Sunday, December 28, 2008

Congestion Pricing is a regressive tax. Nobel Economist explains the logical alternative

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Columbia University professor and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics sent a letter to Govenor Paterson, Joseph Bruno, and Sheldon Silver explaining why a millionaires tax is "econmically preferable" to raising regressive fees or cutting state spending.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bike Lane sludge and slippery Bus Bulbs



Photos of the bike lane on Grand St. unreachable by street sweepers because cars are parked adjacent to it, during holidays.

A very well written critique appeared in this week's Downtown Express about the slippery poorly maintained bus islands at Broadway and White St.

Similarly , the bike lanes on Grand St. were very poorly maintained after the snow this past week. BOTH are signs that maintenance has become a thing of the past for the DOT once these poorly planned "ideas" were set into place. Apparently, during holidays street sweepers can't access the curb any longer because cars are parked adjacent to the bike lane, brilliant.

From DowntownExpress.com :

Slippery bulb
The bus island at Broadway and White St. gleamed Monday morning with compacted layers of snow, resulting in a slippery mess that would net any private property owner a fine. From the icy footprints covering the island, it looked like no one had cleared it off all weekend — making it a potentially dangerous place to wait for the bus.

The city Department of Transportation has been struggling lately to explain the merits of bus islands or bulbs, fenced-off sidewalk extensions installed last year. Luis Sanchez, D.O.T.’s Lower Manhattan borough commissioner, has already said the department can’t tell whether the bulbs are successfully speeding traffic. If he still wants to convince the public that the bus bulbs are a good idea, we suggest that he grab a shovel.

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
5

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.
6

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.
Discussion:
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”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What you need to know about Chatham Square that the DOT and City Hall aren't telling you

Chatham Square Reconstruction Project
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

• Existing street from Bowery to Park Row (between Mott & Doyers) will be eliminated. Several lanes of North/South bound traffic on Bowery will be gone.

• Project will last 3 years, likely to be 5 judging from our neighbors to our South in the Wall Street district.

• D.O.T. start date for this project is scheduled for June 2009, test pits are already being dug.

• Brooklyn Bridge reconstruction should start first so Chinatown businesses can survive the current recession.

• Project will cost $50 million dollars, while 20 billion dollars worth of City projects are being cut elsewhere in the City.

• All streets in Chinatown will be affected, ONLY stores/businesses that have construction going on that contacts their business will be eligible for hard-to-get grant money from LMDC. Some businesses downtown around Ground Zero are still waiting.

• Water main work will cause water to be shut off periodically.

• Businesses around Fulton Street and Wall Street have gone out of business waiting for construction to finish. Some streets have been under construction for more than three years.

There is no promise of money of any kind for the affected businesses.

• The maximum amount of money any business might receive for construction inconveniences and losses is $25,000.00 (if and only if the business can meet certain criteria and guidelines) regardless of how long the construction lasts. A business owner pointed out his rent is $25,000 per month.

• Public access to the construction plan was made available via online on November 26th 2008, while the plans have been available to both Community Board and D.O.T. for many months prior.

• Public outcry sparked the release of the plans/ drawings/ background/ on November 25th 2008 – without this, citizens and businesses would not have had access to these plans unless special arrangements were made. The vast majority of Chinatown residents and businesses still have not seen the plan/schematics/schedule.

• After review of the plans, the consensus is that the plan will NOT make pedestrians any safer (and possibly less safe) and will NOT improve traffic.

• Loss of pedestrian walkway on St. James Pl. affects two elementary schools, and a Church with many children and elderly crossing.

• Double length buses will have difficulty making new turns, particularly left turns on Worth Street to Park Row impacting eastbound as well as westbound traffic on Worth Street. These buses will also need to make two traffic lights instead of the current one.

• Reduction of lanes on Bowery and St. James Pl. will create bottlenecks as well as make it difficult for emergency vehicles, thereby affecting Canal St. and Worth St.

DEMAND Community Board 3 to OPPOSE proceeding with
this flawed reconfiguration of Chatham Square
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - 6:30pm
PS 20 - 166 Essex Street, (E Houston & Stanton Sts)

Bus Lines are being CUT all over downtown Manhattan, enough is enough ! Sign this petition please:

CCRC received this petition recently from Rob Hollander of savethelowereastside. Like Chinatown the lower east side in being threatened with the loss of bus service.
We stand by Rob and his colleagues in putting a stop to any MTA decisions that involve the loss of bus services in lower Manhattan and will be lobbying to keep our own M15 bus line coming to Chinatown.

Please sign this petition:

Friends and neighbors,

The M8 serves seniors and the mobility challenged as well as our neighborhood's public housing far to the east of any other public transport and dozens of downtown schools.

From Quinn Raymond of COBATA (Coalition of Block and Tenant Associations)


Things you and your group can do to save the M8:

1) Sign our petition at savethem8.org

2) Reach out to our elected representatives and tell them you are concerned and would like to be in the loop. They have been very responsive thus far.

3) E-mail the MTA directly:
http://mta-nyc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/mta_nyc.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php

Please forward this to your list-- we need to demonstrate how important the M8 is to our community.

Best,

Quinn Raymond
COBATA
(Coalition of Block and Tenant Associations)

a community authored resolution on Chatham Square


Members of the Chinatown community have authored a resolution which was submitted before the Transportation committee of community board 3 on Dec. 10th.

Community organizers are collecting signatures in support of this community authored resolution to submit before CB3's full board on Dec. 16th at P.S. 20 at 166 Essex Street near East Houston and Stanton at 6:30 pm.

