One of the sculptures in the renovated block of the Allen St. Mall.
The city has hired landscape architect Donna Walcavage of Edaw design firm. The Parks Department, which isnt funding any of the renovations, said the design should be finished this fall and construction started by next year. The department has taken input from community groups, to be incorporated into the design.
Its exciting to finally see it happen, said Anne Frederick, excecutive directory of the Hester Street Collaborative, which has spearheaded community involvement in the mall renovations.
Parks wouldnt say which blocks or how many of them would be renovated. But people in the community involved with the project said they believed five of the remaining 12 blocks will next be beautified, and it would probably be the portion of the mall closest to the river, because that is a higher priority for the L.M.D.C.
Were excited about what these malls can do, said Roberto Ragone, executive director of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District. We think it will create important leisure space and solitude space.
When city planners widened Allen St. in the 1930s, they envisioned a thoroughfare that would bring more shoppers and their cars from outside Manhattan to the neighborhoods bakeries, food stores and clothing shops a sort of Champs-Élysées of the Lower East Side that would lead to the waterfront. But that never happened as crime and urban decay stopped Allen St. from reaching its potential. The neighborhood, as anyone whos walked through it in the past decade knows, has become wealthier and safer with an explosion in white-collar tenants and the trendy restaurants and luxury housing that have followed them. Allen St. has changed at a slower pace than other parts of the neighborhood, but the initial hope for it still remains.
This is part of the Lower East Side renaissance, said Gerson, who has helped organize the mall renovation effort and secured $500,000 in funding from the City Council. Theres a lot of potential on the Lower East Side.
During a lunch hour last week, people filled seven of the 10 benches in the malls renovated section, as others walked their dogs and strolled through. Don Light, an elderly man from Brooklyn, sat on a bench and filled out a crossword puzzle as cabs and buses whizzed uptown or rode their brakes to stop at the Delancey St. traffic light.
I used to never come over here [the mall], but now I do, said Light, who visits the neighborhood a few times a week.
Josh Peter, 27, of Brooklyn, scarfed down Chinese dumplings and noodles with friend Todd Kahler, 25, of Chelsea, on the next bench. Peter, who works at Dickson Hairshop just north on Allen St., said he often ate his lunch on vacant doorsteps before he discovered the mall.
Its pretty. I wouldnt have set foot over here before, Peter said.