Volume 78 - Number 30 / December 24 - 30, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

C.B. 3 now says Chatham Square redesign is a no-go

By Albert Amateau

Community Board 3 on Dec. 16 passed a revised resolution rejecting the proposed Chatham Square/Park Row redesign project — at least for the time being.

The resolution approved at the full board meeting last Tuesday referred to the deep misgivings of Chinatown residents and businesses about a construction project that would last more than three years in a neighborhood that has been severely impacted by the closing of Park Row to ordinary traffic seven years ago.

“It seems like we’ve won a battle,” Geoff Lee, a Chinatown activist, said in a telephone interview on Dec. 17. “At an earlier meeting, Community Board 3 appeared to be pushing the project, or at best sitting on the fence.”

Several Chinatown residents at the full board meeting said the estimated $50 million cost for a questionable project during economic hard times was a waste of public funds. Critics also said the proposed expanded sidewalk that would reduce the width of Park Row where it ends at Chatham Square indicates the plan was intended to keep Park Row closed for decades longer.

Nevertheless, City Councilmember Alan Gerson and Brian Ketcham, a traffic consultant for C.B. 3, said at an earlier public hearing that the plan, while not perfect, had positive aspects.

The board’s final resolution says, “Because C.B. 3 and the community ultimately want the city to reopen Park Row, we believe it is necessary to plan for this eventuality now.”

Jeanie Chin, a resident of Chatham Green, told the C.B. 3 meeting, “We could grit our teeth and bear it if this were a good plan, but it’s deeply flawed.”

Margaret Chin, a candidate for City Council, and Henry S. Tam, a neighborhood activist, both said the project would not promote pedestrian safety in an area notorious for vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

The board’s final resolution cited the Dec. 2 hearing by the Department of Transportation, at which the public overwhelmingly denounced the lack of public involvement in the design of the project.

“The Department of Transportation has not done adequate research regarding the economic impact of three years of construction…nor has the D.O.T. provided a business mitigation plan,” the resolution says.

The community board acknowledged in the resolution that the board itself did not give the public the opportunity to review detailed plans of the project until six days before the Dec. 2 hearing.

“The Chinatown community has not had ample time to caucus and present an alternative plan for the reconstruction with an alternative construction schedule,” the resolution says.

The opposition to the plan expressed at the Dec. 2 hearing “accurately reflects the vast majority of Chinatown groups comprised of residents, businesses and nonprofits,” C.B. 3’s final resolution says.

An earlier version of the resolution said, “At this time Community Board 3 Manhattan withholds our support for the Chatham Square/Park Row redesign.” The final version of the resolution approved last week said, “At this time Community Board 3 Manhattan rejects the Chatham Square/Park Row design.”

The final resolution calls on the city to provide a detailed business support plan and to “commit to working with the Community Board 3 Task Force to analyze the outstanding design issues along with supplying further information to support the analysis.”

The community board plans to hold another public hearing on the Chatham Square/Park Row project in February after the Chinese New Year, which falls on Jan. 26 this year.

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