South of W.T.C., older buildings in danger

By Albert Amateau

Volume 16, Number 12 | Aug. 26 – Sept. 1, 2003


Pataki restates tunnel support at bridge ceremony

Gov. Pataki reaffirmed his support for the tunnel alternative for the reconstruction of Route 9A, at a ground-breaking ceremony last week for the Vesey St. pedestrian bridge over West St.

The new pedestrian bridge, near the World Financial Center in Battery Park City on the west and the northeast corner of Vesey St. across from the World Trade Center site on the east, is scheduled for completion in November 2003 to coincide with the completion of the temporary PATH station in the W.T.C. site.

In response to a Downtown Express question about whether more pedestrian bridges might be an alternative to putting West St. (Route 9A) traffic below grade between Liberty and Vesey Sts., George Pataki was definite.

“No. The master plan calls for suppression of West St. near ground zero,” the governor said in an apparent reference to architect Daniel Libeskind’s W.T.C. site plan. “I think it’s appropriate and important. Of course, we have to go through an environmental review and provide all the safeguards for the people who live and work here.”

Many Battery Park City residents are opposed to the tunnel for various reasons, including the $860 million cost, the effects of several years of construction on the neighborhood and a belief the tunnel would make things more dangerous rather than safer for pedestrians. Libeskind’s plan calls for a tunnel bypass, although the architect has said the plan could work with an at-grade alternative and he has done diagrams with either option.

The state Department of Transportation is officially considering two alternatives for Route 9A, one at-grade with an estimated cost of $175 million and the other below-grade with an estimated cost of $860 million.

The $27 million Vesey St. bridge project will include a new pedestrian walkway from the plaza of the temporary PATH station on Church St. to the east side of West St. along Vesey St. Elevators are expected to be completed in March and escalators are to be in operation by April, making the bridge compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Once the Vesey St. bridge is completely A.D.A. compliant, the West St. crosswalk will be closed and pedestrians will have to use the bridge.

The project, funded by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., also includes improvements to the Liberty St. bridge staircase four blocks south. The Vesey St. bridge will serve for five years while the Route 9A reconstruction is in progress, said Kevin Rampe, L.M.D.C. president, at the Aug. 20 ground breaking.

Charles Gargano, chairperson of the Empire State Development, served as master of ceremonies. Madelyn Wils, chairperson of Community Board 1 and member of the L.M.D.C. board of directors, was among the guests who wielded ceremonial shovels.

Pataki said the bridge will make a vital contribution to the 24-hour community Downtown and will serve an estimated 27,000 pedestrians per day who live, work and visit the area. The bridge is expected to accommodate 6,000 pedestrians during the morning rush when the temporary PATH station opens.

“I’m looking forward to coming here in November to cut the ribbon on the temporary PATH station, the opening of the bridge – and to celebrate the new Millennium High School,” the governor said.

Tim Carey, president and C.E.O. of the Battery Park City Authority, said, “This new bridge will serve the workers and residents here – and the children who cross West St. to play in Battery Park City.”

Carl Weisbrod, president of the Downtown Alliance, said, “The World Financial Center and the Financial District have been improving dramatically but they haven’t been connected. This bridge will connect them and make Downtown one great central business district.”

Carey and Weisbrod, both strong supporters of the tunnel option, did not mention the tunnel at last week’s ceremony.