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Thread: Turning Lower Manhattan Into Parkland

  1. #1

    Default Turning Lower Manhattan Into Parkland

    November 5, 2003

    Turning Lower Manhattan Into Parkland


    The relandscaped Drumgoole Plaza Park, beneath the Ari Halberstam Memorial Ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge, has curving paths, ornamental plantings and boomerang-legged benches. Pace University will supply volunteer labor to care for the park.

    A tough stretch of asphalt in Lower Manhattan — wrapped and shadowed by the looming loop of a Brooklyn Bridge approach ramp — will be claimed today as the city's newest parkland.

    No one will mistake it for Olmsted and Vaux, but with curving paths, ornamental plantings and boomerang-legged benches, the relandscaped Drumgoole Square may attract workers, residents and the students and staff of Pace University (it is literally in Pace's backyard), rather than pigeons, police horses and parked vehicles, the chief constituents in recent years.

    "They made a great area out of a no-man's piece of land," said Daniel I. Slippen, director of the Center for Downtown New York at Pace. "When Parks committed to it, they came in and started digging. I've never seen a city agency work so fast."

    Five months and nine days have elapsed since the Drumgoole Square reclamation was announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, one of 13 projects in a $25 million program run by the city Parks and Recreation Department and financed by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Six more projects are to open next spring and the other six by the end of 2004.

    "We will have created or renovated over 50 acres of public space south of Houston Street," Gov. George E. Pataki said in a speech last week.

    In a part of the city where open space is especially precious — and fought over inch by inch — the program amounts to a windfall. "Parks personnel I've been dealing with are like, `It's almost too good to be true,' " said Judy Duffy, the assistant district manager of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan. "It gives people a lift to have green spaces." However, she said, the board is concerned about the long-term maintenance of these newly minted spaces.

    Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, likened the breakneck timetable — and the cooperation among agencies — to postwar reconstruction or the efforts of the Works Progress Administration in the Great Depression. "We're rebuilding in the aftermath of a war," Mr. Benepe said, speaking of the devastation from the 2001 attack. "I can only compare it to the sense of urgency under Robert Moses and the W.P.A.: get it designed and get it built."

    Of course, Moses, the master builder of public works in the mid-20th century, also said you cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs. And one project will scuttle an existing streetscape at Coenties Slip, where the artist James Garvey installed seating in 1998 for the Alliance for Downtown New York. Subway riders know his work from the 33rd Street station on the Lexington Avenue Line: bronze lariat loops that wrap around the platform columns and double as seating.

    His Coenties Slip project includes benches with 20-foot planks, supported by lariat-style forged-steel legs; an array of arrow-shaped benches that create a giant X when seen from nearby towers; and barriers made of stone blocks salvaged during the renovation of the Williamsburg Bridge. These will be removed to create a triangular, bluestone-paved extension of the Fraunces Tavern block, a small historic district between Pearl and Water Streets. A waist-high bronze fountain is to be installed. There will be benches, planting beds and low trees.

    Parks officials said Mr. Garvey's installation was intended from the start to be temporary. Mr. Garvey disagrees. "The furniture and the site were not a temporary measure," he said. "I think they're making a mistake. They're being very disrespectful to something that's far more valuable to the community."

    The alliance has offered to move the furniture to Trinity Place and Edgar Street and maintain it there as a new public space. "By relocating it to another spot, everyone wins," said Bonnie Koeppel, chief of design for the parks agency.

    Money for the parks program comes from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department through the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is looking at other areas to convert to open space, said its president, Kevin M. Rampe.

    The most ambitious of the current projects is a relandscaping in Battery Park. The most distant from ground zero is the rehabilitation of the East River Park ball fields at Houston Street. "We were able to make the case that communities affected by Sept. 11 extended to the north," said Joshua Laird, chief of planning at the parks agency.

    From a design perspective, Ms. Koeppel said the goal was to ensure that the spaces be identifiable as parkland, in part through the use of materials like granite and bluestone that would create aesthetic links among the projects. Where possible, she said, some kind of water feature will also be introduced.

