BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC| A request for a one-day event at Finn Square, the lush green triangle on W. Broadway between Leonard and Franklin Sts., brought up resentments over other plazas — proposed and actual — in Tribeca.
Lynn Ellsworth, chairperson of Tribeca Trust, a preservation advocacy group, went before Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee on Wed., July 8 to talk about the Sep. 19 event, which was also held last year, and to broach the larger subject of expanding public space in the neighborhood.
Ellsworth said there are 5,600 elementary school kids in the neighborhood — not counting preschool age children. Finn Square, currently part of the Department of Transportation’s Greenstreets program, was a good place to start the discussion, said Ellsworth.
But some of the committee had other things in mind due to the closing of W. Broadway between Franklin and Leonard Sts. for the event.
“We really do not want that street closed permanently,” said Marc Ameruso, committee member.
Finn Square is situated between W. Broadway and Varick. To its north are the Franklin St. subway station for the 1 train and a CitiBike station.
Ameruso asked the D.O.T. representative, Shari Glickman, if Finn Square would become a permanent public plaza.
Glickman, who is the project manager for the D.O.T.’s public space unit, said, “This is a first step to the goal which is [the Trust] applying to the Plaza Program and potentially having a long-term temporary plaza.”
Ameruso took issue with the word “temporary” and used Bogardus, the now permanent plaza on Hudson St. between Chambers and Reade Sts., as an example.
“The history of temporary plazas with this community board and D.O.T. is not very good,” said Ameruso. “You guys swore [Bogardus] was going to be temporary, and of course we found out later that really wasn’t true.”
To make Finn Square a plaza, several possibilities are being considered to make the space larger to accommodate chairs and tables around the garden. Closing W. Broadway for that block is one idea, but there also could be an extension of the square to the north. Right now, there is a one-lane street between the two areas that connects Varick and W. Broadway.
Alessandra Galletti, senior associate with the Project for Public Spaces, presented with the Trust at the meeting and said later in a phone interview, “We might not need to close anything.”
She said Con Ed, which has a substation on Leonard St., needs access and is not in favor of closing that stretch of W. Broadway.
Glickman said at the meeting that the plaza could be enlarged by a sidewalk extension or building out the triangle slightly. She stressed that a plaza would need community board support.
“The idea is just to test this out with the neighborhood, get a sense of what it would be like should D.O.T. and Tribeca Trust actually propose a plaza, which at that point would never go forward without community board approval,” she said.
Committee member Bruce Ehrmann disagreed with the characterization that the community board has issues with Bogardus.
C.B. 1 has passed resolutions in support of Bogardus, including two in favor of its design at its last October monthly meeting.
While Ehrmann supported many plazas in the neighborhood, he said that in this case he would not be in favor of permanently closing off a street.
He brought up another plaza, the Barnett Newman Triangle, at 6th Ave. in front of a controversial development at 100 Franklin St. The Board of Standard and Appeals approved a variance for DDG, the developer. Neighbors are opposed to the development and C.B. 1 passed a resolution against the B.S.A. granting the variance.
He asked Ellsworth, “Why would you object to one well-funded plaza with a lane cut off and not to another?”
Ellsworth cited the opposition to the development and said the Trust had contributed to a legal defense fund for the neighbors. To do a permanent plaza, she explained, $500,000 to $1,000,000 is needed for the “D.O.T. to look benevolently on your case.”
“That’s a way a developer can more or less buy public space, get their way,” she said.