Please attend the CB3 hearing this Tues.! Let your voice be heard and voice your opinions on the Chatham Square

Here is the document:

We, as members of the Chinatown Community, respectfully request that the following resolution be passed by Community Boards One, Two and Three with regard to the Mayor’s and DOT’s proposed Chatham Square Reconfiguration Plan in order to:

1. Give the community time to access and review all details of the proposed Chatham Square reconfiguration, with special attention to pedestrian safety, potential negative economic impacts upon local businesses and cost-benefit analysis,

2. Allow full community input; and,
3. Mitigate the effects of any construction on the local economy and its character.
4. Ultimately have the City work with the community to develop a plan that works for the community.



Whereas, the Department of Transportation has stated a desire of improved pedestrian safety yet has proposed a plan that appears to decrease pedestrian safety; 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, the Department of Transportation did not give the public 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 alternative plans for the reconstruction 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; and

Whereas, Councilman Alan J. Gerson testified on December 2nd that “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, to ask the community board to reach a position or to approve this plan at this stage.”, thereby reflecting the opinions of his constituents; and

Whereas, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver submitted a letter to the December 2nd hearing in support of the community’s efforts to have a voice in the details of the plan; and

Whereas, the DOT’s plan currently does not provide details of the Park Row improvement portion of the plan. In particular, the artists images of the proposed pedestrian walkway does not even include provision for the current driveway of the Chatham Green Cooperative; nor does it address the existing problem of handicap ramp access at Chatham Towers. Despite many requests by Chatham Tower’s Board, it remains off limits to this day causing a great hardship to residents and visitors of that co-op.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Community Board will reject the most recent plan for Chatham Square’s reconstruction as presented by the Department of Transportation, and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Community Board will call for a moratorium on all construction work at Chatham Square pending further examination of the plans by concerned stakeholders and input from Community Boards 1, 2 and 3.


Respectfully submitted,
Jan Lee - Sinotique 19 Mott St. NYC 10013, Hamilton Madison House Board
Jeanie Chin , CCRC, Chatham Towers Board
Danny Chen Chatham Green, Board
Toby Turkel, Pres. of Chatham Towers

Councilman John Liu gets an earful:



CCRC has recently received a letter submitted to John Liu by citizens of Chinatown, it reads as follows:


Dear Councilman John Liu,

As Chairperson of the Council's Committee on Transportation, there is a struggle presently going on in Chinatown to halt/stop/delay the construction slated to begin in June 2009 regarding the reconfiguration of Chatham Square, you should not be sitting on the sidelines. Please voice your support for Chinatown at this time - don't let this 3 year / $50-million construction project start on schedule during this time of recession. It would mean more longtime Chinatown small businesses folding; after Chinatown has suffered 7 long years of parking placard abuse and 7 long years of Park Row Closure. $50-million of taxpayer money and 3 years of construction - all during a time of recession!! By now, it is common knowledge that Chinatown has had the slowest recovery of all neighborhoods since 9/11 (due to Park Row's closure and rampant parking permit abuse for 7 years - and these strained conditions exist even now!). $50-million would be better spent providing increased bus service to Chinatown - now that would be giant step toward economic recovery for Chinatown!

I recently spoke with traffic expert Brian Ketcham on 12/10/2008 at a Community Board 3 Transportation Committee meeting and asked Ketcham specfically if any Economic Impact Study, and, if a Pedestrian Safety Study were included in the proposed Chatham Square reconfiguration plan. Ketcham told me that these crucial studies were NOT included in the plan. As Councilman Gerson stated, the plan is "premature".

This is a partial (confirmed) list of Chinatown community organizations, electeds, etc. that oppose this Chatham Sq reconfiguraton / construction schedule,
(This list is growing rapidly larger day-by-day):
Those Against the Chatham Square reconfiguration plan and schedule:

Sheldon Silver - in public statements X2 occasions in the last 10 days
Alan Gerson - in public appearance and statements X2 occasions in the last 10 days
Daniel Squadron
Survey of Chinese newspapers and radio
Chatham Towers residential
Two Bridges
Hamilton Madison House
Immigration Social Services
Oliver Street Block Association
Mariner's Temple
Transfiguration Church
Community Board 1 - by unanimous vote
Transportation Committee of CB3 - voted 8 yes and 1 no (to withhold approval of Chatham Squar plan, 1 abstained
Chinatown Benevolent Association

This is a list of orgs, agencies and individuals that support the Chatham Square reconfiguraiton to occur on schedule:
Those For the Chatham Square reconfiguration proposal and schedule:
DOT
NYPD
Mayor's Office / LMDC/ DDC / DEP/utility companies
David Crane (CB3 Transp Committee)

As it stands now, Community Board 3 is not responding to the will and concerns of the local community, and CB3 is presently sitting on the fence, "withholding approval" for the Chatham Square reconfiguration plan. I urge you to please join the other electeds noted above (testimony attached) to stop the Chatham Square reconfiguration and construction.

Hopefully, you will not be like CB3 and sit on the fence for Chinatown. As Chairperson of the Council's Committee on Transportation, a few words from you would mean a lot for Chinatown.

Respectfully,
Life long Chinatown resident

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A few hoops to jump through while streets are under endless construction


The City has created the small firm assistance program in an attempt to aid businesses suffering from construction adjacent to their business.
Here is the description as posted on the CB3 website:

The Small Firm Assistance Program (the "Program") has been established by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), in cooperation with the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), to promote economic development by assisting small firms that have suffered business disruption as a result of publicly-funded construction projects during the Program eligibility period. 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. Grant awards will mitigate documented adverse effects and contribute to a firm’s working capital.

