Friday, December 19, 2008

Community Board 3 votes to Reject The DOT plan for Chatham Square

On December 16th Community Board 3 voted to reject the Dept. of Transportation's plan for Chatham Square's reconstruction. Community Board 3 represents 164,000 residents of lower Manhattan.
Some elements of the Chinatown community's own resolution were incorporated into
CB3's final version - namely the last FIVE "whereas"'s, the entire community authored version is posted on this blog. It was after much deliberation that the board ultimately decided to include these elements.

Here is the final resolution that was voted on:

WHEREAS, The City has presented a Chatham Square/Park Row Redesign that would reconfigure the intersections in Chatham Square to improve traffic and pedestrian conditions and create a substantial new public open space. Implementation of this redesign would fully implement two mandated mitigation measures identified in the lawsuit regarding the One Police Plaza Security Plan Environmental Impact statement (the EIS) developed during the environmental review process between April 2005 and August 2007:
The reconfiguration of Chatham Square – The existing complicated intersection in Chatham Square would be simplified by creating two smaller, more regular intersections. The planned reconfiguration would realign both the north‐south and east‐west movements through Chatham Square: the Bowery would flow directly into St. James Place while Worth Street would flow directly into East Broadway. The new alignment of the Bowery would create a new public plaza featuring a dedicated space for the existing Kim Lau Memorial Arch as well as programmable space for a variety of passive public uses and community celebrations. The new plaza would be roughly triangular in shape, extending to the southeast from the street wall between Mott St and Doyers St.

The creation of a pedestrian promenade on Park Row – The redesign would realign Park Row with Mott St, forming a right‐angle intersection with Worth St. Park Row would be reduced to one south‐ and one northbound lane, with nearly half of the right‐of‐way for vehicles converted into a landscaped promenade for pedestrians. At the checkpoint at the north end of Park Row the City has added an additional southbound lane to facilitate vehicle movement through the checkpoint and reduce the risk of delays associated with vehicle screening. The Commissioner Lin Ze Xu statue would be moved to a new location at the northern terminus of the promenade near Chatham Square. A 6‐minute walk along this 4/10‐mile long promenade would connect Chinatown with the Civic Center and with existing parks at Brooklyn Bridge Plaza and Drumgoole Plaza. Pedestrians could reach One Police Plaza and the Municipal Building via a ramp, or could continue on the promenade under the One Police Plaza "underpass" to reach the Brooklyn Bridge and the Financial District; and

