Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reasons why the reconstruction should not happen NOW

The last Chatham Square reconstruction happened was less than ten years ago in l999. The D.O.T., delivered a flawed design plan even then. Amazingly they moved ahead and Chinatown was stuck with poorly designed planters dotted across an awkard island in the middle of the Square, which are used regularly by skateboarders and bicyclists who use them as ramps for recreation. What genius designed those damn things anyway?

We believe the current one is equally flawed and in fact, makes pedestrians less safe than before (see the design plans and our explanations on previous postings on this blog).

The proposed dig up of our streets will occur at the height of an historic economic recession.

The appeal to City Agencies and our Community Board #3 to delay an organizing meeting until after Chinese New Year as this holiday period is critical for the business community’ survival was met with a resounding "NO". It's unfortunate that our houses of worship, civic organizations, businesses, and residents were ignored in this request.

Some businesses, still reeling from 9/11 street shutdowns, including Park Row and other streets near Chatham Square as well as government permit placard abuse will not survive additional traffic congestion and street chaos that will drive away business.

Key reconstruction will occur simultaneously in surrounding streets. Fulton Street and Pearl Street are two crosstown streets below Worth Street at Chatham Square, yet these two streets are both shutdown, one permanently (Pearl Street) and Fulton Street has been under reconstruction for over a year.

Please read below one example of reconstruction delays at Fulton Street that hammered local businesses as documented in the Downtown Express.

Furthermore an enormous reconstruction of the Brooklyn Bridge slightly south of Chatham Square is slated to begin in late 2009 lasting four years. We demand that Chatham Square reconstruction not begin until 2013 – after the Brooklyn Bridge and Fulton Street reconstruction is completed. Why should an entire neighborhood, one of the most important ethnic enclaves in the City, be sacrificed for the sake of the City's poor planning in construction projects?

Dig NOT!

Would the city try digging up Fifth Avenue in front of Saks weeks before the holidays when struggling businesses are trying to make it through the recession? Would they hold a big neighborhood meeting to rearrange the concrete in front of their businesses and force locals to scramble and find out what was afoot during the Thanksgiving holiday?
Hell no! What are we -- chopped turkey?!

When election time rolls around -- let's remember who was on our side and who sat on their hands while our streets were ripped up!

Construction on Chatham Square has started today

One of the initial steps in the reconstruction of Chatham Square is to drill test pits. That has been underway for three weeks now. Above are photos of the test pits being dug. These photos are just a taste of what its like to have construction going on in one of the most convoluted thoroughfares in the City.

D.O.T not acting responsibly, what else is new?

I was at a meeting recently in Chinatown with a presentation on the Chatham Square reconfiguration done by two gentlemen - one rep from the Mayor's office, and another rep from the D.O.T. The Chinese press were at the meeting in full force with video cameras, several reporters, etc., all there to cover this important story about the Reconfiguration of Chatham Square.

After the presentation/meeting, I found out that a local downtown reporter (non-Chinese) was denied access to the meeting by the D.O.T.!!! This leads one to question why the D.O.T. would not want any publicity regarding the Chatham Square reconfiguration in any of the NYC English language newspapers. Aside from the racist connotation of this act committed by the D.O.T. - denying regular English language NYC press, but allowing Chinese language media and press - I want to know: What is the D.O.T. covering up here?

Addendum: Everyone found out what the D.O.T. was covering up - I attended a "public hearing" organized by Community Boards 1, 2 and 3 on Tuesday 12/2/2008 the following week: Luis Sanchez of the D.O.T. stated (to paraphrase) "We're going to start this contruction on schedule." This was not a public hearing but an announcement by the D.O.T. that this horrendous 3-year construction project was ready to start on time - without adequate community notice and feedback or input!!

Construction in Downtown Manhattan HURTS business, here's proof....

Here are some excerpts from a great article from a reporter working for Downtown Express Julie Shapiro. Some of our readers have known of Julie's excellent coverage of the placard parking abuse article which appeared in Downtown Express back in April of 08.

Here is Julie's article in its entirety.

This is not reassuring when our neighbors to our South are reported about in this way, this is what we have to look forward to if we allow Chatham Square to be torn up at this time:

"Portnoy’s story of confusion, frustration and resignation is common among small-business owners struggling to stay solvent while dozens of construction projects rip apart streets across Lower Manhattan."

“It’s crazy, very crazy, very bad,” Portnoy said from behind his counter.