There are, however some "hoops" to jump through:
Summary of eligibility

"you have to be on the same street as the construction"

"there has to be a street or sidewalk closure of more than 15-days within a 30-day period"

"less than 50-employess"

"must be a first-floor business"

"show demonstrated impact"

Notable Absence



Voices of opposition are growing stronger by the day regarding the proposed reconstruction of Chatham Square. The conversation has moved from the printed page to the microphone to the streets, and soon, back again. Such is the ebb and flow of democratic discourse.

Despite attempts to stifle that discourse, by witholding information, meeting with community groups separately/secretly so groups were unable to hear and therefore understand each others' legitimate concerns and timing hearings during the holiday season, Chinatown voices, stereotyped as being hopelessly divided and difficult to unify, have been banding together with ease over this issue.

Notably absent from the conversation are Asian Americans For Equality (AAFE), and The Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corp.(CPLDC) Both 501-3c's have been under fire for supporting a Business Improvement District for Chinatown.

AAFE, in conjunction with (semi-defunct) Council for a Cleaner Chinatown in 2001 tried to form a BID, but that idea was shot down after much opposition from Chinatown businesses and property owners, culminating in a unanimous vote of "no" from CB3.

CPLDC has professed its many virtues including "partnership" but defies that claim by not supporting the very businesses they claim to be partnering with in opposing the Chatham Square Reconstruction project. Instead their website still exhalts the benefits of "adopting a garbage" can. If the reconstruction plan proceeds as scheduled, the only thing remaining of the businesses in Chinatown will be the names of the sponsors on those garbage cans. Sweet and Tart restaurant is long gone , but their adopted garbage can remains on the CPLDC website, an eery harbinger of things to come should the three year teardown commence.

Perhaps the CPLDC board has determined that sacrificing businesses now is the price Chinatown must pay to open the door towards the "new Chinatown" it envisions.

While CPLDC goes from Chinatown merchant groups to business advocacy org's trying to get support for a Business Improvement District they have ignored requests, demands actually, from CCRC and the public at large to reveal their financial statements and budgets. The secrecy surrounding their lack of a financial statement brings into question the legitimacy of the partnership's claim that they are "transparent".
Requirements by the I.R.S. for 501 3c's are listed on their website.

Letter to the Editor - Downtown Express - Chafing at Chatham



To The Editor:
The Dept. of Transportation’s response to the Dec. 2nd Chatham Square reconfiguration hearing (news article, Dec. 5 –11, “Defying the shouts, city says full speed on Chatham Square”) was a sham. The plan that the city proposes to implement is deeply flawed. It is deceptively alluring when they present the plan as a $50 million traffic improvement that would increase pedestrian safety and add greenery.

If they truly wish to green, bring it on! We’ve been asking for trees since the last Chatham Square reconstruction in l999. In reality the improvements are not based on pedestrian safety studies as one traffic engineer admitted at the hearing. One example is t he loss of a crosswalk at the corner of St. James and Oliver St. Many children currently cross there to go to P.S. 1 and St. James School. Forcing school children to cross two streets at a greater distance does not increase pedestrian safety.


Bus traffic would be forced to make additional and difficult turns to Park Row and to Worth St. from a narrowed Bowery, and they would cross two traffic lights, instead of the current one. Making Park Row single-laned, restricts emergency vehicles, compromises safety and its use as an escape route in a true Lower Manhattan catastrophe. The implementation of this expensive elephant ostensibly to improve traffic will destroy the fragile economy at a major intersection that links the city’s east/west/north/south.


Most troubling is Mayor Bloomberg’s handling of the entire Chatham Square reconfiguration plan that attempted, but failed, to pit community groups against each other while bulldozing across Chinatown. Here as in neighborhoods throughout this city from the communities at Washington Square Park, Union Square and Yankee Stadium -- we have all fought the reconfiguration or takeover of public spaces without true community input. From the rezoning struggles impacting poor and minority neighborhoods in Chinatown, Harlem, Willets Point, Red Hook and the Atlantic Yards — the fake veneer of community participation has been painted on by Mayor Bloomberg’s heavy, sometimes hidden hand — not seen since the days of Robert Moses.

Jeanie Chin
Civic Center Residents Coalition

Community Board 3 Full Board Meeting Dec. 16th 08

Community Board 3 Full Board Meeting
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 6:30pm
PS 20 at 166 Essex Street (E Houston & Stanton Sts)

On the agenda is a Chatham Square reconstruction resolution, up for a vote by the entire Community Board.

MTA cuts bus lines, NYC responds !


MTA CUTS CUT US
City Hall Steps
Sunday, Dec 14, 1pm
organized by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer

Borough President Scott Stringer is organizing a media event this coming
Sunday, December 14th. Due to the dire fiscal situation, the MTA is
proposing massive cuts to bus and subway service across the metropolitan
region, coupled with steep fare hikes. But most damaging of all is the
proposed 50% fare hike to Access-A-Ride trips, and the elimination of 24
bus routes in areas without handicapped-accessible subway stations. The
result will be a dramatic loss of mobility for senior citizens and the
disabled. We need seniors, the disabled, their families and advocates to
stand together and make it clear that these cuts cannot be allowed to
happen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SeeThroughNY.org a powerful resource


Here's a great website that allows the public to track their money.
A Window on Your Money

Welcome to SeeThroughNY – giving New Yorkers a clearer view of how their state and local tax dollars are spent. This site is sponsored by the Empire Center for New York State Policy, part of the non-partisan and non-profit Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

SeeThroughNY is a web portal -- and more. It's designed to become the hub of a statewide network through which taxpayers can share, analyze and compare data from counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts and public authorities throughout New York.

