Peck Slip construction begins; businesses wary


The din of jackhammers started on Monday, Aug. 1 on Peck Slip, and if anyone should have noticed, it would have been the 12 or so dogs at The Salty Paw, 38 Peck Slip, whose owners leave them there for the day while they work.

“It was quiet in here,” said Matt Tedford, who tends the dogs.

Tedford said he didn’t hear anything except for the usual barking. But this was just the first day. The work on Peck Slip is slated to continue for the next three years with an additional year-and-a-half spent reconstructing some of the surrounding streets.

Business owners are greeting the prospect with a mixture of resignation and despair. Most of the restaurants on Peck Slip have outdoor seating. “Nobody wants to sit outside in the noise and dust,” said Ciro Santoro, who has been the chef at Acqua, 21 Peck Slip, since it opened more than five years ago.

“This is going to hurt a lot,” said Diane Honeywell, general manager at Nelson Blue, at the corner of Peck Slip and Front Street. “It’s not pretty anymore,” she said, glancing at the construction staging area that had been set up outside the restaurant. “It’s dusty and dirty.”

Nelson Blue has outdoor seating. Suteishi, a restaurant across the street, has a glass wall that can be raised in good weather, giving unobstructed views of the 19th-century buildings on the far side of Peck Slip and glimpses of the Brooklyn Bridge. “One of our assets is that we open our doors in the summer,” said Victor Chan, Suteishi’s owner. Construction will make his restaurant “less appealing,” he said, “but it’s not going to affect us on the grander scale. I think New Yorkers are pretty resilient and they’re used to construction.”

Chan said he was looking forward to the future. “Our doors will open on a beautiful park. There will be a skeletal ship on the east end and there will be a European-style piazza.”

Plans for the reconstruction of Peck Slip have been in the works ever since the Fulton Fish Market moved out of the Seaport, almost six years ago. After much wrangling, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the final plans for the park on April 24, 2011.

Until 1810, Peck Slip was a watery inlet of the East River, where ships loaded and unloaded. Even after Peck Slip was filled in, offices and warehouses connected with maritime commerce remained. Eventually the broad swath between Water Street and South Street served as a thoroughfare and a parking lot.

The New York City Department of Design and Construction (D.D.C.) has said that there was no choice but to reconstruct Peck Slip. Some of the water pipes underneath its cobblestones are more than a century old and need to be replaced. Over the next 18 months, new distribution water mains will be installed, curbs and sidewalks will be reconstructed and Peck Slip will get new street lighting poles.

When this work is finished, the Department of Parks will take over, building a park with trees, a small pond and granite blocks on which to sit. This should take another 16 to 18 months. Meanwhile, the D.D.C. will work on Water Street from Beekman Street to Dover Street, Front Street from Peck Slip to Dover Street and Beekman Street from South Street to Front Street.

The infrastructure work will cost $21 million. The Parks Department has budgeted $3.64 million for its part of the job.

In addition to noise and dirt, Peck Slip’s restaurant owners are concerned about delivery access and about when water will be turned off. The D.D.C. states that driveway and loading dock access may be temporarily restricted and that garbage and trash collection will be affected. Water service interruptions may occur during the day or at night, and although prior notice will be given, a restaurant cannot stay open without water. If water disruption occurs primarily at night, Victor Chan of Suteishi felt he can work around it. “We’ll have the dishes already done and we’ll have buckets of water set aside so we can mop up,” he said.

Rodents are another issue. Boxes with rat poison have been positioned throughout Peck Slip and on some of the surrounding streets. D.D.C. has said that a professional rodent control contractor will maintain rodent control stations and that a second and unaffiliated rodent control contractor will be hired to monitor the extermination activities of the first contractor “for quality assurance.”

On Aug. 1, when the rodent control boxes were put down, Lee Holin, co-owner of Meade’s at Peck Slip and Water Street, was upset to find that one of the boxes had been placed next to his outdoor dining tables. He moved the box away from the area where his customers would be eating.

“I’m not saying that the City shouldn’t be doing this project,” he said, “but it seems they’re not taking into consideration how much this is affecting us, or they don’t care. This is my livelihood. I have employees here who raise families. This is not about a luxury. This is about making a living. We’re scared, and I think we have every right to be.”

The D.D.C. has appointed a Community Construction Liaison, Amelia Ramos, to address problems and answer questions. Her office is at 264 Water St. Her phone number is (212) 233-7184. Her email is peckslipccl@gmail.com. “No one should hesitate to get in touch with her if there’s a problem,” said Craig Chin, spokesman for the D.D.C.

He said that the D.D.C. would work with business owners to learn their needs and to create a schedule that would cause the least disruption.

To compensate for some inevitable loss of business, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has some money available — a total of $35,000 per business — that will provide partial compensation to those who apply.

On the first day of Peck Slip construction, there were few people eating outdoors, and Katie Stafford had no trouble snagging a table outside of Nelson Blue. “My husband gets off work close to here,” she said. “It’s a nice place to eat outside before we have to go home for the evening.”  When Shawn Stafford arrived, he commented on whether the Peck Slip construction would keep him and Katie away.

“It’s something that has to be done,” Shawn said. “You have to look at the end result.”

And what does Shawn do for a living?

“I’m in the construction business.”