Volume 75, Number 28 | Nov. 30 - Dec. 06, 2005

Villager file photo

Cabs driving through Gansevoort Plaza — which has no stoplights or pedestrian crossing lights — last year. (The Woolco building in the background has since been demolished and a new office building is going up on the site.)

Planners take a cut at Meat Market traffic patterns

By Albert Amateau

Gansevoort Market enthusiasts, neighbors and property owners took a preliminary look earlier this month at what they hope could become a blueprint for a pedestrian-friendly future for a beloved neighborhood.

The scenario for the area around the triangle where Gansevoort and Little W. 12th Sts. converge at Ninth Ave. was the center of attention at the Nov. 17 presentation by the Meatpacking District Initiative, an organization of Gansevoort Market businesses, and Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit planning group.

“This is just the beginning of a process — food for thought — that we hope will provoke lots of feedback from neighbors, businesses and residents,” said Florent Morellet, a restaurateur in the district and a member of the M.P.D.I. group, which sponsored a traffic survey earlier this year, which informed the preliminary suggestions presented two weeks ago.

Sponsors of the report hope the district, where meat wholesalers continue to do business, even as clubs, restaurants and high-end retailers attract more taxis and other auto traffic, can better serve pedestrians and daytime visitors.

Morellet said that a more complete report, developed after further public input, would eventually go to Community Board 2 for approval as a proposal to the Department of City Planning.

The triangle, popularly known as Gansevoort Plaza, could become a great public space if auto traffic was not so confusing, the report says. At night, taxis cruising for fares, conflicting street direction on Gansevoort and Little W. 12th Sts. and four lanes of auto traffic on Ninth Ave. leave little room for pedestrians.

A preliminary suggestion calls for narrowing the 40 feet now used for auto traffic on Ninth Ave. to 28 feet and reassigning the edges for loading, wider sidewalks, seating and sidewalk cafes. Changing the directions of Little W. 12th, Gansevoort and W. 13th Sts. could reduce conflict between autos and pedestrians.

“Put a plaza in Gansevoort Plaza,” was another suggestion for a pedestrian triangle in the middle of the five-way intersection, which could accommodate public seating, an outdoor market or other pedestrian uses.

At the Nov. 17 presentation, Jan Gehl, a Danish urban planner based in Copenhagen, a city renowned for being friendly to pedestrians and bicycle riders, paid tribute to advocates’ efforts to improve the district. He acknowledged the fierce affection that neighbors have for the cobblestone streets in the district but he suggested that parts of the thoroughfares could have larger smooth granite paving stones to make it easier for bikes and wheelchairs.

Thor Snilsberg, of Project for Public Spaces, said the report is intended to foster a dialogue about how the district can accommodate all potential users. “It’s important to have good cab and limousine access, but cabs and black cars have to learn to act with respect so that they will always be welcome,” he said.

The area, designated as the Gansevoort Market Historic District by the Landmarks Preservation Commission last year, includes the southern end of the High Line, the 1.4-mile-long railroad viaduct that will become an elevated park in the next few years.

The P.P.S. report, presented Nov. 17 at Macelleria, at 48 Gansevoort St., was funded by Mark Gorton, a Village resident and owner of an Internet business based in Tribeca.

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