"In addition to losing foot traffic, Portnoy is also having trouble getting deliveries. The trucks that deliver cans of paint, for example, are too big to pull up near his store, and even if they do squeeze in, they get a ticket." ....just what Chinatown small business needs at this time, more expenses and harder delivery routes, doesn't anyone recall that we just got a hold on placard parking abuse?

"The water shutoffs, which are part of replacing the 150-year-old water main beneath Fulton St., paralyzed Sav’s business for hours at a time. When the city first broke ground on the project, hordes of rats flooded the street, and it was nearly impossible to keep them out of the ground-floor restaurant, she said." ......lovely isn't it?.....

DOT, at the last meeting they had in Chinatown, informed us that water main work will be done on Worth Street to East Broadway. Just the mention of this rat problem in the newspaper is enough to keep patrons away during construction in Chinatown.

With reference to LMDC's grant money for businesses hurt by endless construction here is a voice of reason by a businessman who thinks like a businessman and not like a bureaucrat:

“The program is not going to help businesses that much,” Zaurov said in a phone interview. “If they would finish it faster, that would be a lot better than any money they give.”

Virtually anyone who has had a jackhammer outside their window can relate to this gentleman's experience:

"Zaurov said the city told him the construction would only last for several weeks, then they said 10 weeks, then 18 months. And while the pace of work was fast at the beginning, with as many as 50 workers per block, Zaurov said the site has gotten sleepy.

Mr. Zaurov adds “It looks the same since Christmas,” Zaurov said, and several other business owners agreed.

Here is another observation during construction :

Alex Costa, who works behind the counter, said the noise and barriers keep customers away. “People are lazy — they just go somewhere else,” Costa said. “People walking on the other side don’t see the signs.”

We'll be interviewing fellow businesses South of Chinatown to see for ourselves what HELL the DOT has in store for Chinatown, check back on the blog to see what we find.

Union construction jobs vs. Chinatown businesses

Think about this for a moment, the 2-3 year construction project at Chatham Square will employ literally hundreds of union construction laborers, insuring that their jobs are secure throughout the project. At the same time one by one Chinatown small businesses will rapidly drop like flies as detours, traffic snarls, and water interruptions drive tourists and business away.

LMDC is far from making any promises to add Chinatown businesses to the list of people desperately waiting in line for their meager symbolic cash handout supposedly to "compensate" them for inconveniences to their business during construction. Those poor souls unfortunate enough to be on a perpetually unearthed street in lower Manhattan are STILL waiting for their checks to come in, some have gone under waiting.

As Chinatown small businesses fail, the affects will be nothing short of catastrophic as the people who rely on meager wages are cut down at the knees and forced to look for work, and in this economy !
If the City forces this reconstruction plan through, it is a clear message that this administration cares more about keeping union workers employed in its projects than keeping THIS ethnic enclave alive and flourishing.

What should be a no-brainer - ie: hold off on a $50 million dollar do-over of a failed ten year old redesign, is instead fast becoming an insurance policy for big union contractors already fat from the City's other drawn out projects.

Chinatown should NOT be the sacrificial lamb at the Mayor's table.

This reconstruction plan is flawed, it is not ready to be presented, much less voted on by Community Board 3, and if the choice is to employ a few hundred union workers to keep a political promise (or gain potential votes for an upcoming mayoral run) or not to and give Chinatown a chance to catch up the worst economic climate since the depression, we choose the later .

Alternatives to the D.O.T. plan do exist, here is one

Shown above is an alternate plan to the one presented by the DOT for Chatham Square.

This plan is far less extensive than the DOT plan.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Maps showing the proposed redesign of Chatham Square

Click the image to ENLARGE.

Above is a diagram showing one map laid over another to show the distinction between what Chatham Square looks like currently, and what the City's proposal is for the reconstruction.
November 26th is the FIRST time that this reconstruction plan has been made available to the public, despite Josh Kraus's (Dept. of Transportation) statement in DowntownExpress this week that " we've had an ad-hoc plan since 2001". Sure, CB3 and DOT will tell you that "groups in the community have seen the plan" but that does nothing if there has never been any way to view the proposals until November 26th 08.

