Letters to the editor

Gerson: Tunnel talk is troubling

To The Editor:

Re: “C.B. 1 leans against tunnel, sees bridge plans” (news article, Aug. 5-11.”)

I was very distressed to read the comments expressed by Timothy Carey in last week’s Downtown Express regarding West St. Mr. Carey said, “There’s not an at-grade option. The governor said he wants a tunnel.”

If this is truly the position of the governor, it demonstrates a level of disregard for the community that is reprehensible. Further, it reflects an approach that completely ignores the wishes of the local community and violates the democratic process on which our city was built.

Much of the Battery Park City community has opposed the tunnel options since they were presented by the state Department of Transportation. While D.O.T. has, since that time, reduced the number of West St. options to two, the governor’s position would suggest that there is no option at all.

At its most recent meeting held at the end of July, Community Board 1 passed a resolution indicating it had serious reservations about the cost effectiveness of the $860 million price tag for a tunnel. In addition, the resolution cited the potential for prolonged disruption to the local community, both residential and business. A survey of local residents, conducted this past spring, revealed that a bypass at West St. was the lowest ranking transportation priority of the community.

I oppose any tunneling at West St. until all options are presented. It is my opinion that the additional $600 million, estimated to be the cost differential between the tunnel option and the at-grade option, could be better spent on other recovery efforts, such as schools, human services and affordable housing. All tunneling schemes that have been presented, would create dead zones, dangerous crossings and present accessibility issues that would undermine, rather than promote, our redevelopment priorities.

We would be happy to sit down with Governor Pataki and have him state his case. Imposing a fait accompli on the community is unjust and unacceptable.

Alan Jay Gerson

Gerson is city councilmember for the 1st District

Fix is in for West St. tunnel

To The Editor:

In Downtown Express’s most recent article on the proposed West St. vehicular tunnel (news article, Aug. 5-11, “C.B. 1 leans against tunnel, sees bridge plans”), Battery Park City Authority president Tim Carey is quoted as saying, “There’s not an at-grade option. The governor said he wants a tunnel.” This is a remarkable statement coming from a close associate and political appointee of Governor Pataki because it says, in effect, that the process chosen by the state Department of Transportation to consider options for the reconstruction of West St. is a complete sham.

In fact, the Coalition to Save West Street and several allied transportation and environmental groups have analyzed the state D.O.T.’s West St. process and concluded that it is badly flawed. It would involve virtually no public participation, provide only one true build alternative (the tunnel), and is based on a flawed purpose and need project statement. In other words, “the fix is in” for a pro-tunnel outcome.

So I suppose we might consider thanking Carey for his candor, since there is no disputing the accuracy of his statements. However, I believe that what we are seeing here is a display of real arrogance by the governor and his underlings such as Carey. Once again, our increasingly out-of-touch governor is choosing to ignore the views of the majority of residents who live near the World Trade Center site, as expressed in public opinion polls, at public meetings, and, most recently, in the serious doubts expressed by Community Board 1 regarding a West St. tunnel. The governor could seemingly care less about the opinions of those of us who will have to live with the results on a daily basis for years to come.

The governor’s approach to West St. is part of an unfortunate pattern. He has chosen to ignore the expressed concerns of residents on other World Trade Center issues as well, such as the location of a tourist bus parking garage and the choice of a site plan with a sunken memorial that will greatly inconvenience pedestrian traffic across the World Trade Center site.

Consequently, it is becoming increasingly apparent that opponents of a West St. tunnel may be left with no other practical option than to attempt to enforce their legal rights, such as those under the National Environmental Policy Act and the State Environmental Quality Review Act. This will be regrettable if it happens because it could lead to delays on the reconstruction of West St., but the governor’s intransigence and inflexibility may leave no other alternative.

Finally, the governor has further expressed his disdain for residents of Battery Park City by proposing to put an underground tourist bus-parking garage right in the middle of our neighborhood. A residential neighborhood is an obviously inappropriate location for a bus garage and Carey should have objected strenuously. This garage and the diesel fumes that would be generated by the buses would be only a block away from a children’s baseball field. The movement of 160 or more additional tourist buses a day in and out of a parking garage right at the northern entrance to a West St. tunnel is a recipe for continuous traffic gridlock at that location and for serious problems with bus exhaust fumes in — and vehicle access to — Battery Park City.

It’s also important to be aware that, when a bus-parking garage was being considered for the World Trade Center site itself, there was much discussion of the need for a “hardened area” where the buses would undergo security checks prior to being parked in the garage. Those security requirements should be no less stringent for such a garage located adjacent to the site, particularly one in a residential neighborhood with a building constructed over the garage. No mention was made of this in the recent announcement that a Battery Park City location was being considered for the tourist bus parking. The delays inherent in such a security process are an additional factor that will add to West St. traffic delays and result in buses idling on the street and polluting northern Battery Park City.

Bill Love

Love is vice chairperson, Coalition to Save West Street