Meatpacking plaza makeover doesn’t make the grade with Village neighbors

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  The city’s Department of Transportation and a team of engineers have presented preliminary plans for a redesign of the Gansevoort pedestrian plaza and Ninth Ave. in the Meatpacking District, but some West Village residents who live just south of the area slammed the concept, saying it doesn’t address dire traffic problems on their blocks.

At a Sept. 11 Community Board 2 Transportation Committee meeting, D.O.T. representatives expressed hope that reconfiguring the layout of curbside public space along Ninth Ave., between Gansevoort and W. 16th Sts., would alleviate congestion and provide more effective pedestrian walkways, while also maintaining the landmarked portion of the plaza, which sits within the Gansevoort Market Historic District.

Engineers behind the plan said they are leaning toward choosing an asymmetrical layout that would place the pedestrian areas — which are currently staggered on both sides — entirely on the east side of Ninth Ave. They also proposed extending the curbline on the northwest corner of Gansevoort St. and Ninth Ave. by 30 feet in order to create a new public space.

The issue is being raised now because the city’s Department of Design and Construction plans to reconstruct the plaza in the near future, in order to replace old infrastructure and underground utility lines. D.O.T.’s hired engineers also said that the redesign would take into account traffic problems that will grow from future development plans in the surrounding area, such as the Hudson Yards and the Whitney Museum.

But residents at the C.B. 2 meeting were generally disappointed by the plan, which they said failed to address the more immediate traffic concerns that plague the largely residential blocks just south of Gansevoort plaza.

“It’s come to the point where I had to put in earplugs and close the windows to be able to go to sleep,” said Joyce Goldman, who lives on Jane St. between Greenwich and Hudson Sts., one of the blocks where traffic noise between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends has become unbearable for many. “I don’t see how this plan will have an impact on that, but it needs to be addressed now.”

Her remarks received an exuberant round of applause from the other residents in attendance.

Lauren Danziger, executive director of the Meatpacking District Improvement Association, which represents business interests in the area, said she feels for the plight of residents but still has faith in D.O.T.’s plan.

“I understand that it’s difficult for residents, but this is really just about making the best of a bad situation,” Danziger explained. “We have to trust that what D.O.T. picks will be a good solution.”

D.O.T. Assistant Commissioner Andy Wiley-Schwartz stressed at the Sept. 11 meeting that nothing has been finalized yet, and promised that the agency will continue to take feedback and will update the community throughout each step of the process.

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One Response to Meatpacking plaza makeover doesn’t make the grade with Village neighbors

  1. the real consternation of many W Village attendees is that the DOT's own studies, done in 2007 and released in 2008-09 included far more creative and on point ideas addressing TRAFFIC rather than aesthetic use of sitting spaces. It is the Dept of Transportation after all! — and to IGNORE how PEDESTRIANS navigate and move thru the Plaza and its feeders was surprising (most are bewildered and wander out willy nilly to stop vehicular traffic). Most troubling, egregious of their mandate some would say, was that these hired engineers and DOT also completely isolated this long awaited 'solution' to a confined area and did not address many of the Feeder Traffic concerns that have been actively placed before the DOT these past 36 months…and further ignored the findings and potential solutions of their own 4-5 year old study. In the words of the Asst Commissioner himself, this solution was taken "in the interest of local business" area improvements — which we all may want and applaud — but why was DOT incapable of addressing this holistically? For some of us, there is a bit of hubris here.

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