The only reason why the information is NOW available on line is because several outraged business people demanded it at a presentation hosted at Lin Sing Assoc. on Mott St. on Nov. 25th. Surprisingly DOT claimed at the Lin Sing meeting that "CB3 has had the plans , we don't know why they are not on their website, we apologize on behalf of CB3, even though it is not our place to do so". In less than 24 hours the plans were on the CB3 website AND the DOT website.
If it was that easy to do, then why was the information held from the community?

The LIGHT yellow paths on the map show the current configuration, while the darker ORANGE paths show the proposed plan.
Please comment on this plan.

Friday, November 28, 2008

City plans to start Chatham Square reconstruction next year

Early plans by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the city to change the traffic patterns around Chatham Square. At left is a pedestrian walkway along Park Row. The traffic scheme at right is close to the one now expected to be built except there will be two lanes of traffic entering Park Row en route to the police checkpoint from Chatham Square instead of one.
The city’s plans for Chatham Square have been on the table for several years, but they are gaining momentum and detail as next summer’s groundbreaking approaches. Many residents, in turn, are ramping up their criticisms of the street reconfiguration.

“We’re going to be surrounded by construction,” said Jeanie Chin, of the Civic Center Residents Coalition. “I think this would be a disaster…. We can’t afford to dig up the streets again.”
Starting in about seven months, the city plans to realign Chatham Square’s five-way intersection based on the assumption that Park Row, which closed after 9/11 to protect 1 Police Plaza, will not reopen anytime soon. The city Department of Transportation will also add a pedestrian promenade along Park Row and green space to Chatham Square. The project will cost roughly $50 million and will finish in the summer of 2012.

“It’s something that’s overdue,” said Josh Kraus, who works for the D.O.T.’s Lower Manhattan borough commissioner. “We’ve had an ad-hoc system in place since 2001, and it’s time for us to make changes.”
The city will break Chatham Square into two separate intersections, aligning E. Broadway with Worth St. and the Bowery with St. James Pl. A new pedestrian promenade on the east side of Park Row will run from Chatham Square to the Brooklyn Bridge, framed with cherry trees, tall grasses and curved red benches.

“We’ve tried to make this read and feel like a gateway to Chinatown,” Kraus said.
But Chin and others object to the project because they see Chatham Square as a critical intersection and are worried that closing it for construction will back up traffic on Worth St., one of Lower Manhattan’s few unobstructed east-west connectors.

“We don’t see the urgency of having to do Chatham Square right now,” said Paul Lee, a former Chinatown business owner.
Lee wants the city to wait until the economy improves, so businesses are not hit with construction at the same time as sales are already dropping.

“It’s never easy when there is construction,” said Kraus, from the D.O.T. “We do the best we can to minimize disruptions to the community. We certainly have a lot of practice right now.”
Small businesses in Chatham Square will be eligible for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.’s Small Firm Assistance Program, which compensates businesses on streets closed by construction.

Chatham Square will also get a 20,000-square-foot triangular plaza between Mott St. and the Bowery. The plaza’s center will have a water feature with trees and seating, with open space around it and plantings around the perimeter.
Additionally, the city will upgrade the security barriers around Park Row, making them permanent and more similar to bollards elsewhere in the city.
Kraus said the city has already taken community input into consideration in making changes to the plan. Park Row, now two lanes in each direction, was slated to go to one lane in each direction. But the community was worried that narrowing Park Row that much would cause backups at the entrance checkpoint. The D.O.T. decided to keep two lanes entering Park Row from Chatham Square, so buses and residents will be able to enter even while the Police Department screens trucks off to the side.

Also based on community feedback, the D.O.T. decided to keep a lane open on the west side of the Bowery for deliveries during the day and parking at night.
Money for the project will come from the city and possibly the L.M.D.C., which conducted the early planning for the Chatham Square changes. The L.M.D.C. had informally committed to help fund the Chatham Square project several years ago but made no formal allocation. A D.O.T. representative told Community Board 1 last week the L.M.DC. had promised money to the project, but this week the D.O.T. would not comment on the specifics of the funding, besides saying the city would contribute.

The broad strokes of the street reconfiguration are final, but the city still wants input from the community on the landscaping and open-space changes. Residents will have the chance to weigh at a town-hall meeting sponsored by Community Board 3 Tues., Dec. 2 at P.S. 124 at 40 Division St. The meeting will start at 6 p.m., but those who want to speak should arrive at 5:30.


