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DOT to Beautify Another Meatpacking District Street

The goal of the redesign is to narrow the wide one-way street at the southern end of 10th Avenue south of the Whitney Museum, so that it is more inviting and safer. Photo: Google

From packing meat to relaxing street.

Click to enlarge. Graphic: DOT
Click to enlarge. Graphic: DOT
Click to enlarge. Graphic: DOT

The Meatpacking District is about to get yet another certain-to-become-popular public plaza, this time as the Department of Transportation remakes the southern terminus of 10th Avenue — once a bastion of big trucks unloading steer — into a seating area and safe cycling route.

According to the agency's presentation to the Community Board 2 Transportation Committee last week [PDF], the current confusing and overly wide roadway will be transformed with shared-street markings, tables, chairs, a bike lane and new pedestrian zones and crosswalks to get walkers from the area around the Whitney Museum to the Hudson River Greenway (see idea, right).

The plan is not primarily a safety redesign — there have been no reported crashes on that stretch of 10th Avenue since at least 2018 — but an initiative to "expand public space and add public space amenities [and] create new crossing for cyclists and pedestrians," according to the DOT. The design retains a single southbound lane linking West Street and 10th Avenue, which is necessary to accommodate large trucks driving priceless art to the Whitney.

The design would also help westbound cyclists get from the 13th Street protected bike lane to the Greenway, plus help eastbound cyclists get from the Greenway to the 12th Street protected bike lane.

"We call it Gansevoort Landing because it turns that area into a front porch space for the neighborhood," said Jeffrey LeFrancois, the executive director of the Meatpacking Business Improvement District. The BID has a long-term vision to entirely banish cars from the roadway as part of a multi-year expensive capital reconstruction, but the interim plan "repurposes a significant portion of the roadway for pedestrians and rationalizes the space, which right now is just ripe for illegal turns and donuts," he added.

Why is the Meatpacking District getting more goodies? In this case, it's because it's so easy for the city. The community board will likely support it, and the BID and TF Cornerstone, the developer of the building that fronts the public space, will be doing most of the work. According to the DOT presentation, the BID and the developer will paint the seating area, supply "edge objects and movable furniture" and maintain the space "once implementation is complete." The DOT is only going to "implement markings, signals, and signage changes."

Plus, the Meatpacking District more or less drew it up for DOT in its "Western Gateway Vision" plan earlier this year (though the Meatpacking BID renderings didn't show any car traffic on southbound 10th Avenue), as Streetsblog reported.

LeFrancois was clear that his BID's wealth of public realm improvements is directly linked to the neighborhood's wealth — but said that it doesn't have to be that way.

"The BID has resources that many neighborhoods across the city do not, so this momentum behind rethinking and reforming the roadway and the curb can be a model for how the city can replicate this across the five borough," he said. "We'd like to see this everywhere."

The city hopes to begin the project early next year.

The latest plaza joins so many streetscape redesigns in the area dating back to the original plaza on Ninth Avenue below 14th Street that began construction in 2007. Since then, LeFrancois said, the city has added 30,000 square feet of public plazas such as the slip lane of Ninth Avenue between 14th and 15th in front of the Apple Store.

As a result of these (and other) improvements, the neighborhoods comprising Manhattan Community Board 2 have among the best park access of any area in the city, with 98.5 percent of residents considered close to open space (the citywide average is 82.5 percent). The zone also has 54 percent more public benches than the citywide average. It is also one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in town, according to data mapped by Transportation Alternatives and MIT.

The press office at the Whitney Museum did not return a call seeking comment about the new front porch that the BID, TF Cornerstone and the DOT are building for the museum, which has been in its downtown location for about seven years.

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