    One fountain will anchor the east end of Wall Street Triangle, an open space between South and Water Streets, on what is now a roadway and parking lot. It will punctuate an allée of granite and glass-block benches, framed in rose and taxus hedges, emphasizing the view down Wall Street to Trinity Church.

    Deutsche Bank has donated $400,000 for the design, construction and maintenance of a fountain proposed for the park. The bank intends it as a kind of memorial to Sebastian Gorki and Francisco Bourdier, employees who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and Christopher M. Morrison and Mark S. Jardim of Zurich Scudder Investments, who also died that day. (Zurich Scudder has since been acquired by Deutsche Bank.)

    It will also serve as a reminder of the fountain that once ornamented the badly damaged Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty Street.

    Wall Street Triangle will be created by narrowing the roadbed to 30 feet. Iris Weinshall, the city transportation commissioner, said her agency was committed to "transforming spaces that had essentially been used as parking lots into inviting places for pedestrians."

    Drumgoole Square is such a place. Whatever happens on the ground must permit access for inspection and maintenance vehicles to the Ari Halberstam Memorial Ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge, whose tapered legs loop around Gold and Frankfort Streets. Rather than try to conceal this obvious feature, Mr. Benepe said he decided to celebrate it by illuminating the ramp supports at night.

    Because heavy vehicles will be driving over the surface, brick paving was impractical. So what appear to be brick paths are actually swaths of asphalt imprinted, as if by a giant waffle iron, with a brick pattern and texture.

    Mr. Slippen of Pace said Drumgoole Square in its earlier incarnation attracted large numbers of homeless people. The university would have preferred to fence the space and close it at night, but that was not possible because of bridge access requirements. Instead, it has installed six 1,000-watt lights around the square to make it less attractive for sleeping.

    Pace is also furnishing the water for the planting beds, through underground pipes, and the volunteer labor to care for the park through student environmental groups, said David A. Caputo, the university president.

    "We've been interested in adopting a park for quite some time," Dr. Caputo said. "As soon as the park is open and going, we'll begin doing our work."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village


    These are the 13 parks:

    -Drumgoole Square
    -Coenties Slip
    -Old Slip
    -Wall Street Triangle
    -Bowling Green
    -Battery Park Bosque
    -Washington Market Park
    -Tribeca Park
    -Canal, Varick and Laight Streets (triangle)
    -East River Park Ballfields
    -Sara D. Roosevelt Park
    -Columbus Park
    -Al Smith Playground

  3. #3

  4. #4
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    West Harlem


    It's all good... if there was a place in Manhattan that needed stuff like this, this is where it was.

  5. #5


    True, True.

    But I actually believe the West Side has too many parks and too much low-density. I suppose the lower-manhattan plan was scrapped following the entire environmental movement, and killed when the NIMBY's moved in.

    I would still love to live in Battery Park City.

  6. #6

  7. #7


    Downtown Express

    A park to grow under the Brooklyn Bridge

    By Janel Bladow

    A look at the Brooklyn Bridge plaza that is expected to be renovated this year and reopen in November.

    The next phase of bringing beauty to the beastly spaces beneath the Brooklyn Bridge breezed through a Community Board 1 committee meeting on Tuesday, March 9. The Seaport/Civic Center Committee approved a Parks Department design proposal for Brooklyn Bridge Park with one proviso – that it’s clearly spelled out who will maintain the new recreation area.

    The red brick plaza in question is bordered by Frankfort Street to the south, Pearl Street on the east, Park Row to the west and Police Headquarters Plaza on the north. The site is about 120,000 square feet and intersected by Rose St. Overhead are approach ramps and the west arches of the Brooklyn Bridge.

    The plaza is currently used by skateboarders and police and other city workers to park their cars.

    The project will clean up the area, remove dead tree stumps, repair existing pavements and add greenery, sports courts and seating areas.

    “Essentially it’s the same footprint,” said Marc Donnenfeld, the committee’s chairperson. “But it will be updated, enhanced and made user-friendly.”

