Port Authority says Christopher St. is still on track

By Albert Amateau

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the city Department of Transportation appeared this week to back off from a commitment by the Port Authority to drop plans to build an extra entrance for the PATH station at Christopher and Hudson Sts.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick and City Councilmember Christine Quinn had reported last week that city D.O.T. Commissioner Iris Weinshall had told them at a meeting that the Port Authority had taken the Christopher St. entrance off the table but was moving ahead with an environmental impact statement for an extra PATH station at W. Ninth St. and Sixth Ave.

However, Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesperson, said on Mon. Oct. 27, that the bi-state agency has not abandoned plans for the additional Christopher St. PATH entrance. The P.A. will focus its efforts first on the E.I.S. for the extra Ninth St. PATH entrance before turning its efforts to Christopher St., according to Coleman. “There must have been a misconception by the elected officials,” Coleman added.

But both Glick and Quinn said on Tues. Oct. 28 that Weinshall had told them that the Christopher St. PATH project was “off the table.”

Glick said, “This is an outrageous attempt to manipulate the E.I.S. process. First of all, it’s disgusting but it may also be illegal.” Glick noted that the two PATH stations are only about five blocks away from each other and that Christopher St. was a bus route that would inevitably be disrupted by construction at either station. “It’s obvious that you can’t just do an E.I.S. for one station without considering the impact on the street from both stations,” Glick said.

Quinn was adamant that the commissioner had said the Christopher St. project was “off the table — not on hold, not delayed, but off the table.”

Quinn went on to say “We knew we couldn’t trust the Port Authority on this issue, but now it seems we can’t trust D.O.T.” Representatives for state Senator Tom Duane and Representative Jerrold Nadler who attended the meeting with Quinn and Glick also said that Weinshall had made it clear that the Christopher St. PATH station was “off the table.”

A spokesperson for D.O.T. said yesterday the transportation department was successor to the long-defunct Railroad Commission, which had jurisdiction when the Trans Hudson Railroad was built in 1908, and as such had to be the lead agency in the environmental review for the PATH stations.

“The Port Authority gave us notice that they wanted to go ahead with the Ninth St. station and we took that to mean that they wouldn’t go ahead with the Christopher St. station,” said Elizabeth deBourbon, D.O.T. spokesperson. “But that doesn’t mean that the Port Authority planned to drop plans altogether for the Christopher St. station,” deBourbon said.

The two extra PATH entrances, proposed nearly two years ago, aroused angry opposition from residents, merchants and elected officials who said the $30 million projects would imperil fragile historic buildings and disrupt business and traffic on narrow Village streets.

The Port Authority has said the new entrances are necessary to relieve crowding at the two stations in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center PATH station on Sept. 11, 2001. The P.A. also contends the additional entrances are needed for safe evacuation of the Village stations in emergencies.

Quinn demanded yesterday that D.O.T. and the Port Authority meet with elected officials and community leaders “as soon as possible to explain why they are changing their minds.”