WHEREAS, The existing Chatham Square intersection was built in 1999, when it was aligned to facilitate the north‐south movement between the Bowery and Park Row. Because of the security plan for One Police Plaza after September 11, 2001, Park Row has been closed to general traffic (excepting local residents, NYPD vehicles, NYCT buses and emergency services). When Park Row was closed, north‐south traffic was shifted to St. James Place, sending motorists along a serpentine path through the Chatham Square and causing significant traffic congestion in surrounding areas. Pedestrians crossing through Chatham Square must contend with long crossings, inadequate sight lines causing safety concerns, and multiple simultaneous turning movements through crosswalks; and
WHEREAS, A series of legal challenges were mounted against the One Police Plaza security plan, which resulted in the preparation of a detailed Environmental Impact Statement by the NYPD. The environmental review process, which lasted from April 2005 to August 2007, recommended implementation of two major mitigation measures in order to address these significant adverse impacts: the reconfiguration of Chatham Square and the creation of a pedestrian promenade on Park Row; and
WHEREAS, The redesign of Chatham Square is intended to alleviate those conditions. Traffic 3
simulation analysis of the reconfiguration was conducted by the City as part of the EIS process, and independently by Brian Ketcham, a traffic consultant retained by CB3. Both of these models showed a marked improvement in traffic movements with the proposed reconfiguration. Mr. Ketcham has also recommended a slight change to the reconfiguration to add one more eastbound lane for the Worth Street approach to Bowery, because his model shows this improvement would improve traffic, cutting travel time in half. The City has already begun review of this option; and
WHEREAS, The reconfiguration of Chatham Square would not preclude the reopening of Park Row at some later date. This is a long‐standing demand of local residents and businesses, and remains the official position of CB3 and local elected officials. The current proposal would not allow Park Row to return to its former role as a major thoroughfare, because it would not be aligned directly with the Bowery. In the event that Park Row were to reopen to general traffic, DOT would conduct any necessary traffic analysis, and could implement modifications such as adjusting signal timings, roadway striping, or the roadway alignment to ensure the intersection functions properly. CB3 has initiated a new analysis with Mr. Ketcham, who will continue to work with city on a plan on how Park Row would function were it to reopen and what steps would be necessary. This would inform final design for the creation of a pedestrian promenade on Park Row; and
WHEREAS, Since the Final EIS was issued in August 2007, City officials have been meeting with local residents, business owners, Community Boards and other stakeholders to explain the plan and gather feedback. The City outreach included at least one meeting with the following groups: Community Boards 1, 2, and 3, City Councilman Alan Gerson, State Senator Martin Connor, State Senator‐Elect Daniel Squadron, Civic Center Residents Coalition NYC, Chatham Green Board, Chatham Tower Board, Lin Ze Xu Foundation, American Legion, PS 124, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Society, Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Chinatown Partnership LDC, Mariner's Temple, Grace Gratitude Buddhist Temple, Fujianese Association of NY, United Fujianese Association, Smith/Hamilton Houses, Hamilton Houses Senior Center, and NY Chinatown Senior Center. Public comment led to a number of valuable improvements to the plan, including:
Retention of parking lanes on St James Place.
Maintaining the current direction of Oliver Street.
Creation of a lay‐by lane on The Bowery for retail deliveries and night‐time community parking
Reconfiguration of the security checkpoint at the northern end of Park Row to improve throughput, and access to Chatham Green.
Design of open space surrounding Kimlau Memorial Arch on Chatham Square for events by the American Legion.
Location and alignment of Commissioner Lin Ze Xu statue (facing east Broadway), creation of open space around the statue to facilitate annual gatherings.
To improve pedestrian crossings and safety, refuge islands were introduced into the roadway plans where possible; and

WHEREAS, The proposed alignment was reviewed and approved by the New York City Department of Transportation and the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). The FDNY, in its letter of support stated "… there will be more efficient movement of the fire department apparatus in all directions as a result of this new traffic design." Additionally the proposed alignment was reviewed by the New York City Transit Authority which found the new design would be a substantial improvement and would not create any mobility problems for regular or articulated buses; and
WHEREAS, there has already been a 13‐month delay in the approval and implementation of the Chatham Square/Park Row Redesign. A CB3 public hearing on Chatham Square/Park Row Redesign was originally planned for November 2007, a few months after the final EIS was issued, but was delayed due to, among other things, ongoing litigation challenging the final EIS. After that lawsuit was resolved, a subsequent hearing was planned for August 2008. In July 2008, the City's project team realized that because of the delay, the Chatham Square reconstruction was now potentially in conflict with the Brooklyn Bridge Rehabilitation Project. The public hearing was postponed while DOT and DDC coordinated implementing both projects, which took until October 2008. On December 2, 2008, CB3 was finally able to sponsor its Public Hearing on Chatham Square Traffic/Park Redesign, which was co‐sponsored by CB1 and CB2. At that meeting, the City presented to the public the detailed design plans for the reconfiguration of Chatham Square and the creation of a pedestrian promenade on Park Row; and
WHEREAS, Work on rehabilitation of the approach spans and ramps of the Brooklyn Bridge will begin in the spring of 2010 and will continue in stages through 2014. It is important to coordinate work on Chatham Square and the Brooklyn Bridge, because these two projects are essentially in the same area. A severe traffic problem and a rippling effect could result if work is not staged carefully. 4
During night‐time and week‐end work on the Brooklyn Bridge, its traffic will be detoured. Traffic simulations and prior experience with work on the Brooklyn Bridge suggest that a significant portion of this traffic would be added to the Manhattan Bridge. If work on the subsurface utility work in the central parts of Chatham Square project cannot be completed prior to the spring of 2010, there would only be one lane of moving traffic through Chatham Square during those Brooklyn Bridge detours. Traffic simulations of that scenario show severe traffic congestion in areas surrounding Chatham Square – on the Bowery, on Worth St and Canal St, and across the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn; and
WHEREAS, The City is moving forward with implementing the Chatham Square/Park Row Redesign, the major mitigation measures discussed in the One Police Plaza Security Plan EIS. The City needs approval from the Public Design Commission (formerly the Arts Commission) to go forward with certain project components. Any delay increases the risk that the Brooklyn Bridge rehabilitation detours and Chatham Square infrastructure work will overlap; a delay of 2 months greatly increases the risk that the two projects will overlap and lead to an intensification of the negative impacts as described above; and
WHEREAS, The City has proposed the following schedule for components of the Chatham Square/Park Row Redesign project and the nearby Brooklyn Bridge Rehabilitation project:
The reconfiguration of Chatham Square. Issue construction bid in January 2009. Begin Chatham Square/Park Row construction by June 2009. Complete the utility infrastructure work under The Bowery and Worth St by spring 2010. Utility work under St. James Place and East Broadway would be finished by mid‐2011. The final street alignment and resurfacing, including changes to the alignment and lane configuration along Park Row, would be completed by early 2012.

