P.A. looks to make W.T.C. site more community friendly

The community has spoken, and the Port Authority is listening.

The Port recently led a tour around the perimeter of the World Trade Center site to hear community members’ quality-of-life and safety concerns. This Thursday, Chris Ward, the Port’s executive director, plans to announce responses to some of those concerns.

The Port would not release details as Downtown Express went to press Wednesday night, but several people who attended last month’s walkthrough said they appreciated that the Port was listening.

“There seems to have been a change with the appointment of the new executive director in working with the community,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee, referring to Ward. “The fact that they initiated this — it’s great.”

Hughes praised Ward’s recent hiring of Sam Schwartz to work on traffic coordination and community outreach for the Port’s new Office of Program Logistics. Schwartz led the site walkthrough with several members of the Port Authority, and the Downtown Alliance and Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center also attended.

After the walkthrough, Hughes described issues small and large, ranging from the cosmetic to the serious. The Port could do a better job neatening the perimeter and brightening the color of security barriers, she said. The Port plans to animate the towering plywood construction fences with images of what the site will look like five or six years from now.

“We’re going to be looking at this barrier for years to come, so investing in it now after seven years is really worthwhile,” Hughes said.

One of the top concerns is pedestrian flow, especially since Vesey St. will be closed and Liberty St. will be reconfigured, likely for years.

Steve Coleman, Port Authority spokesperson, said this week that the Port will definitely have to close Vesey St. between Church and West Sts., but he did not know when. The community had hoped Vesey St. would stay open, because its closure will force pedestrians to make a cumbersome detour around the Church St. post office to get to the temporary PATH station or Battery Park City. An entrance to the A, C, E subway would also likely close.

The Port had previously also announced that the Liberty St. bridge would move one block south to land at West and Cedar Sts. Coleman said this week that the move will happen around the middle of next year at the earliest.

Combine those larger inconveniences with smaller ones like locked doors in the World Financial Center, broken escalators and the lack of a separated bike path along West St., and the hassles add up.

“Maybe if the different agencies and powers that be come together, those little inconveniences could be improved,” Hughes said.

Some of the problems, like illegal vendors on Church St., lie outside of the Port Authority’s purview, but Hughes got the impression that the Port would still work toward a solution.

John Foss, a C.B. 1 member who lives on Barclay St. and also attended the walkthrough, said afterwards that the Port must be held accountable for mitigating the disruptions in the neighborhood.

“Do they need to take the lead?” Foss said. “Yes.”

— Julie Shapiro