Downtown Alliance Calls for a Pedestrianized Financial District

The BID wants the city to convert streets to "shared space" with a central hub for truck deliveries.

The Downtown Alliance wants to put pedestrians first on streets around the Stock Exchange. Image: Downtown Alliance
The Downtown Alliance wants to put pedestrians first on streets around the Stock Exchange. Image: Downtown Alliance

The corner of Broad Street and Wall Street has been closed to motor vehicle traffic since after 9/11, but it’s never been truly pedestrianized. Surrounding streets are a mess of security theater, cluttered with obtrusive barriers and delivery vehicles illegally blocking sidewalks and curbs. There are barely any cars in the Financial District, but you can hardly tell thanks to how the city manages the streets.

Now the Downtown Alliance wants to formalize the walking environment. In a report released yesterday, the Lower Manhattan BID proposes to eliminate the curbs on Wall Street, New Street, Broad Street, and Exchange Place in favor of “shared streets” that give precedence to pedestrians over motorists and cyclists [PDF].

On Broad Street, where security measures consist of a hodgepodge of fences and ad hoc barricades, including deadly vehicles, the report envisions a narrow passage for cars. The bulk of the space would be devoted to seating and walking.

On other streets, bollards would delineate lanes for motor vehicles.

The security checkpoint for motor vehicles at Wall Street and William Street typifies street design around the New York Stock Exchange. It's a accessibility and pedestrian flow nightmare. Photo: Downtown Alliance
The security checkpoint for motor vehicles at Wall Street and William Street is not conducive to walking, and it typifies street design around the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Downtown Alliance

At four intersections that function as gateways to the so-called Stock Exchange District — Nassau Street and Pine Street, Wall Street and Williams Street, Wall Street and Broadway, and Exchange Place and Broadway — the report proposes repurposing parking spots for pedestrian space.

Commercial deliveries and placard abusers account for much of the neighborhood’s motor vehicle traffic. It’s on NYPD to keep placard abusers and other illegally-parked vehicles out of the area. For commercial deliveries, in addition to new delivery zones on New Street, the Alliance wants to pilot an “urban delivery consolidation center,” where packages could be deposited, then distributed “via hand-truck or small vehicle,” to keep big trucks away from people.

Image: Downtown Alliance
Image: Downtown Alliance

The Alliance proposals are backed by area property owners and elected officials, including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. The report has not been endorsed by NYPD or DOT, though both agencies were consulted in developing the recommendations.

The city held a one-day “Shared Streets” event in the area in August 2016. Speaking to Streetsblog about that event, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the neighborhood’s streets already function as “shared space,” even if how they’re designed doesn’t reflect that.

It will be up to City Hall to build on the BID’s proposal.

  • JarekFA

    This should apply to all of FiDi below Fulton Street.

    This clip is sped up 8x but the first 20 seconds of it is me trying to get out of FiDi, starting at Maiden Lane and Water St and exiting at Spruce and Park Row. Just total wall of cars.

    https://twitter.com/JarekFA/status/995025352081727489

  • Greg Costikyan

    My daughter walks through here today, to and from her school. It would be a vast improvement.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It would be a good way to further distinguish Downtown from Midtown.

    As it is, I work in Midtown but wish I worked in Downtown.

  • Orcutt

    Beautifying what’s already pedestrianized is nice, but how about expanding the zone? Parts of Nassau & Fulton were closed to cars during the day before 9/11. What’s the excuse for going backwards on that?

  • JarekFA

    Very Strong Agree! It’s one of the worst ped experiences in the city.

  • Wilfried84

    Pedestrianize Chinatown. Please. Driving there is miserable. There’s no reason for through traffic. Cars make the streets miserable for everyone else. In order to make room for cars, the the teeming sidewalks are packed to overflowing pretty much all the time; walking is like bumper cars. They pedestrianized Mott St. last summer for a few short days, and it was glorious. People could stroll and breath and relax, and there were all kinds of activities going on. It can only be good for business, when people can shop and eat without feeling rushed and harried by the crowds around them. To me, if there’s one place crying out to be a pedestrian zone, it’s there.

  • AnoNYC

    City should pedestrianise most streets south of 14th St. City vehicles and deliveries only.

  • AnoNYC

    Agreed. The city could start by first closing the minor streets to automotive thru traffic. Should be city vehicles and deliveries/maintenance only for now.

    Or just expand the security perimeter, use pop-up bollards to control access. All non-city vehicles will have to get checked in at maybe two or three points.

  • AnoNYC

    Expand the zone!

  • Jeff

    Are we really getting any new pedestrianized and/or shared space out of this? Or is this just a renovation of the existing de facto pedestrian zone?

  • DoctorMemory

    Dear Gale Brewer:

    So Wall Street should get an expanded pedestrian-priority zone, but Dyckman Street should rip out its bike lanes and pedestrian protection measures so that people can double-park more often?

    Just to be clear: how much does it cost to buy your support for any project regardless of how much sense it makes?

    (For the record I think the actual project under discussion here is great and that they should do the same thing in Times Square and hey why not Dyckman Street as well while we’re at it.)

  • Rex Rocket

    No limo/Uber? No one will lease space in a building where the execs can’t be picked up and dropped off at the front door.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The latter. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    How about at 15 mph speed limit everywhere but West Street, Trinity/Church, Broadway, and Water Street?

  • AMH

    Absolute insanity! I tried biking in the same area a few weeks ago with similar results. It floors me that we allow all these cars to make these streets borderline unusable.

  • ohnonononono

    Fulton should be pedestrianized during the day, as it was decades ago.

  • Cain McDougal

    They should do this in Downtown Flushing. The streets are narrow as hell and its one of the biggest hubs in Queens servicing the surrounding neighborhoods.

    If they made Main St, Flushing bus & bike only and widen the sidewalks, it would be such an inviting place. The Flushing BID are so shortsighted.

  • Hugh Shepard

    What about bicycles? You need to accomodate and allow them to travel within the zone, designating bicycle parking areas.

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