Brooklyn Bridge Rehabilitation. Begin deck and ramp construction in spring 2010. Work continued in stages through mid‐2013.

Open Space in Chatham Square and Park Row promenade. The design process would continue until mid‐2009, in consultation with CB3 and the public. Procurement until early 2010. Open space construction until early‐2012; and

WHEREAS, The City has committed to providing a regular set of stakeholder meetings coordinated through the Lower Manhattan Command Center (LMCCC) in the Chatham Square/Brooklyn Bridge area (venue to be located with the help of CB3), that will coordinate work of all involved agencies and will meet regularly with these agencies and community stakeholders to resolve issues, and this stakeholder group or taskforce will start functioning immediately before actual construction work begins; and
WHEREAS, The City has committed to providing a community liaison who will be on‐site during construction hours through the Department of Design and Construction to handle community requests and concerns and interface directly with the contractor, and the city construction managers and community liaisons will be located in a field office located in the Chatham Square/Brooklyn Bridge area, and will have Chinese language services available; and
WHEREAS, The Lower Manhattan Small Firm Assistance Program will be in place for these projects to alleviate adverse effects of publicly‐funded construction projects and contribute to firm's working capital, with grants of up to $25,000 available for small firms. The Program seeks to assist eligible businesses affected by the temporary closure of streets or sidewalks and to address the potential for blight during the Program eligibility period; and
WHEREAS, The City is continuing to work with CB3 and our traffic consultant, Mr. Ketcham, by providing additional information, especially concerning pedestrian safety and future traffic conditions, which may have been very conservative in the EIS, as well as information regarding the cross‐effects with Brooklyn Bridge work, and which includes, but is not limited to, the following information:
We are seeking specific information needed for the technical basis of a pedestrian and vehicular safety evaluation, including pedestrian counts and pedestrian‐vehicle conflict analysis in the Chatham Square area.

We are seeking traffic and pedestrian analyses for both midday and weekends, since we are also concerned about accommodating pedestrian and traffic movements on weekends. The "Chinatown Access and Circulation Study" issued by LMDC in December

2004 reported weekend conditions are worse than average weekday conditions. And, in fact, midday weekday pedestrian conditions are typically worse than evening peak hours. We must be sure the true worst case conditions are being analyzed.

We want a full assessment of reasonable traffic conditions in ten and twenty years. We are concerned that the City's traffic analysis is limited to conditions observed three years ago. Mr. Ketcham has demonstrated that counts taken in 2005 are lower than what has occurred in earlier years and they can be expected to return to much higher levels in future years. The City has agreed to perform sensitivity analysis estimating the potential for accommodating any growth in traffic volumes at the 10‐ and 20‐year horizon and will look at midday and weekend traffic patterns.

We also want an assessment as to whether Chatham Square would function acceptably were Park Row to be opened to traffic in the future. We want to assess scenarios with one and with two moving lanes in both directions.

Because Chatham Square is being expedited in anticipation of the rehabilitation of the Brooklyn Bridge, but no work can begin on the Bridge or the Square until maintenance and protection of traffic (M&PT) plans for each are adopted following public review, and because of the obvious need to coordinate the two projects and to integrate the two M&PT plans, DOT has provided and we are reviewing a copy of the draft Bridge M&PT plan along with the following: all traffic data, manual counts and automatic traffic counter counts, used in evaluating diversion routes for the Brooklyn Bridge reconstruction; and all information on any micro‐assignment and traffic simulation modeling to optimize the Bridge construction M&PT plan; and

WHEREAS, The City is being asked to commit to working with CB3 and the impacted community for the next several months to study unresolved design issues, such as, but not limited to,
Adding one more eastbound lane for the Worth Street approach to Bowery.

