Testimony of Councilman Alan Gerson
Date: 12/2/2008 at P.S. 124
Place: Public Hearing organized by CB3, CB2 and CB1
Transcribed by: Geoff Lee
All punctuation and edits, i.e. ( ), [ ] ..., are added to maintain context
... The plan [to reconfigure Chatham Square] at this stage has many, many very positive and very significant elements and I believe it manifests a significant step forward in the overall planning of this ... community. I believe this plan holds significant promise, with the elements here, that we can work on and build upon, with adequate and full community input, to attain the best possible plan that works for pedestrians, that works for traffic, that works for residents, that works for businesses, that works for culture, that works for our mission of a great future for our community which we fundamentally all share. But, I also feel emphatically that we are NOT at that point yet.
This plan is very much a work in progress, including its most fundamental elements involved in concerned aspects of the streetscape and its alignment. I believe it is way too premature for this community and this community board to take a position. I believe it is even too premature for the City to, at this stage, ASK the community board to reach a position or to approve this plan at this stage. (APPLAUSE)
[Reasonable period time]
As a matter of process, as strictly a matter of process, this is the first time many of us, most of us, if not all of us - have seen this level of detail on this proposal [for Catham Square reconstruction]. Many of us have been involved in previous consultations over the years, many of us have NOT been involved, but I do not think any of us - certainly few of us - have seen this level of detail, and this is a lot to digest.
Once it [the Chatham Square reconfiguration] is accomplished, it will have an impact on our community for generations. It is critical that we believe in a community process of full input - that this community be given the opportunity to digest, and to register its input. This can be accomplished thoroughly, without going on forever. This is not a delaying tactic, this is an approach, not a tactic, of community input, asking for a reasonable period of time, weeks or a few months, to respond to something that is going to impact us literally for all of our remaining time.
I think the community board and our office should work together with all of the community and the City administration to make sure we have an expedited but thorough, thorough process of input, building on what we have seen tonight.
So, I urge the Community Board not to approve this plan on this evening, but rather to allow the process. (APPLAUSE)
[Issues for Consideration]
Finally, there are serious issues of content which still need to be addressed, and which cannot be adequately entertained and evaluated tonight. Brian (Ketcham) raised plenty of that.
(1) The issue of assurance that this will not foreclose the possibility for the opening of Park Row down the line if security conditions allow it. (APPLAUSE)
(2) The issue of the business community that will be directly impacted by a multi-year construction project. We need, at the very least, to have a business mitigation plan in place in advance. I have asked the City for that plan. To their credit, the made a comittment to that, but they have not put together that plan as of now, and that plan should be put together BEFORE, not after, approving this [Chatham Square reconfiguration].
(3) Park Row improvement - to make it more pedestrian-friendly and more environmentally sound including, once and for all, making the barriers quieter .... so they don't inflict noise pollution. Improving the Park Row entrance, improving the streetscape of Park Row ... can proceed immediately, and should proceed, without delay from the rest of the process.
Finally, the community board should not accept the inherent linkage proposed between this [Chatham Square reconstruction] and the Brooklyn Bridge project. In other words, we should not hold this community, in a way, hostage, so that the Brooklyn Bridge work can be completed. (APPLAUSE) That (Brooklyn Bridge project) should not drive this decision making process [to start the Chatham Square reconstruction]. The explanation for the linkage ... is the concern that there will be multiple weekends, 12 weekends in 19 months when traffic will be diverted, inbound traffic from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Manhattan Bridge, and that is not a good time to have construction ongoing in this Chatham [Square] area. That is not an adequate reason for two reasons: 1) This (Brooklyn Bridge) work, in all likelihood, can be proceed in a fashion ... to avoid the conflict, or 2) other mitigation can be put in place, (i.e.) traffic agents, if it comes to that. This community has lived through and survived far more disruption over past years than 12 weekends of inbound traffic. We should not short-change our future because of that one particular construction project (the Brooklyn Bridge project).
I urge us to work together - the community, the Community Board - with the administration - let's build up the good elements, but let's not feel rushed or constrained, and let's have a full process, a full community input, and come up with the best possible plan that works for all of us - We can do that.
Thank you very much.