will be included in the conversation between property owners, government agencies, residents and businesses about a long-term vision for the plaza.