A plan on how Park Row would function were it to reopen and what steps would be necessary. This would inform final design for the creation of a pedestrian promenade on Park Row, which will undergo a design process that would continue until mid‐2009.

Integration of the M&PT plans including work schedules for the Chatham Square/Park Row Redesign and Brooklyn Bridge Rehabilitation Project.

Improving other aspects of the Chatham Square/Park Row Redesign concerning pedestrian safety and future traffic conditions, as recommendations are developed using the information and analysis from the previous section; and

WHEREAS, Although CB3 agrees that Park Row must be re‐opened for Chinatown and the surrounding communities to experience their full and complete revitalization, the Chatham Square/Park Row Redesign would help mitigate much of the economic impacts caused by the closure of Park Row:
Construction on the present timeline would result in all of the Chatham Square / Park Row Improvement Project being completed by 2012 when the WTC Memorial is complete and there will be many new tourists in Lower Manhattan.

The creation of a Park Row promenade, as well as the introduction of a pedestrian ramp, would create an inviting, pleasant and direct connection for pedestrians and cyclists between Lower Manhattan and the Civic Center to Chinatown. The open space project would incorporate signage to guide people through the area, and direct them to local destinations.

The new alignment of Chatham Square would help traffic, pedestrians and cyclists move more efficiently and safely into and through the Chinatown area.

The upgrade to security devices around the perimeter of the Civic Center Security Zone would greatly improve the aesthetics and urban design of the area, pedestrian mobility and appeal of moving between the Civic Center and Chinatown.

The creation of a new 27,000sf public open space in Chatham Square would provide a central gathering place for the Chinatown community, a venue to hold events, and offer opportunities for passive recreation with seating and plantings; and

WHEREAS, public comment at the December 2 public hearing was overwhelmingly against the lack of sufficient public involvement in the design process; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Transportation has not done adequate research regarding the economic impact of three plus years of reconstruction at Chatham Square, nor has the D.O.T. provided a business mitigation plan to the Chinatown community prior to the reconstruction of Chatham Square; and
WHEREAS, Community Board 3 did not give the public the opportunity to view detailed plans of Chatham Square’s reconstruction until 6 days before the public hearing of December 2, 2008; and
WHEREAS, the Chinatown community has not had ample time to caucus and present an alternative plan for the recontruction with alternative construction schedule; and
WHEREAS, the unanimous opposition expressed at the December 2, 2008 public hearing regarding Chatham Square reconfiguration accurately reflects the vast majority of Chinatown groups comprised of residents, businesses and nonprofits
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that at this time, Community Board 3‐Manhattan rejects the Chatham Square/Park Row Redesign. Because CB3 and the community ultimately want the City to reopen Park Row, we believe it is necessary to plan for this eventuality now. Because of the protracted nature of the proposed reconstruction, we believe it is necessary for the City to provide a detailed business support plan that goes beyond the on‐site community liaison and Small Firm Assistance Program grants outlined above. We ask the City to commit to working with the Community Board 3 Taskforce in a public process to analyze and finalize the outstanding issues of the design along with supplying further information to support the analysis. CB3 also commits to holding another public meeting in February 2009 so that the community can see the proposed final design and make comments to the design, which should incorporate the resolutions to the outstanding issues.
David: CB3 Taskforce will be focusing on the traffic layout. CB3 has a traffic consultant, Brian Kitchen working with the DOT and reporting back to CB.
Susan: there will be a series of public hearings in January and February.
Joel:community does not want to “withhold support” but rather reject the plan.
David: DOT said they were going ahead with the plan. This resolution will offer us some community input. If we don’t pass this we will forgo the opportunity to discuss safety and business plans at all.
Harry: noted other traffic plans that the DOT has not organized well and wants to use the word “thorough” when asking for a safety plan in the resolution.
Bonnie: noted possibly adding language mentioning business plan specifically.
Dominic: many politicians noted the lack of process in CS design. By creating this taskforce we are keeping the lines of communication and input open.
Rocky: also believes we should replace “withholds support” to “rejects”

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