The information of this website comes from official government sources, but the Empire Center cannot guarantee data accuracy or completeness.

Dept. of Environmental Protection dodges investigative reporters


Turns out the FBI is investigating the D.E.P. for outrageous overtime billing. DEP rec's about $20 million a year of homeland security money. DEP's own whistle blowers are calling for the investigation since big wigs in the agency are racking up as much as $192,000.00 a year for sitting home doing nothing.

hhhmm... D.E.P. is funding some of the Chatham Square reconstruction.
Let's wait a while until the FBI sorts out just where all that money is going before we let them work on this 3+ year pork barrel project called Chatham Square reconstruction.

The DEP owns 500+ cars which DEP employees are allowed to COMMUTE to work with! IF vehicular congestion is an issue in NYC, and if pollution is an issue in NYC, then CCRC says "get rid of those cars - DEP can commute to work just like the rest of NY'ers".

Here is the link to the myfox New York piece.

Community Board One - REJECTS the DOT's Chatham Square Reconstruction Plan


On Dec.9th 08, Community Board One's Seaport / civic center committee voted to REJECT the DOT's plan for Chatham Square's reconstruction.
DOWNTOWN EXPRESS NEWSPAPER's Julie Shapiro Article :


Board backs Chinatown’s opposition to Chatham Square plan


By Julie Shapiro

Before Community Board 1 could decide what they thought about the proposed Chatham Square redesign, they had to make a more fundamental decision — whether to let the Department of Transportation even present the plan.

Paul Hovitz, a C.B. 1 member, said the plan sounded like a fait accompli.

“If that’s the case,” added John Fratta, chairperson of the Seaport/Civic Center Committee, “we don’t need a presentation. We’re sick and tired of the D.O.T. ramming plans down our throat and the hell with the community.”

After continuing in this vein for about 15 minutes, the committee ultimately decided to listen to the presentation. They then unanimously disapproved the plan.

The city wants to spend $50 million to reconfigure Chatham Square, a congested seven-way intersection. The plan would align St. James Pl. with the Bowery and Worth St. with E. Broadway, effectively cutting Park Row out of the intersection. Park Row was closed after 9/11 to protect One Police Plaza, and the new plan assumes that it will remain closed long-term.

Fratta mentioned the uniformly negative response the project received at a public forum in Chinatown last week as a main reason for opposing the plan. He is particularly concerned that the city is turning part of Park Row into a park and promenade, which he sees as “just a way to dress up keeping Park Row closed. It screams to the community, ‘We’re keeping Park Row closed whether you like it or not.’”

Hovitz questioned whether it even makes sense to turn Park Row into a park if it is supposedly a dangerous area. “You’re inviting people to picnic and hang out in a minefield that is a potential attack zone,” he said incredulously.

Jeanie Chin, from the Civic Center Residents Coalition, pointed out that Park Row is still open to buses, and under the new plan, buses traveling from the Bowery to Park Row will have to make two additional turns at traffic lights.

“That will jam up the traffic as the buses turn,” Chin said, adding that it is very hard for the new double-length buses to make turns. “It makes no sense.”

Josh Kraus, who works for the D.O.T. Lower Manhattan borough commissioner’s office, said only 10 to 20 buses per hour would be slowed down, while many more vehicles moving through the square would be speeded up.

Joe Lerner, a committee member, said the D.O.T. removed an M-21 bus stop at Frankfort and Pearl Sts., saying the double-length bus could not make a left turn. It is inconsistent for the city to now say a double-length bus can easily turn left onto Park Row, he said.

Community board members also criticized the city for not doing enough community outreach. Seth Myers, from the mayor’s office, countered that the city has been speaking to the community since 2004. After some back-and-forth on that fact with Chinatown residents in the audience, State Sen.-elect Daniel Squadron stepped in.

He diplomatically praised the D.O.T. and the city for doing community outreach at higher levels than in the past, but he also said the outreach “needs to be ramped up now.”

Squadron added that any plan that makes the Park Row closure permanent is unacceptable.

The committee initially wanted to pass a resolution encouraging the city to hold off on the project until they do more community outreach. But since Myers said the city was planning to put the current plan out to bid early next year, the committee decided to take a stronger stance and oppose the project.

During the presentation, Myers tried to highlight the city’s flexibility on some landscaping details. The plan for the Park Row promenade is to install cherry trees, but if people want other kinds of trees, the city is open to listening, Myers said.

Ann DeFalco, a committee member, shook her head. “That’s the least of our worries,” she said.


Julie@DowntownExpress.com

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge refurb. NOT linked to Chatham Square Redo


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].

Councilman Alan J. Gerson

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Where's John?


We've heard from Councilman Alan Gerson (see posting below for his transcript) and we've heard from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (see his transcript below) who have both weighed in on Chatham Square. Their message is united with the Chinatown community : "we reject this plan" "it needs more community input" "Open Park Row".

Both Councilman Gerson and Speaker Silver have been in constant contact with community leaders on Chatham Square's reconstruction, and they vowed to continue a dialogue.

Notably absent from this discussion is Councilman John Liu, the Chair of the Transportatin Committee of the City Council.

John Liu, as Chair of Transportation, was there to hear testimony on illegal placard parking rampant in Chinatown, but on this issue he is silent and perhaps deaf.

Consider this the first of many "Shout outs" John.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Chatham Square:

Testimony of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver
Community Board 3 Public Hearing
Regarding The Proposed Chatham Square Redesign
Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Good evening, I would like to thank Community Board 3 along with Boards 1 and 2 for sponsoring tonight's hearing.

