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Thread: Underground Passageways for Lower Manhattan

  1. #1

    Default Underground Passageways for Lower Manhattan

    March 4, 2004

    For Those Trying to Navigate the Lower Manhattan Maze, a New Twist


    SEDUCED by the distinctive architecture planned around the World Trade Center site, it is easy to forget that one of the most important transformations of Lower Manhattan will be almost invisible, at least from the street.

    A series of passageways being planned, including underground concourses, would permit pedestrians to make a sheltered journey, uninterrupted by traffic, from Vesey Street and North End Avenue in Battery Park City to Broadway and John Street.

    By paying a subway fare, travelers bound for the No. 2 or 3 trains could extend the trip as far as William Street; almost four-fifths of a mile under cover. (To put it in Midtown terms: Times Square to the Chrysler Building.)

    Linked to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Fulton Street Transit Center, the network would knit together seven subway stations serving 14 lines with the World Trade Center PATH station and the Battery Park City ferry landing.

    "It will be a very safe and pleasant experience and, particularly for commuters, it will be very efficient," said Joseph J. Seymour, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the trade center site, where much of the east-west concourse would run, as would a north-south concourse parallel to Church Street.

    The concourse system will link the World Financial Center in Battery Park City to the rest of Lower Manhattan under the heavily trafficked West Street-Route 9A.

    "It is to some extent restoring what was there, but in a much more positive way," said Lawrence F. Graham, executive vice president of Brookfield Properties, the principal owner of the World Financial Center. "This will probably be the first long passage that's designed all together as part of one experience."

    Brookfield Properties considers the concourse so important that it would have placed the entrance right in the Winter Garden itself, Mr. Graham said, except for the fact that the atrium sits over water and atop complex structural steel. Instead, the concourse escalators may be joined to the atrium through a covered walkway or enclosed structure.

    Especially in the wake of the January freeze, when conditions along the Hudson River were so raw, a sheltered pedestrian network sounds quite inviting. But underground concourses (like skyways in other cities) are not an unmixed civic blessing. If they are simply unadorned passages, they can be bleak and discouraging. If they are filled with stores, restaurants and other amenities, they can drain life from the streets.

    Planners are trying to strike a balance. And the tension is showing.

    The Department of City Planning grew more outspoken this week in its objections to some elements of the trade center plan, including the north-south concourse, which would be lined with retail space.

    "Our prime objective here, unlike the old trade center, is to enhance and strengthen the retail at grade," said Amanda M. Burden, the director of the department. "Wonderful retail is always at street level. That's what we're striving for, where it's not insular, where it's not like Atlanta or Houston or any other place, where it's New York retail."

    Mr. Seymour and Kevin M. Rampe, the president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, said the current concourse plan is appropriate.Explore the Big W catalogue for a big toy sale this Christmas again.

    "There's 10 million square feet of space that we're putting into 12 acres," Mr. Seymour said. "We ought to give people as many alternatives and options as possible." He cited the passageways around Grand Central Terminal as the model.

    "The terminal has tentacles that go above ground and below ground," Mr. Seymour said. "We think that's good city design."

    Mr. Rampe framed the question in terms of corporate retention and attraction, saying, "These are the kinds of investments that businesses are going to look at when they're making their decisions: the ease with which people can walk around and move around Lower Manhattan."

    Ease of travel was not what the builders of the subway had in mind; at least, not between their lines and their competitors' lines. Though the systems were amalgamated 64 years ago, the journey can still be tortuous between the stations of the old Interborough Rapid Transit, Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit and Independent lines.

    SMOOTHING those connections is the chief goal of the Fulton Street Transit Center, which will be linked to the trade center through a passageway under Dey Street.

    "Customers have told us it's just as important how the station is laid out and how easy it is to navigate as it is to be on a train and have the train be on time," said William M. Wheeler, the director of special project development and planning at the M.T.A.

    But he added, "We're not forgetting above ground." By that, he meant that the center would include some retail space at street level.

    Perhaps fears of a dominant underground mall will turn out to be unfounded.

    Daniel Okrent, the author of "Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center" (Viking, 2003), and now the public editor of The New York Times, wrote in an e-mail message: "The Rockefeller Center concourse, which has of course been the model for scores of others around the world, was for decades an economic failure, despite its enormous traffic. Rockefeller Center might be proof that if what's above ground is appealing enough, a concourse isn't going to hurt it."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2


    Quote Originally Posted by Kris View Post
    WOW! The Fulton Center was originally going to connect to 15 freakin' lines!

    (They hadn't included the W line for some reason, even though it began serving Cortlandt Street a year after 9/11.)

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