Volume 80, Number 18 | September 30 - October 6, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


W.T.C. and tour buses

In less than 350 days the National September 11th Memorial will open. That’s exciting. What’s not exciting, however, is the expected spike in tour buses and the apparent traffic nightmare that could very well become real if we are not prepared.

Lower Manhattan is already plagued on a regular basis with idling tour buses that take up parking on almost every Downtown street. The tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center is predicted to bring an additional 80 to 90 tour buses each day to our community.

By no means do we want to keep people away. To the contrary, we hope the anticipated number of additional yearly visitors to the site, 2 million, is a low-ball figure. New York City has always welcomed tourism, and everyone acknowledges what a significant anniversary next year will be. Family members of 9/11 victims who have never made the trip might very well make it. Schools all across the country will no doubt be sending permission slips home so children can come to the city on field trips. This is all well and good and how it should be — we only hope the experience does not come at the cost of residents and those who work in Lower Manhattan every day.

We are most concerned about the construction that will still be ongoing next year and the difficulties it will mean for the tour buses and traffic. Many of the buildings, such as One World Trade Center, will not be completed for years, and streets will still be closed off due to the roadwork.

A central part of the long-term solution, the Vehicle Security Center, will not be finished, either. Indeed, its slated completion date is for the third quarter of 2012. And while we know the number of visitors will be highest in the first two years, we question whether the allotted 80 spaces set aside specifically for tour buses will ever be enough.

Two weeks ago we received an update from the Department of Transportation on the expected influx of tour buses. Currently, D.O.T. is looking at numerous scenarios to help make the situation more manageable. But the clock is ticking.

Almost four months ago, state Senator Daniel Squadron wrote an op-ed in our sister newspaper the Downtown Express that addressed the situation. He brought up the idea of using space across the Hudson River in New Jersey, in a sort of park-and-ride scenario. Visitors would take the PATH train directly to the 9/11 memorial. We like that idea.

And roughly three months ago, a ferry operator that already runs boats from Liberty Park in New Jersey to the World Financial Center in Battery Park City every half-hour presented plans to Community Board 1 that could help the situation. After being dropped off by ferry in B.P.C., passengers would only have a short walk to the memorial. We like that idea, too.

Both of these scenarios were mentioned by D.O.T. But they were only mentioned as possibilities. Our question: When will they become more than just a possibilities?

The time is now to start taking a serious look at the situation and to inform the community of what exactly is being done to ensure that this significant anniversary is not a hazardous one.

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