Volume 74, Number 36 | January 12 - 18, 2005


Duarte Sq. renovation gets thumbs up from committee

By Albert Amateau

The new design for Duarte Sq., the brick-paved triangle on the north side of Canal St. at Sixth Ave., which calls for keeping the statue of Juan Pablo Duarte in the middle of the triangle near its present position, won a vote of approval last week from the Community Board 2 Parks Committee.

The new design, by Stephen Whitehouse of Saratoga Associates, was seen as a welcome change from the plan submitted more than two years ago as part of a complex land swap between Trinity Real Estate, which owns the property on the west side of the square, and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

The old design called for moving the statue of Duarte, a founder of the Dominican Republic, to the southern end of the triangle at Canal St. and away from a central open area where Dominican-Americans hold an annual commemoration. The previous design had angled paths with plantings between them.

The new design would add some green to what is now a barren, brick triangle, provide an open paved area around the statue and a fountain with jets at grade “so that when they’re turned off you can’t see them,” Whitehouse said. More trees are planned for the north end of the triangle at Grand St. and on the south to soften Canal St. traffic’s impact on the park.

“You’ve addressed all the concerns we had and I congratulate you,” Tobi Bergman, a Parks Committee member, told Whitehouse and Robert Redmond, who will oversee the project for the Parks Department. Nevertheless, committee members at the Jan. 6 meeting hedged their approval by calling for more seating to be included in the new plan and for an adequate irrigation system to make sure the trees survive.

The Empire State Building is within the view corridor from Duarte Sq. to the north and the new Freedom Tower planned for the World Trade Center site will be within the view corridor to the south, Whitehouse noted.

As part of the land-use changes two years ago, a service road on the west side of the square, formerly the southern end of Sullivan St., was demapped and added to the Trinity Real Estate property across the street. It allows Trinity to replace its current three-to-eight-story buildings on the block with a 22-story building.

Trinity owns the demapped street but gives the Parks Department an easement and jurisdiction over the expanded area up to Trinity’s property line. The change, which went into effect at the end of 2002, expands the park area by 40 percent and adds 38 percent to Trinity’s zoning lot.

In return, Trinity will pay for the park project and also for the park’s maintenance. Redmond said the maintenance would be more than $30,000 a year.

Committee members were anxious about Trinity’s commitment to fund the maintenance. Adrienne Bernard, a lawyer for Trinity who attended the meeting, said the arrangement with the Parks Department would probably involve putting money in a trust controlled by Parks. “It would be for the life of the building, 80, 90, 100 years,” she estimated. “We’ll do it any way that Parks wants,” she said.

Richard Barrett, a member of the Canal West Coalition, noted that the plan had no trees in the area where the remnant of Sullivan St. used to be. “You can still see the ghost of the street,” he said.

The former street, however, has a sewer line beneath the surface and trees cannot be planted over it, Redmond said. “It was designed to look like a park path, a broad park path,” added Whitehouse.

Other committee members suggested that the design should have considered Duarte’s relationship with the proposed Laight St. Park, a triangle on the other side of Canal St. Sidewalks around the Laight St. triangle, formerly used as a parking lot by police and Port Authority employees, have been built but the park has not yet been designed, Redmond said.

Bergman also regretted that an extremely tall light pole — about as tall as the eight-story Trinity building on the west side of the square, could not remain in the new Duarte Sq.

Committee members said they were pleased that the design did not make it look like the park was a part of the Trinity property. Trinity agreed two years ago that tenants on the ground floor of its future building fronting the park would not be permitted to put a sidewalk cafe on the park.

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