    The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. will cover costs of renovating the 2.75 acre park. Brooklyn Bridge Park renovations are included in the $24.6 million allocated for Lower Manhattan parks and open spaces by the L.M.D.C.

    “The renovation allows skateboarders continued use of the long, narrow brick strip,” Michael Bolger, the Parks Dept.’s team leader for Manhattan capital projects, said during his presentation. “But it also opens the park up for many more people. We expect to begin construction in April or May.”

    The new park will feature two seating areas north of Rose St. One is a cul-de-sac screened by stone and surrounded by benches under trees along the bridge. The other is a cul-de-sac of ornamental grasses and benches under trees along a vehicular ramp. Both will be edged with greenery.

    Green turf-style synthetic carpet will cover an 80-foot by 20-foot activity area. A 5-foot circle in part of the synthetic turf will have a ying-yang symbol where residents can practice tai chi.

    Along the north end will be Ping Pong tables and courts for volleyball and basketball.

    Tetherball areas line the opposite side of the park.

    While the existing water fountains will be refurbished, there are no plans to install toilet facilities. Installing plumbing and toilet fixtures would cost more than refurbishing the whole park, said Bolger.

    A dog run could be included, along the bridge north of Rose St., but it isn’t in the current plan, according to a Parks Dept. spokesperson.

    Bolger said that Brooklyn Bridge Park should be done by November, about the same time that the L.M.D.C. and Parks expects to finish just about all of the 13 park projects in Lower Manhattan.

    Committee members expressed concern over park upkeep. The property is part of the Department of Transportation but is being built by Parks with L.M.D.C. funds. It was not clear who would be in charge of maintenance. The committee voted that be spelled out as part of the proposal before it goes before the full community board March 16.

    Meanwhile, L.M.D.C. is now studying possible ways to renovate and use the bricked up arches under the Brooklyn Bridge. A proposal will be presented at a future committee meeting.

    Downtown Express is published by
    Community Media LLC.
    Downtown Express | 487 Greenwich St., Suite 6A | New York, NY 10013

  8. #8


    Battery Park City parkland:

    Rendering of Teardrop Park, currently in development:

  9. #9


    I forgot all about that park.

    When the ballfields became permanent, the two crossing streets in the original plan were demapped, and the park was proposed. Except in summer, much of the park will be in shadow, so it was decided to design it as a Catskill glen. They've brought in a lot of rock slabs.

    We'll see.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Far West Village, NYC


    Can anyone find a photo of what Liberty Plaza (the block-sized concrete desert across from 1 Liberty Plaza) looked like before they turned it into an emergency vehicle parking lot after 9/11?

    I believe it is being privately (not part of the LMDC's park plan) re-landscaped this Spring, as it is owned by 1 Liberty Plaza. It would be great to see a rendering.

  11. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Far West Village, NYC


    Sprout It from the Rooftops

    A visionary group plans a lush new urban landscape

    Fly into LaGuardia Airport any summer afternoon and, depending on air traffic that day, your plane may traverse the skies directly over the island of Manhattan. It's an impressive sight, those thousands of buildings rising up from a slender finger of land. Now imagine looking down on a vast tapestry of verdant rooftops: acres of grass and flowering alpine plants.

    According to Colin Cheney, director of the green roofs initiative at the nonprofit Earth Pledge Foundation, New York's architecture makes it an ideal place to realize this vision. "There are more than 170 million square feet of flat roofs in Manhattan alone," he says. If the densely packed city turned those asphalt squares into fields overhead, it would add nearly five Central Parks' worth of open space to the urban landscape.

    The green roofs that Earth Pledge champions bear little resemblance to your average rooftop garden -- say, a few geraniums poking up from a flower box. Each of these lusher, more elaborate gardens requires the addition of up to seven layers of material, including waterproofing, a root barrier, and a drainage layer. All this is a little pricey: A green roof costs $15 to $35 per square foot, compared to $5 to $10 per square foot for typical roof construction, but Cheney points out that green roofs last twice as long as the nonsprouting variety, and their environmental benefits are well documented. Since rain soaks into the soil, green roofs can reduce storm runoff by 50 to 90 percent, thus preventing all that water from carrying oil, gasoline, and toxic chemicals into the sewer system. Green roofs also ameliorate the heat island effect. (On summer days, asphalt roofs can hit 170 degrees, and Manhattan can climb 8 degrees higher on the mercury than surrounding areas.)