Release Date
April 26, 2006
Press Release Contact
Paul Steely White 1 646-873-6033 View the full study in PDF format
Prompted by community outcry, Transportation Alternatives studied the extent of illegal sidewalk parking in census tract 2900, the five block area surrounding the City, State and Federal Courts, New York Police Department Headquarters, the NYPD's 5th Precinct house and the Municipal Building in Lower Manhattan.
The survey found that between 9 and 10 am on the morning of March 29 there were 99 cars illegally parked on sidewalks and in front of fire hydrants in the area and 16 cars illegally parked blocking a pedestrian refuge island. More than 90% of the cars illegally parked had parking placards that allow for free parking in legal parking spots during "official business," but under no circumstances are to be used to park on sidewalks, in front of fire hydrants or in other illegal ways.
Such egregious illegal parking slows emergency response times, jeopardizes public safety, cripples truck and delivery traffic, impedes pedestrian flow, damages businesses and sends a message to community residents that their neighborhood is less important than the private vehicles of civil servants.
"We have to put an end to the parking anarchy in Chinatown. The lack of regulations, enforcement and planning continues to endanger residents and inhibit the revitalization of the community," said City Councilmemeber Alan Gerson.
"We need to return our sidewalks to New York pedestrians. The City must do more to enforce existing laws to ensure sidewalk access and safety," said City Council Transportation Committee Chair John C. Liu.
Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White stated, "Chinatown is being choked to death because the sidewalks and streets are so saturated with illegal parkers. The community is at the end of their rope because the very people with the power to remedy the situation are the worst offenders."
Jan Lee, a store owner and member of the Civic Center Residents Coalition said, "It does not matter what one does for a living. Nothing gives one the right to compromise the safety and economic health of this community. Let's not let occupation cloud the issue of breaking the law."

"Chinatown Residents Frustrated Over Street Closed Since 9/11" - New York Times

"Chinatown Residents Frustrated Over Street Closed Since 9/11" - New York Times
September 24, 2007

By Cara Buckley

It was the evening rush one recent night in lower Chinatown, and chaos was unfolding in its usual way. Cars slowed to a crawl around Chatham Square, an asterisk of an intersection where seven streets converge. Traffic safety officers frantically waved their white-gloved hands, trying to unsnarl the mess. Pedestrians, some bent double over walkers, shuffled across streets as disorderly columns of cars roared by. But one street, Park Row, which once fed into Chatham Square, was strangely still. Aside from the occasional city bus or official vehicle, it was barren of cars and, instead, was filled with rust-streaked concrete barriers.

Park Row has historically been a major four-lane artery linking the financial district to Chinatown. It begins at Broadway by City Hall Park, zigzags under the Brooklyn Bridge, hugs the length of the New York Police Department’s headquarters and ends at Chatham Square. To the growing fury of many people living nearby, Park Row’s eastern half, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Chatham Square, has been closed to commuter traffic since Sept. 11, 2001, even as other streets and public spaces in Lower Manhattan have reopened. The Police Department says that most of Park Row has to be blocked off to protect its headquarters, called One Police Plaza, against terrorist threats, particularly truck bombs. But many people who live and work in the area say the six-year shutdown has harmed the character and economic vibrancy of much of Chinatown. Having the police close by, they say, has done their community more harm than good. Besides Park Row, three other streets near the headquarters are blocked off wholly or in part, though pedestrians and official vehicles are generally allowed through.

Residents of Chatham Green, a 21-story co-op on Park Row near Chatham Square, have to show identification every time they drive up to and out of their building because its driveway lies beyond a police barricade and a security checkpoint. A driveway to another residential building, Chatham Towers, is behind the barricade, too. Residents blame the barricades for increased home insurance rates; others complain the barriers slow emergency vehicles. Shop owners at the foot of nearby Mott Street say that business is down and that store turnover and vacancy rates have climbed. Traffic heading through Chatham Square now clogs narrower lanes, like St. James Place and Worth Street. “I hate it. I don’t feel like I have real freedom,” said Joe D’Amico, 27, a middle school teacher who has lived in Chatham Green for seven years. “I’m only let into my building at the whim of a cop.” Members of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, a group based in Chinatown, have been fighting the security footprint around police headquarters for years. They recognize the department’s security concerns but oppose policies they say have placed a chokehold on their neighborhood. The group argues that if police headquarters is such a terrorist mark, then it should be moved out of a residential area altogether. “If closing Park Row is contingent on a target, then remove the target,” said Jan Lee, a member of the coalition who owns a furniture shop near the foot of Mott Street.

But Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said the headquarters was not moving. He said the police had tried to alleviate the impact of the security measures, in part by stopping officers from parking in nearby public spaces and by reopening a stairway that skirts the headquarters’ south side and leads down to street level near the Brooklyn Bridge. The department also plans to redesign its guard booths and security barriers to make them more attractive, Mr. Browne said, and is involved in efforts to convert two lanes of Park Row into a pedestrian greenway. “The Police Department has worked hard to be responsive to the community while maintaining the requisite level of security for this sensitive location,” he said. But many residents see the idea of a greenway as a thinly disguised effort to close Park Row as a thoroughfare for good. “It sounds like a Trojan horse,” said Danny Chen, who lives in Chatham Green. Plans are also in the early stages to reconfigure Chatham Square by moving a public square that holds a soaring statue of Lin Ze Xu, a 19th-century Chinese official, and linking the Bowery, on the north side of the square, directly to St. James Place, on the south, and other streets.

Many residents are leery about this step too. The coalition has enlisted powerful local figures in its fight, including Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the State Assembly, who represents the Lower East Side and Chinatown. He said the continued closing of Park Row was sure to worsen congestion in Lower Manhattan and Chinatown with the rebuilding of ground zero under way. “The brilliant minds have to get together,” Mr. Silver said. “With all the technology that’s available today, they can accommodate the needs of security and the needs of the community.” Yet security experts and urban planners say the heightened protection around One Police Plaza is a necessary piece of the post-Sept. 11 landscape. All of New York has had to adapt since the attacks, said Mitchell L. Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “Park Row is not just a corridor to Chinatown, but it’s a barrier between the New York Police Department and potential vulnerability,” he said. Despite the widespread anger caused by the security perimeter, some Chinatown residents say they have seen some benefits. Nita Canapa, an elderly woman who lives in Chatham Green, said it was now easier for her to walk across Park Row. Jin Lei, 40, a computer programmer who also lives in Chatham Green, says he likes the comparable peacefulness of the street and feels more secure.

The coalition opposing the security measures has waged successful fights against the police before. Ruling in 2003 on a suit filed by the group, a State Supreme Court judge, Walter B. Tolub, ordered the police to stop using a small park near its headquarters as a parking lot. The group successfully petitioned the city to allow buses to go down Park Row again. The Police Department was ordered in 2005 to conduct an environmental impact study of the street closings around its headquarters, including barricaded parts of Madison and Pearl Streets. The final report is 372 pages long and was released in early August. It concluded that while some effects of the security measures could be mitigated, others, like increased noise and traffic congestion, might be permanent nuisances. But neighborhood leaders say the report understated the impact of the sealed-off streets and wrongly characterized the closings as inevitable.

“This was a critical link for Chinatown, and it’s such an insult to Chinatown for them to downplay the impact,” said Jeanie Chin, a member of the coalition, standing at the foot of Park Row one morning last week. “They’re treating the community the same as terrorists,” she said.

The Red Cross provides aid to Chinatown and L.E.S.