I have been at the forefront of the fight to re-open Park Row since it was first closed after the tragic events of September 11th. Since then, I have worked with my colleagues in government, local residents and community leaders to re-open Park Row and was one of the lead plaintiffs in the original lawsuit
filed against the City to reverse the decision to close this vital lifeline to the Chinatown community.

After 9/11, Chinatown was one of the hardest hit communities economically in New York City and the closure of Park Row has been a major obstacle in the process of rebuilding and revitalizing the area. Prior to September 11th, Park Row served as a major thoroughfare that connected Chinatown to Lower
Manhattan. Scores of workers and tourists frequented this area throughout the day and especially at lunchtime. The partial re-opening of Park Row to bus and pedestrian traffic was a step in the right direction but is clearly not enough.

Now, the City is proposing to take steps that make the re-opening of Park Row more difficult by narrowing the roadway and investing funds to make this closure into a permanent condition. In light of the vast public outcry opposing the Park Row closure and its clear negative impact upon business and residents of Chinatown and surrounding communities, I oppose the City's Park Row Promenade proposal as well as the expenditure of any public funds for so-called mitigation measures which fail to bring about the full re-opening of Park Row.

I am also deeply concerned about aspects of the Chatham Square Reconfiguration and the timing of any major reconstruction in this area. With so many small Chinatown businesses suffering due to both the economic downturn and the closure of Park Row, they can ill-afford two plus years of construction and roadway closures that would further disrupt their daily business activities. Many groups have indicated that this project is being pushed through far too quickly and without sufficient community input. I urge the City to re-consider their Chatham Square / Park Row plan in light of the concerns raised here and elsewhere regarding this proposal.

The residents of Chinatown and Lower Manhattan continue suffering from increased traffic congestion, decreased air quality and delayed response times for emergency vehicles caused by the closing of Park Row. We need to ask ourselves whether the proposals being put forth by the City tonight adequately address these issues.

I want to make sure the voice of my Lower Manhattan community is heard. While I understand the need to protect our public safety, I believe these measures must be balanced with the needs of residents and businesses in the area.

Park Row must be re-opened for Chinatown and the surrounding communities to experience their full and complete revitalization. I look forward to continuing to work with the local residents, community leaders and my colleagues in government until the day we can announce that Park Row has finally been re-opened.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Notable absence.



Voices of opposition are growing stronger by the day regarding the proposed reconstruction of Chatham Square. The conversation has moved from the printed page to the microphone to the streets, and soon, back again. Such is the ebb and flow of democratic discourse.

Despite attempts to stifle that discourse, by witholding information, meeting with community groups separately/secretly so groups were unable to hear and therefore understand each others' legitimate concerns and timing hearings during the holiday season, Chinatown voices, stereotyped as being hopelessly divided and difficult to unify, have been banding together with ease over this issue.

Notably absent from the conversation are Asian Americans For Equality (AAFE), and The Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corp.(CPLDC) Both 501-3c's have been under fire for supporting a Business Improvement District for Chinatown.

AAFE, in conjunction with (semi-defunct) Council for a Cleaner Chinatown in 2001 tried to form a BID, but that idea was shot down after much opposition from Chinatown businesses and property owners, culminating in a unanimous vote of "no" from CB3.

CPLDC has professed its many virtues including "partnership" but defies that claim by not supporting the very businesses they claim to be partnering with in opposing the Chatham Square Reconstruction project. Instead their website still exhalts the benefits of "adopting a garbage" can. If the reconstruction plan proceeds as scheduled, the only thing remaining of the businesses in Chinatown will be the names of the sponsors on those garbage cans. Sweet and Tart restaurant is long gone , but their adopted garbage can remains on the CPLDC website, an eery harbinger of things to come should the three year teardown commence.

Perhaps the CPLDC board has determined that sacrificing businesses now is the price Chinatown must pay to open the door towards the "new Chinatown" it envisions.

This smells like Bloomberg's grand scheme to me.

Blog to Blog

The following is a post from another blog : Politics as Puppetry
The author took the time understand the CCRC point of view, for that we're thankful.
Read on:

"Streetsblog posted its own call to action about today’s hearing on remodeling Chatham Square which, when read in the context of CCRC’s much more detailed analysis, just seems a little flimsy, and flippant at that - Streetsblog groups local response under generic ‘opposition’, and pushes for the present plan as handed down by NYC DoT and friends, despite the fact that the main opposition seems to be from folks who don’t oppose the project, but rather oppose doing it NOW.

This case, and the recent rise of anti-bike lane activism in Brooklyn reveals how certain ‘green’ policies can work as a kind of class warfare, with the New Urbanist trend being only the latest of many architectural salvos for the city delivered from on-high by city administrators to the unwashed/ignorant residents, unable to see the social benefits of a overhaul of their street life. Honestly, I’m not even totally convinced of the utility of green streets - transportation is a sizable but not immense part of CO2 emissions, and the green-streets improvements feel increasingly like a form of social control purpetuated by New York’s ascendent young, mobile and wealthy urban class with its ‘green’ mores (notably different from a serious environmentalism).

Not to say that ‘livable streets’ policies won’t work, but rather to say that they’ll work better if done in collaboration with the residents of those streets. Instead of putting out calls for ‘advocates’ to descend on hearings to support “green here, green now.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Councilman Alan Gerson's Testimony re: Chatham Square redo



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.

Coverage in Downtown Express - Chatham Square "Hearing"







Defying the shouts, city says full speed on Chatham Sq.
By Julie Shapiro

Two-and-a-half hours into Tuesday night’s hearing on the redesign of Chatham Square, the Department of Transportation revealed that it wasn’t a public hearing at all.
“We’re moving ahead with the Chatham Square project right now,” said Luis Sanchez, Lower Manhattan borough commissioner for the D.O.T.

