In November 2006, Manhattan Community Board 3 voiced support for "a comprehensive, community-inclusive initiative to study, identify and build consensus around strategies to improve the safety and connectivity of walking, bicycling and public transportation."
Now there’s a plan on the table that would put safety strategies into practice at Chatham Square, where the convergence of several streets forces pedestrians to contend with dangerous and chaotic traffic patterns. The re-design would double the amount of pedestrian space and significantly reduce crossing distances, exactly the type of project that Chinatown’s hazardous streets are begging for. Despite these safety benefits, consensus has been hard to come by.
Monday night, CB3’s Chatham Square Task Force will hold its final
meeting to present comments to DOT about the proposal, and opposition is expected to be intense. (If you can’t make the meeting — 6:30 p.m. at PS
124, 40 Division Street — Transportation Alternatives has an e-petition to show your support.)
Since the last major public meeting about the project, City Council members Alan Gerson and John Liu have condemned the re-design and accused DOT of pushing a plan that does not enjoy public support. Because the Chatham Square project is closely associated with the closing of Park Row
to private cars — a policy adopted by NYPD post-9/11 — businesses convinced that their livelihood depends on auto traffic are up in arms about the proposal.
The loud opposition may be drowning out other voices, but the need for safer streets hasn’t diminished. "The paramount importance is making it safe for people to walk, especially for the kids who are walking from schools and libraries," said Jane Ryan Beck, a long-time Chinatown resident who takes her four-year-old son through Chatham Square on the way to school. "I think the plan goes a long way toward addressing those issues."
After her son witnessed the horrific collision on East Broadway that claimed the lives of two classmates, Beck and her husband started a website, ShareTheStreet.org, to raise awareness about child pedestrian safety in Lower Manhattan. "We’re hoping to give a voice to a whole group of people who are shocked and
horrified, but not taking any action, because they don’t even know
these projects are on the board," she said, noting that it can be tough for parents to participate in public workshops. "There are lots of obstacles to even just getting there, like getting
someone to watch your kid while you go to a Community Board meeting."
Check after the jump for plans depicting the Chatham Square proposal and the current condition.