The Red Cross provides aid to Chinatown and L.E.S.
By Lincoln Anderson

A Chinatown civic and business group and Community Board 3 both got some first aid last Thursday. Each has been awarded a Sept. 11 Recovery Grant by the American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund to help improve the community. The grants are part of a Red Cross program to help neighborhoods recover from the lingering effects of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation was awarded a $422,000 grant, while C.B. 3 received $100,000.
The Chinatown Partnership will use its grant to create a comprehensive public process to assure that the community is actively involved in the planning and redesign of public spaces, important roadways and parks in Chinatown, and has access to government resources and services.
C.B. 3 will use its grant money on a Lower East Side Transportation Awareness and Outreach Program that will focus on issues like Park Row, which is still partially closed four years after 9/11.
The announcement was made at a press conference in Chatham Square attended by Amy Chin, interim executive director of the Chinatown Partnership L.D.C.; David Louie, Chinatown Partnership L.D.C. chairperson; David McWater, chairperson of Community Board 3; Peter H. Kostmayer, president of Citizens for NYC; Danny Chen, project manager of the Community Board 3 Transportation Project, and other community leaders and residents.
“With more than half of the residents of Lower Manhattan living in Chinatown, post-9/11 community revitalization efforts cannot ignore the plight of this historically significant community,” said Louie.
“Now, thanks to this Sept. 11 Recovery Grant from the American Red Cross and extraordinary collaboration with our partners — Community Board 3, Civic Center Residents Coalition and Citizens for NYC — this community will receive the attention it deserves and the help it so desperately needs.”
Said McWater of C.B. 3, “This is the first time the community board has ever applied for a grant. This financial support will have a tremendous impact on allowing the board to reach out to the community and involve residents in community planning.”
After the 9/11 attacks, major-access arteries and parks in and around the vicinity of Chinatown were closed, as were the side streets that connected the neighborhood to the Financial District. Today, due to the continued closing of Park Row for security reasons, access to much of Downtown, including City Hall, the courts, government offices and NYU Downtown Hospital, remains more difficult than it was before the terrorist attacks.
Chin said the projects’ planners must seek and engage the Chinatown community. With the Red Cross Sept. 11 Recovery Grant, the Chinatown Partnership L.D.C. will create a comprehensive public process to engage the community in the future design and development of its neighborhood through open forums, community outreach, street-level discourse and workshops.
Chin noted, “By encouraging Chinatown residents to become involved and by soliciting their ideas and views, we will create culturally appropriate designs that reflect local needs and uses. And more importantly, residents will begin to reclaim ownership of their community, much of which had been usurped because of post-9/11 security concerns.”
The Partnership will focus on four key projects: Park Row, Chatham Square, Pier 35/East River waterfront redevelopment and James Madison Park.
A major artery, Park Row has been closed since 9/11 and only recently has been partially opened to buses. Future plans for the area are unclear. This civic involvement process will work to ensure that the plans are acceptable to and compatible with the community.
A residential anchor, center of commerce and historically significant meeting place, Chatham Square joins (Cantonese) historic Chinatown and (Fukienese) East Broadway. Working with the city’s Department of Transportation and community leaders, the Partnership will coordinate the community’s involvement in the redesign of Chatham Square as a central public space.
A new waterfront park at Pier 35 will be an important amenity for Chinatown and Lower East Side residents and will potentially make this the only Chinatown in America with waterfront access. The Chinatown Partnership L.D.C., through its civic planning process, will provide an opportunity for Chinatown and Lower East Side residents to shape the design, programming and eventual use of the new park.
As the Parks Department plans to redesign the half-acre James Madison Park, the Partnership will work with the city Parks and Transportation departments to ensure input from residents of Chatham Green and Chatham Towers, as well as students and staff at Murray Bergtraum High School and other neighborhood stakeholders.
The Partnership will also use the Red Cross funding to create a Chinatown Night Market, modeled on a tradition of night markets in East Asia and the new, successful night market in San Francisco — as well as outdoor events that combine family time with community interaction.
In addition, new street signs and maps throughout the community and at several key intersections will improve Chinatown’s social and physical integration into Lower Manhattan and connection with surrounding neighborhoods, such as Soho, the Financial District, Little Italy, Lower East Side, South St. Seaport and Tribeca.
Additionally, the Partnership will create a semi-volunteer team of trained bilingual community information guides, called Jammers, standing for “Just Ask Me.” Jammers, identifiable by their colorful uniforms, will provide residents and visitors vital information about access to public and private services, cultural institutions, city and state agencies, local businesses, social service programs, educational institutions and other services. Jammers will receive a modest stipend.
The Partnership will also develop and publish a comprehensive quarterly bilingual resource guide that can be included in newspapers and newsletters. The guide will provide local residents with timely and updated information about health fairs, community events, workshops and seminars and ongoing programs operated by local community agencies. The Resource Guide will also be available at locations throughout Chinatown.
The Chinatown Partnership is an outgrowth of the Rebuild Chinatown Initiative, which was begun as a project to spark community discourse on planning the future of Chinatown.
C.B. 3 will use its grant to put do a monthly newsletter, Web site and four public forums on transportation issues and to fund student interns working on traffic-simulation programs. The newsletter will be distributed to the board’s mail and e-mail list and dropped off at housing complexes.
“This grant will help bootstrap efforts to inform and involve more Chinatown and Lower East Side residents on the transportation and environmental issues that are crucial to our neighborhoods,” said Chen, a C.B. 3 public member, co-founder of the Civic Center Residents Coalition — a group that formed after 9/11 in response to issues like the closing of Park Row — and the manager of the board’s Transportation Project.
University Settlement, the Lower East Side’s 120-year-old settlement house, will be the fiscal manager for the community board’s grant.
Civil engineering and/or computer science students interested in the internship should call the community board office at 212-533-5300, ext. 320