That was not what the crowd of Chinatown residents wanted to hear.

“Boo,” they shouted. “Boo.”
“You were not honest from the beginning,”
one audience member said. “This is a fait accompli.”
“This is not a public hearing if the decision has already gone through,” another called out. “This is a sham.”

The city’s proposed redesign of Chatham Square drew more than 100 angry Chinatown residents to P.S. 124’s auditorium Tuesday night. The city wants to reconfigure Chatham Square, a complex intersection where seven streets come together, based on the assumption that the closed section of Park Row, one of those streets, will never reopen. Park Row was closed to traffic after 9/11 to protect Police Headquarters.

The city’s $50 million plan for Chatham Square would directly connect E. Broadway to Worth St. and the Bowery to St. James Pl. The project includes a park in Chatham Square and a greened promenade along Park Row. A ramp would run along Park Row up to One Police Plaza, connecting Chinatown to Chambers St. and a subway entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge stop. Finally, new bollards and security booths would replace the unsightly temporary ones that currently block Park Row.

The city’s proposal is several years old, but it has not undergone a thorough public review until now. It follows years of frustration Chinatown residents have felt toward the city over the closure of Park Row and the parking placard abuses by police and court officers. A state judge ruled several years ago that the police had illegally taken over a public park, and engaged in “heavy-handed” tactics with Chinatown residents.

Some of the advocates acknowledge many of the changes would be for the better, but they are concerned already-struggling small businesses would not survive a long construction period. Josh Kraus, from the D.O.T., said in an interview last week that the project could take three years, but at this week’s hearing officials said it would be two-and-a-half years.
Residents did object to some aspects of the plan Tuesday night. They worried that the street reconfiguration would make the closure of Park Row permanent, and they questioned why the changes needed to be made now.

“The city feels this is a vital and long overdue project,” replied Seth Myers, from the mayor’s office. “Sure there are tweaks, we’ll see what we can do, but it’s really imperative for us to keep on our schedule.”

The city wants to move forward with the first phase of the project, the street reconfiguration, almost immediately, bidding the contract next month and starting work by next summer. The reason for the hurry is that the first phase of Chatham Square needs to be complete by the time work on the Brooklyn Bridge starts in the middle of 2010, the D.O.T. said. During that work, the Brooklyn Bridge will be closed for 12 weekends spread over a year and a half, with traffic routed onto the Manhattan Bridge and through Chatham Square.

The community and elected officials had one united message for the city Tuesday night: Slow down.

“This is a lot to digest,” City Councilmember Alan Gerson told the residents. “This will have an impact on the community for generations…. It is way too premature for the city to ask the community to take a position.”
Gerson said the plan has positive elements, but he also listed many concerns, including the future of Park Row and the impact on small businesses.
A representative of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver read a statement raising the same concerns and urging the city to reconsider the entire plan.
A D.O.T. spokesperson said later “further delays will not make Chatham Square any safer or less chaotic.”

At the meeting, Brian Ketcham, a traffic analyst hired by Community Board 3, praised the overall design but said he needed more information on pedestrian safety.
“If Park Row is going to stay the way it is — closed — it’s a pretty good project,” he said.
Ketcham had several suggestions, including an extra left-turn lane approaching the Bowery, which he said would cut travel time in half. Ketcham ran his own computer models of the intersection and found that even with 30 percent more traffic than the D.O.T. projected, vehicles still flowed smoothly.
“There’s hope,” he said.
Philip Habib, the city’s traffic consultant, had few details to offer on pedestrian safety but he said it was one of the project’s top priorities. The problem with the current intersection is that vehicles have to make too many turns, which increases the danger to pedestrians, he said. The new intersection will have more vehicles traveling in straight lines, reducing conflicts with pedestrians.

Many Chinatown residents agree with the city that the current intersection is unsafe, but they have a different solution: Move Police Headquarters out of Lower Manhattan and reopen Park Row, easing flow of traffic through Chatham Square.
When Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was asked by Downtown Express last week if there was a chance the street would ever reopen, he was doubtful.
“It is a security risk,” Kelly said. “It’s clearly a target…. To have a street that borders directly on Police Headquarters is problematic.”

Sanchez, from the D.O.T., promised that if Park Row reopened, “we would do whatever we needed to do to make it work” with the new street configuration.
The biggest objection to the plan Tuesday night was that small businesses would not survive the construction.
“Chinatown is fragile economically right now,” said Geoff Lee, a Chinatown activist. “We cannot handle it.”
Susan Chan, owner of Manhattan Florist at 87 Bayard St., said the Chatham Square construction would be a deathblow to her business.
“Fortune 500 companies can’t make it,” she said. “What makes you think a three-person company can make it?”

Chan runs her business with only one employee. Her husband helps out part-time, on top of his full-time job. As Chan spoke of leaving her 2- and 3-year-old children at home to come to the meeting, she appeared near tears. She said she never would have shown up if she’d realized the city was not going to listen.

The city pointed to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.’s Small Firm Assistance Program as a potential solution. Under the program, small businesses on streets closed by public construction can apply for up to $25,000. The program, implemented earlier this year, has a number of eligibility requirements and a $5 million cap.

One problem the community highlighted was not with the design itself, but rather with communication. The project’s design was not available online until last week, and many people said they needed more time to respond to it.

After the city made its presentation Tuesday night, Paul Lee, a former Chinatown business owner, was the first member of the public to speak. He advised the audience, “Be loud!”

