Meatpacking District Will Get a Makeover

meat_packing_plaza.jpg
A rendering of the proposed Gansevoort Plaza, looking southbound.


Major public space improvements are on the drawing board for Lower Manhattan’s old Meat-Packing District. Ian Dutton, Houston Street bike safety organizer, professional airline pilot and Streetsblog reader has the report: 

Last year, community groups came together as the Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement Project to develop a vision to rein in chaotic traffic and create a great new public space for Lower Manhattan’s old Meatpacking District. Only a few months later — a virtual blink of the eye by city bureaucracy standards — New York City’s Dept. of Transportation has already stepped forward with a detailed plan that would create a new public plaza, a buffered bike lane, simplified pedestrian crossings, and a new road configuration designed to reduce the area’s traffic chaos (download the plan here).

As Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan stalls in Albany gridlock, DOT’s Office of Alternative Modes is showing one way for City Hall to take control of New York City’s streets regardless of what Sheldon Silver or any other New York State Assembly member has to say about it.

DOT presented its renovation plan for the intersection of Ninth Ave. and 14th St. to Manhattan Community Board 4 on Wednesday evening.
Ryan Russo, DOT’s Director for Street Management and Safety, explained that the agency is taking advantage of a scheduled repaving of Ninth Ave. in mid-July to respond to long-standing community request to remove the two-block northbound contra-flow traffic lane from the avenue, which has been blamed for several pedestrian fatalities, most recently in February.

DOT’s plan also includes the conversion of one southbound lane on Ninth Ave. to a buffered-bike lane. The expectation is that by year’s end, this bike lane will extend down Hudson St. and Bleecker St., eventually linking up with the recently-approved Bleecker St. bike lane, providing a continuous bike route across Lower Manhattan, all the way to the East Village.

Russo explained that there are many collateral benefits of removing the northbound lane and reconfiguring southbound traffic. Most notably, DOT is creating a 4,500 sq. ft. plaza just above 14th Street. To the east of this plaza will be two traffic lanes and the new bike lane. To the west will be a single lane for traffic making the right turn onto westbound 14th Street. The new plaza island also breaks up the lengthy, treacherous 120′ crosswalk into two manageable crossings of 34′ and 24′.


Responding to board member concerns that the new plaza would be uncomfortable surrounded by traffic and that local residents prefer attaching the new public space to the busy sidewalk on the west side, Russo said the benefit of this plan is that it provides an immediate solution and is not considered a "capital project." Altering any of the curbing or the existing central island that separates the northbound and southbound traffic would require new drainage studies, new traffic signals, and would require a lengthy process for funding and contracting through other city agencies. Further, Russo said he believed that the traffic on the west side of the new plaza would be relatively light, similar to the traffic one finds on the cobblestoned west side of Union Sq. Park.

Commenting on the new public plaza, DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione mentioned that tables and chairs similar to those in Bryant Park have already been purchased, and that other programming such as a Greenmarket was being explored. Planters and granite blocks would sit atop a textured surface, similar to other public space reclaimations that have taken place in recent years. Jay Marcus, co-chair of Community Board 4’s transportation committee, suggested that a group be created of neighborhood residents and members of CB4 and neighboring CB2 to oversee the planning of this public space.

On the south side of 14th St., the sidewalks would be extended, dramatically shortening the crossing distance of the current angled crosswalk. Also, a new crosswalk will be created across 14th St. on the west side of the southbound traffic lanes.

The CB4 committee was in general agreement that it was in the community’s best interest to accept the current plan as a interim step, to be followed as soon as possible with the permanent plan emerging from the Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement Project. As was pointed out by board members, the interim plan bears many resemblances to the design for the Ninth Ave./14th St. intersection that emerged from GGUIP and presents an opportunity to try out some possibilities before the capital program’s implementation.

Here is another, more detailed view of DOT’s plan, oriented with the north at the top: 

  • Wow, this looks like a terrific plan. Any idea where the 9th Avenue bike lane will begin? Will it stretch up to Hell’s Kitchen, say, to parallel the 8th Avenue one?

  • David
  • Since it’s on Hudson St., why not include a statue of Jane Jacobs?

    It would be great without the statue but even better with.

  • Clarence

    Charles,

    Not a bad idea.

  • Wonderful, but timid first step. Why preserve the southbound right turn lane on 9th Avenue for about 200 vehicles per hour ( a very modest level of flow).

    Better yet, why not make Columbus Avenue/9th Avenue/Hudson Street an auto-free light rail boulevard, modeled after the vision42 proposal?

    Tinkering is fine, but where’s the vision!

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Good point, George. Also, why is that right turn lane 23 feet wide? Couldn’t some of that width be used to expand the plaza or extend the sidewalk?

  • Tim Dietrich

    I get so tired of people using “Jane Jacobs” name now. She’d be horrified by the type people living in the West Village, and the stores and such, I would think. A 20-something who lives in my building, whose father bought her an apartment here, is always posting Jane Jacobs quotes on our bulletin board — how I want to tell her she is living in an apartment that was made available by the illegal conversion of a co-op building that destroyed an affordable housing unit — which I think is what Jane Jacobs stood for. Do I sound bitter? Probably.

    I do think the street plaza looks pretty good. That has become a dangerous run trying to cross 14th street Hudson to 9th Avenue on the north side.

  • Dave

    George: organize the communities along the length of your proposal to push for such a change. Why do you think DOT would have the vision and go out on a limb with such a risky proposal? Vision comes from the community and from the administration, not from mayoral agencies.

    Angus: I’ve heard that the FDNY has minimum widths due to concerns about being able to get around double-parked vehicles in an emergency, so that may explain the width. The FDNY may need some convincing in order to get narrower roadbeds.

  • tps12

    I think Jane Jacobs would have been the first to point out that even a nice statue of her would do little to create any kind of vibrant public usage in the new plaza. It will get plenty of transient foot traffic from people crossing 9th Ave, which is all it really needs to do to be considered a success IMHO, but without something to actually do there (what are the cartoon people in the rendering looking at, exactly? The planters?), any chairs and benches are unlikely to get any kind of use.

  • Jager

    ??,