Civic Center Residents Coalition Finds Issues with DOT Placard Study

Civic Center Residents Coalition Opposes Mayor Bloomberg’s Congestion Pricing Plan

Recently Released DOT Placard Parking Survey Backs Lower Manhattan Residents’ Claims that Bloomberg’s Congestion Pricing Plan Will Not Work
The Civic Center Residents Coalition, an alliance of Lower Manhattan residential complexes and small business owners formed after 9/11, has long been calling attention to the impact of illegal placard parking on the safety and well being of Downtown residents and businesses for years.
The long awaited N.Y.D.O.T. study, entitled “Placard Parking Usage in Lower Manhattan, issue 3″ provides the best documentation of the magnitude of the problem. This 400+ page document released just two weeks before the Congestion Pricing vote is still not posted on the DOT’s website. The study also provides strong evidence that Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed Congestion Pricing Plan will not provide significant reduction of vehicular traffic in Lower Manhattan.Some important findings from the study, which is absent from the DOT’s website but referenced in various periodicals and websites, include:
* 142,000 government issued placards (as opposed to the 70,000 placards the Administration admitted to just two months ago)* Law enforcement and agency parking take nearly ½ of the peak curbside parking capacity of Lower Manhattan.* Nearly 1 out of 8 placarded vehicles are parked illegally (e.g. at fire hydrants, bus stops, crosswalks, etc).* Nearly 1/10th of all vehicles found with law enforcement and agency placards had illegal placards.* The 570K parking study found that the financial district had 25% more fake placard parkers than the rest of the downtown area (12% fake placards in financial district, as opposed to 9% in the rest of the downtown area below Canal Street).
Outside of the scope of the study was any estimation of how much of placard use was actually on city business. But the study did find that law enforcement and agency parking exceeded their allocation by almost 50%.
Also outside of the scope of the study was any estimation of how many placards are being used for the purposes of facilitating commuting into Lower Manhattan. But the idea that there are at least 160,000 placarded cars driving in and around Lower Manhattan on any given day says that the Mayor’s congestion pricing scheme will not work Downtown.
Why have our three community boards’ requests for “No Permit Parking” signs, a viable alternative to congestion pricing in Lower Manhattan, been ignored? More importantly, we need stringent enforcement of existing parking permit regulations instead of taxes. If we must have a tax, make that a restoration of the commuter one. This plus the elimination of government permit parking abuse would truly be a significant legacy from Mayor Bloomberg. Residents of Lower Manhattan find the claim that government workers and NYPD will not be exempt from congestion pricing BOGUS, since the City’s history of laissez faire towards placard abuse by its own workforce has, for two decades, gone largely unenforced.
We find that the Mayor’s “one size fits all” plan will further damage Lower Manhattan while providing none of the air quality and safety relief that he is hoping will convince legislators to adopt this new form of tax.