Steven Wong, a Chinatown resident who spoke next, appeared to take the advice, as he shouted into the microphone and refused to surrender it when his allotted two minutes were up.
“You’re here to listen to some decision that’s already been made, and they tell you it’s a public hearing?” he boomed. “They forgot — this is America.”

As the hearing wore into its third hour, tempers grew short. Several people stood to shout down speakers from the city and community board. A row of four police officers stood on the side of the auditorium but did not forcibly remove anyone.

Community Board 3 ran the hearing, which was co-sponsored by Community Boards 1 and 2. C.B. 3’s Transportation Committee will discuss Chatham Square and likely pass a resolution at its meeting Dec. 10. Board 1 and Board 2 may also weigh in separately. Sanchez, of the D.O.T., would not promise to follow the community boards’ direction if they urged the city to delay the project.

Several utilities are already doing test boring in Chatham Square to confirm where their lines are located. The work should finish next week, Sanchez said.
Sanchez said repeatedly that the overall project design is nearly finalized, but the piece that is still flexible is the open space.

Landscape architect Dale Schafer, from Thomas Balsley Associates, presented renderings inspired by contemporary Chinese design. Cherry trees would line the Park Row promenade, a green space dotted with splashes of red in the form of benches and other details. Where the path slips beneath Police Headquarters, the tunnel would have red-hued walls and ceiling.

Several speakers complimented the city for leaving Chatham Square’s Kimlau Memorial Arch in place, a structure dedicated to Chinese American soldiers. But others were concerned about the plan to move the Lin Zexu statue to its own plaza at the mouth of Park Row. Zexu was a Chinese scholar and official during the Qing dynasty in the 19th century.

Robert Lee was one of the last residents to speak at Tuesday’s three-and-a-half-hour hearing.
“The city just needs to wake up,” he said, “and realize that you cannot just bulldoze over our community.”
Julie@DowntownExpress.com

Ring of Steel Reinforced with Concrete in Chinatown




For many living near Chatham Square it sometimes feels as though they are in a militarized zone. While even the United Nations and FBI headquarters have public vehicles pass by them daily, One Police Plaza is ensconced behind its security barrier, soon to be "hardened" even further.



Police Headquarters "Ring of Steel" in Lower Manhattan is reinforced with concrete in Chinatown. Not satisfied with taking away the 400 car Municipal Garage pre 9/11 and delivering hammer blows to the local economy and neighborhood after 9/11 by:
* Shutting down Park Row, parts of Pearl and Madison Streets, Brooklyn Bridge exit ramp to Chinatown
*Forcing thousands of residents, visitors and deliveries to two buildings next to Police Headquarters to go through a "security check point" in order to stop with a vehicle in front of their own doors.
*Taking away a local park next to Police Headquarters for a parking lot which was returned to the community through a CCRC lawsuit.
* Rerouting MTA bus routes to the outer edges of Chinatown until Mayor Bloomberg restored them shortly before his re-election campaign.
* Taking over every foot of sidewalk/street/crosswalk/bus stop for government permit parkers until a CCRC campaign forced the city to perform a DOT study to determine the number of existing government placards, as the abuse was so out of control that the city was clueless. The city sat on the study results for over a year until the threat of a FOIL action shortly before the congestion pricing vote when Mayor Bloomberg revealed there were 70,000 government issued permits. Further outcry outted the true numbers several weeks later which showed there were over 140,000 government permits -- most of them in Lower Manhattan. This figure in fact showed only the legal government issued permits -- the numbers did not include the tens of thousands of fake permits issued by government workers' unions and did not include the tens of thousands of permits, real or fake, that government workers had copied for their relatives and best buds. This rampant abuse forced visitors and truck deliverers to Chinatown and Lower Manhattan neighborhoods to circle endlessly creating traffic congestion, air pollution, delays in emergency vehicle response times and disgust/mistrust of city government and the adminstration. And it killed the Chinatown businesses near the Civic Center until the CCRC worked with Community Board#3, an American Red Cross grant and a local film maker to document the extent of the abuse.

Now the death blow arrives at the holidays in the form of a Chatham Square Reconfiguration Plan that purported to improve traffic and pedestrian safety. The December 2nd "hearing" was an announcement after the fact that the "Big Dig" had already started and there was nothing that the community could do to stop it. No surprise to hear that there was not s shred of paper evidence or statistics to support pedestrian safety studies. Stay tuned for a detailed analysis of all these expensive traffic engineers' Chatham Square design proposals -- from those of us who have lived on these streets for over a century. After all, these DOT traffic experts dug up Chatham Square less than 10 years ago for almost two years -- did they come up with a better plan last time? Just take a look at the plaza they built in front of East Broadway preventing northbound traffic on St. James and Oliver Streets from making a right turn without going unnecessarily onto the Bowery. More to come.....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Say What?!


Translation equipment was made available to all who needed it at the CB3 hearing on Dec. 2nd.

Much effort was put into this consideration and it was very well received.

Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese translation was offered and it made a difference for a good number of attendees. Hopefully CB3 meetings in Chinatown will always have this necessary service.

Dig it?


More test pit digging. Already the traffic has been building up as test pits are dug in preparation for the Chatham Square reconstruction.

More than $20B in developments dead or at risk of never seeing light of day


Here's a GREAT article about the City's numerous projects that are drastically scaled back or eliminated altogether because of the ailing economy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

DOT Says Chatham Square Redo needed 'cause it's not safe, oh really??



Hmm.... cyclists know this, pedestrians know this, CCRC knows this and I'm guessing more than one person in DOT knows about this BY NOW!