    These grand plans remain largely unrealized -- so far. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spoken publicly in favor of green roofs (Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta have already installed them atop their city halls) but stopped short of committing New York City dollars to fund a green roof program. Still, an 8,000-square-foot green roof is being installed atop a South Bronx housing complex, and Pace University is planning one for its campus in lower Manhattan. Even the Environmental Protection Agency is a fan of the idea. Last year, the agency gave Earth Pledge a $10,000 grant to help the group publicize its vision. "Our goal is to make a Big Green Apple," says Jane Kenny, EPA regional administrator. "We want it to catch on like the hula hoop."

    -- Joel Gershon

  12. #12


    I posted an article about Liberty Plaza here. No rendering, but there is a good description of the plan. The old plaza was a grove of trees in a grid with benches. Instead of level, the new design will follow the slope from Broadway to Church.

  13. #13
    Senior Member
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    Feb 2004
    Far West Village, NYC

  14. #14


    April 17, 2004

    Park Used by Police Since 9/11 Is Given Back to Chinatown


    The small stretch of asphalt is surrounded by 1 Police Plaza, Murry Bergtraum High School, a strip mall and the Gov. Alfred E. Smith Houses. Central Park it is not.

    But even a little bit of open space is better than none, so it was with some fanfare yesterday that residents and community leaders in Chinatown celebrated their reclamation of the park, James Madison Plaza, which the Police Department had been using as a parking lot since 2001.

    The police vacated the park to comply with a court order issued last year by Justice Walter B. Tolub of State Supreme Court, who ruled that it was time for the police to take the first steps toward removing security blockades that have angered Chinatown residents since their installation after the Sept. 11 attack.

    One reason the police were using the park was because a nearby municipal parking lot that had been used to park police vehicles was closed for renovation.

    In the middle of the barren park, flowers and balloons were placed around a sign that gave notice that as of Thursday, "No vehicles are permitted to park inside the confines of the triangle of James Madison Plaza."

    It continued: "There are no exceptions. Violators will be towed."

    Neighborhood residents who fought to have the space opened to the community again brought signs of their own. One read, "Parks for people, not parking." Another said, "They paved paradise and put in a parking lot."

    New benches around the perimeter of the park were being painted green yesterday by city employees and a few new flower beds had arrived.

    United States Representative Nydia M. Velázquez told the crowd, "This is what community empowerment is all about."

    Assemblyman Sheldon Silver said the reopening of the park was reason for "a great celebration." And State Senator Martin Connor called the reclamation of the space "a great victory" for Chinatown and all of Lower Manhattan.

    Plans have been proposed to bring grass back to James Madison Plaza, which is also known as St. James Park to some people in the area. It is bounded by Pearl Street, St. James Place, and Madison Street, just north of the Brooklyn Bridge.

    Neighborhood groups are also pressing for the reopening of Park Row, a major north-south thoroughfare that has been closed since 9/11 for what the city has called security reasons.

    "Basically, we woke up one day after 9/11 and realized our whole community had been turned into a parking lot, surrounded by police and court vehicles," said Jeanie Chin, a member of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, a group that was formed after the terror attack.

    Ms. Chin said that street closings, pedestrian and vehicular traffic rerouting and the parking issues have isolated Chinatown, inconvenienced residents and hurt businesses and tourism.

    Councilman Alan Gerson urged support yesterday for the Park Row Bill, which he has introduced to establish guidelines to address the issue of street closings, including providing for adequate public input. A hearing on the bill is scheduled before the City Council on May 3.

    "From this park, we'll go forward and complete the job," Mr. Gerson said.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  15. #15


    A Small Park with Big History Returns to Tribeca

    April 19, 2004

    Community efforts help renovate Canal Park.

    Rendering by Allan Scholl, NYC Parks & Recreation, shows verdant greenery planned for park.