Settling lawsuit but not all issues on Park Row - Downtown Express

After five years of arguments over the closure of Park Row, the city settled a lawsuit with Lower Manhattan residents.
The Civic Center Residents Coalition filed its first suit against the city in 2003, frustrated that the N.Y.P.D. refused to reopen Park Row or acknowledge the impact of the closure on the community. The N.Y.P.D. barricaded the street after 9/11 to keep police headquarters safe.
Under the settlement, the city will try to reduce the impact of the closure on pedestrians and ambulances traveling to Downtown Hospital. The city and N.Y.P.D. also agreed to meet with residents to discuss larger changes, such as shifting the barricades to open up more of the street.
“We were not asking for anything outlandish,” said Jeanie Chin, a Civic Center resident who spearheaded the effort to reopen Park Row. “It’s incredible we were forced to spend so much time and energy on this issue.”
When Park Row closed, traffic shifted onto surrounding streets, creating jams and a dangerous situation for pedestrians, Chin said. In the settlement, the city has promised to install a light and crosswalks on Worth St. at Baxter St. and on St. James Place at James St. The city will also consider installing a crosswalk on Worth St. at Mulberry St. The new crosswalks, Chin said, “are long overdue.”
The city installed the light at Worth and Baxter Sts. and the crosswalk at St. James Place and James St. before the settlement was finalized, as an act of good faith, a city official said.
“We’re trying to make a difficult situation better for the community,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In addition, the city will place signs near the barricades that block off Park Row to tell ambulance drivers that they can use the street to get to Downtown Hospital. Park Row has long been open to ambulances, but drivers are not aware of that and take longer detours around, endangering patients, Chin said. The city will also place emergency defibrillators at the northern Park Row barricades. The defibrillators will arrive “in the very new future,” and the officers who staff the barricades will receive training in how to use them, the city official said.
Finally, the city and N.Y.P.D. agreed to meet with residents to discuss two unresolved issues. The first is the widespread placard-parking problem. Cars with N.Y.P.D. placards line the streets and sidewalks surrounding 1 Police Plaza, preventing shoppers from parking near stores and making it difficult for emergency vehicles to negotiate the narrowed streets. The N.Y.P.D. has reduced its placards in the past several months as part of a city initiative, but residents say that cars with police placards, both real and fake, continue to clog the streets.
The second topic of discussion will be the community’s request that the N.Y.P.D. move the northern barrier of Park Row 125 feet to the south. Moving the security barriers would allow cars to enter and exit the Chatham Green parking lot without having to pass through a checkpoint.
The N.Y.P.D. has repeatedly rejected this request, saying the move could put police headquarters at risk, but they will now reexamine it with the residents and outside security experts, under the terms of the settlement.
“We are pleased to have resolved [the lawsuit] amicably, and we look forward to moving ahead,” Chris Reo, a lawyer for the city, said in a statement to Downtown Express.
John Ost, a member of the Southbridge Towers board who joined Chin in filing the lawsuit, sees the settlement as a step in the right direction, but a small one. He is still concerned about the pervasive placard-parking problem, even given the promise of future discussions.
“This is best the police department can do?” Ost said. “Come on — we expect more from them.”
Ost wants to see Park Row reopened, but for now he and the other residents will focus on making sure the city follows the terms of the settlement.
The ultimate remedy for the residents will come from the political process, not the courts, said Roy Taub, an associate at Dewey & LeBoeuf, the firm that represented the residents.
“We are cautiously optimistic that the parties now see eye to eye,” Taub said. He does not envision future legal action regarding the impact of the Park Row closure as long as the City complies with the settlement agreement.
A group of attorneys at Dewey & LeBoeuf worked on the case pro-bono, but had they billed a client, they would have netted over $900,000 in the past four years, Taub said.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund also supported the residents in the suits.
The lawsuit just settled was filed last December, but it was part of a chain of legal actions that date back to 2003. Chin and other members of the Civic Center Residents Coalition were fed up with the city’s unilateral decision to close Park Row and felt the city left them no option but litigation.
The most recent lawsuit questioned the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement the city produced to describe the impact of the Park Row closure. The E.I.S. did not give enough consideration the impact of the closure on traffic, illegal placard parking, changes in community character, increased response times for emergency vehicles, weakened property values and alternatives proposed by the community, Taub said.
“The city’s consultant on the E.I.S. simply accepted the N.Y.P.D.’s conclusions, rejecting these community-proposed alternatives without any corroboration,” Taub said.
The city produced the E.I.S. after previous lawsuits filed by the residents. In the settlement, Taub and the other attorneys did not have to agree that the E.I.S. was adequate, and the residents still question its sufficiency. Usually, a developer will do an E.I.S. before a project is implemented, not afterwards, and the city will monitor the process. Here, the N.Y.P.D. was the one determining the impact of its own action. Also, the N.Y.P.D. did not analyze the impact of closing the street until it was already closed.
“They’re ignoring not only the future but the present,” Taub said. “The city is policing itself in this environmental review.”
The city employee, who did not give his name, defended the E.I.S.
“We stand behind it,” he said. “It’s a comprehensive and thorough review.”
Had Judge Walter Tolub ruled in favor of the residents in the most recent lawsuit, rather than approving the settlement, the city would likely have had to revise the E.I.S., a process that could have taken months or years. The settlement brought more immediate and more substantial results to the residents, Taub said.
The Park Row closure spurred the Civic Center Residents Coalition to advocate for the “Park Row bill,” which the City Council passed in 2005. The bill prevents the city from closing any streets in the future without due process. The bill did not apply to Park Row because several buses were restored, which means the street is not entirely closed, Chin said.
For Chin, the settlement’s success shows that residents need to stand up for themselves if they want anyone to listen.
“You can’t just steamroll over the community,” she said. May 16 08