In 2008 - 2009 what's on the priority list for DOT fixes? NOT Canal street. That's going to remain as unsafe as ever. Instead $50 million dollars suddenly became available to improve Chatham Square, citing safety concerns. Chinatown leaders and businesses have been complaining about accidents on Canal St., Bowery, Alan St. for years and not much has been done.

So what's the hurry with the Chatham Square's redo if it's not even on the list of the most unsafe intersections in NYC? We keep hearing about how unsafe it is, but surely when it comes to ACTUAL accidents, ACTUAL deaths, actual suffering Canal street, Houston Street, 6th Ave., has this part of the City beat hands down.
Clearly the D.O.T. planner who did the last Chatham Square design had a great sense of humor because he left us with bicyle-ramp planters and a traffic configuration he drew on a napkin five minutes before his meeting with the contractors. I think what Chatham Square needs is a gallows from which to hang the moron who designed it the last time.
I know how dangerous Chatham Square is, I bike through it, drive through it and walk through it every single week. Thanks to the failed design we're left with, and the closing of Park Row Chatham Square can definitely use improvement, no one's arguing that the DOT screwed it up, the fact of the matter is however, that there are more accidents on Canal Street than Chatham Square. See the Villager article here.


Ming Pao News coverage of Chatham Square Hearing


World Journal Coverage of Chatham Square Hearing last night


Sing Tao Newspaper coverage of Councilman Gerson's comments on the Chatham Square plan


Great coverage in the Chinese newspapers about the Chatham Square Hearing last night


Chinatown outraged at D.O.T. and City Hall


This pretty much sums up the emotions of Chinatown residents, community leaders and businesses at last night's Chatham Square Reconstruction "hearing" hosted by Community Board 3.

Monday, December 1, 2008

CCRC Gets the word out


Peter Hui of 1480 Radio interviewing Susan of Manhattan Florist on Bayard St. about her feelings on the Chatham Square reconstruction.

Ti Hua Chang from Channel 9 News resports on Chatham Square today

Ti Hua Chang interviewed members of CCRC as well as business owners and residents about Chatham Square's proposed reconstruction.
The entire segment airs tonite Dec. 1st 08 at 10:pm on Channel 9 news, and will be accessible from the Channel 9 News website.

video

"....we certainly have a lot of practice right now"





Those are the words of Josh Kraus of the Dept. of Transportation referring to the way the City and DOT has "had a lot of practice" in minimizing disruptions to communities. Downtownexpress.com Volume 21, Number 29 The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan Nov. 28 - Dec. 4, 2008

Perhaps by "practice" he is referring to the way they simply dressed up the concrete barricades all over the Wall St. district. It does take a lot of "practice" to do what they do.
NYC has gotten to the point where construction takes SO long to complete that it seems strangely normal to have artists (paid for by The Downtown Alliance and of all places the M.T.A for gosh sakes!) at a cost of $100,000.00 paint "art" on what is supposed to be TEMPORARY crash barriers that surround construction sites. HOW INSULTING IS THIS!?
Rather than just make the project move faster, in their infinite "wisdom" the City and non-profits have figured out a way to pacify the public and shift our attention away from the fact that THEY'RE TAKING TOO DAMN LONG TO FINISH WHAT THEY STARTED !
It should come as no surprise then when the businesses and residents in Chinatown grimace at the thought of starting one of the most expensive and disruptive reconstruction projects at the most vulnerable intersection in Manhattan during one of the WORST times in our economic history. Those poor bastards near Wall St. have been begging for the streets to be finished, and instead got "art" painted on what they wanted removed.

The current Mayor and the one before him took great pride in visiting Asia during their time in City Hall. They brought back what seemed to them to be "great ideas" to be dumped on our great City as if to say , "we too can live like Singaporeans if simply make a few changes". Let's tax drivers of cars and trucks!
The Mayor loves to cite London as his inspiration for Congestion pricing, but we all know the idea was spawned from visits to Singapore by both Guiliani and Bloomberg. The very word Singapore conjurs images of caning and dictatorships in the minds of Americans. Better to have said the idea came from London.

I have yet to meet a New Yorker yearning to want to be more Singaporean. In contrast even Madonna wants to be more British.

What the Mayors should have brought back was the practice in Asia where contractors are under strict incentives to finish on time (bonuses) or else they face fines for finishing projects late. Somehow that didn't seem appropriate to import. Instead we got stuck with him pushing for congestion pricing.
Doesn't it make sense to simply have projects finish on time, does that not make for LESS CONGESTION?! and put money into the City coffers.

Instead we have zebra stripes on concrete crash barriers.

And here's the kicker :

"Ms. Berger, the alliance president, said she hoped that one day as many as 60 public sites and 20 private projects downtown could have artistically redesigned barriers." Lovely. Why didn't they think of this sooner? Perhaps a huge tarp over Ground Zero with imaginitive print will further distract us from the fact that it's still a hole in the ground and not a tax producing commerce inducing economic engine onto itself.
Yes, the DOT and the City have a lot of practice in pulling the wool over our eyes when it comes to the way they rush their projects through communities and when they take forever to finish, they literally paint over the problem.

HEY Chatham Square is scheduled (and this is what the are ADMITTING TO) to take three years to complete!

Can't you just see the Chinatown barrier stencils being prepared as we speak with "culturally appropriate" ethnic symbols and imagery intended to "blend and compliment with the local character of the neighborhood" - close your eyes, you can see it too right?

Dragon scales instead of zebra stripes, Longevity - Happiness - and Long Life spelled out in celebration of our Lunar Year - all the things we will wish we had once the reconstruction of Chatham Square began.

Give me a break, don't even think about starting any reconstruction here ! We're on to you. And we vote.