    For a swatch of land not much bigger than a city block, the triangle encompassed by Canal, West, and Washington Streets is quite a privileged piece of ground. It is a living example of how history can be reborn with the help of an enthusiastic Lower Manhattan community.

    If you walked past the triangle nine months ago, you would have seen a graveled parking lot cornered by heavily trafficked arterials. In fall 2003, however, that parking lot began to transform back to "Canal Park," designed in 1888 by celebrated landscape architects Calvert Vaux and Samuel Parsons Jr.

    The land beneath Canal Park was originally granted to the city in 1686 by James II, and was once a drainage point into the Hudson River from the former Collect Pond on the east end of Canal Street. Once the pond was closed in the early 19th century, and the pier at the west end of Canal became commercially active, the land was drained and developed. This, combined with the new city street grid of 1811, established the triangle as a public square and pedestrian throughway to the Hudson River.

    That busy square evolved into the Clinton Country Market in 1849, officially dedicated as park land in the 1860s, and landscaped by 1871 -- one year into the existence of a then-new city agency called the Department of Public Parks. Trees and shrubs were planted in the park's center, a fence was installed around its perimeter, and the surrounding sidewalk served as the city's Flower Market.

    The park earned its real pedigree 17 years later with an elite makeover from Vaux and Parsons. Planning the park as a pedestrian thoroughfare to the waterfront, the pair designed a curved path through the site, which they lined with benches and lighting enclosed by trees and open lawns. Still, the cast-iron fence -- a transplant from City Hall Park -- remained, in an effort to contain the park and its guests from the traffic just outside the gates.

    The neighborhood's industrialization came back into play in 1921, when the city loaned the park's land to the NY/NJ Bridge and Tunnel Authority to use for construction of the Holland Tunnel. What began as a four-year loan lasted nearly a decade, and by then the area had become so commercial that the city chose not to rebuild the park.

    By the 1990s, the park had all but escaped the public's memory -- until Richard Barrett and other members of the Tribeca Community Association took a closer look at the effects of a revamped Highway 9A (West Street) on Tribeca, and discovered the park's storied past. The small group soon formed the Canal/West Coalition, whose goal was to restore the park to its 1888 design and organize the traffic that swirls around it.

    Barrett, a Tribeca resident since 1976, says that the coalition's fervor was sparked by 9A engineers' plans to add lanes at the intersection of Canal and West, where multiple lanes would merge into one another. It was clearly a plan in need of revision, Barrett says. "It's counterintuitive," he explains. "More lanes don't help traffic -- more capacity only complicates things."

    With traffic top of mind in the discussion surrounding 9A, Barrett believes Canal Park's return was essential. "Parks have many functions, and one of them is circulation," Barrett says. "Restoring [Canal Park] is not just about the park -- it's also about implementing a transportation plan that's infinitely better." To boot, he adds that the park will again serve as a pedestrian thoroughfare between Canal Street and the Hudson River waterfront.

    Barrett easily dismisses the notion that the park's placement amid the busy intersection will deter leisure visitors, pointing first to the fact that the streets around the triangle have surprisingly light traffic much of the time. But even when traffic peaks, visitors will still come, he predicts. "The number of people using Hudson River Park is incredible, and it's right next to a six-lane highway," he notes. "And every day you'll find Herald Square filled with people eating lunch, and there's more traffic there than here."

    Above all, the reborn park means that Barrett and his neighbors will have a green haven to enjoy within an otherwise largely industrial landscape. The city's Parks & Recreation Department designers have planned a new Canal Park that will be twice its original size; enclosed by ornamental fencing, cast-iron bollards, and granite curbing; and filled with lawn and plant beds, trees and shrubs, and perennial and bulb flowers.
    The culmination of the community's efforts is slated for spring 2005, when, undoubtedly, Canal Park will open to a neighborhood eager to reclaim its cherished green space.

    Richard Barrett is writing a book about the story of the park, entitled A View from Canal Park (no release date is set).

    For more information about Canal Park's history and design, visit the city's Parks & Recreation Department website, or click here.

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