March 9th - March 15th, 2013
November Start for West Thames Bridge Construction
March 7 - The design of the West Thames Pedestrian Bridge, initially conceived in 2009, is finally under way, reported the Tribeca Trib. The city plans to break ground on the $27.5 million project in November 2013 and complete it by late 2015. City officials announced the start of design work on the bridge, which will link lower Battery Park City to the Financial District, at a recent meeting of the Battery Park City Authority board of directors. But Authority Chairman Dennis Mehiel said he worries about cost overruns -- especially since a covering for the bridge, and additional elevators, are not part of the original design. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will pay $20 million for bridge design and construction; the BPCA has agreed to chip in up to $7.5 million. Mehiel stressed the need for a memorandum of understanding to spell out who would be financially responsible for cost overruns. The city is setting aside a $4 million for unforeseen expenses. An earlier design, drawn up by SHoP Architects, shows a 10-foot-wide crossing in the form of a lenticular truss -- curved, intertwined chords -- that makes the bridge appear to float above West Street. Pedestrians would cross the bridge on either side via ramps, stairs and elevators. The final bridge design is expected to be finalized in July. Once the bridge is completed, the city will tear down the Rector Street pedestrian bridge, which was erected shortly after 9/11 as a temporary crossing.
Muted Response to Downtown Terror Trial
March 8 - Three years ago, the real estate and business community united in opposing the White House's decision to try the 9/11 plotters in Lower Manhattan, eventually forcing the Obama administration to change course and conduct the trials at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On March 8th, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of Osama Bin Laden, was arraigned in Manhattan federal court. Practically no one batted an eye, according to Crain's New York. Security was reportedly tight outside the courthouse, with bomb-sniffing dogs and their police handlers out in force. In 2010, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's plan to turn lower Manhattan into a tightly controlled security zone for the 9/11 trials drew loud criticism from local businesses and real estate groups, who worried the crackdown would hurt sales and drain resources from the city. But now there is noticeable silence as one of Al Qaeda's top spokesmen faces charges in a Manhattan courtroom. Three years later, the muted response from many of the same players reflects a changed attitude toward Al Qaeda and terrorism in general. Bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces in 2011, and many of his top lieutenants are dead or imprisoned. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down. And the so-called "Ground Zero" mosque proposal has largely faded from memory.
City to Give $2 Million to Remake a Tribeca Garden and Plaza
March 11 - A small patch of Tribeca is $2 million closer to becoming a green, re-imagined oasis from the frenzy of street life, reported the Tribeca Trib. Friends of Bogardus Garden have been chosen for a grant from the city Department of Transportation to turn what is now a fenced-in garden and an adjacent pedestrian plaza into a unified, 9,000-square-foot public space. Plans will be presented to the public on Wednesday before the Community Board 1 Tribeca Committee. The DOT estimates that at least another million dollars is needed to create a "more jewel-like" space, with custom pavers and more landscaping and lighting. The Friends group, which maintains the area, says it has already raised $200,000 towards that goal and has applied for another $600,000 from elected officials. It is now fundraising for the remaining $200,000. More construction in the area could be unwelcomed by some, particularly following the years-long disruptions from the Chambers Street reconstruction project.
New Governors Island Park Space Readies For October Opening
March 11 - Governors Island's highly anticipated overhaul into a year-round destination with expansive new public spaces and redeveloped cultural and commercial buildings is well underway, according to DNAinfo.com. Construction is rapidly moving forward on 30 acres of new park space that includes ball fields, a grove of trees strung with hammocks and playful greenery with maze-like hedges, all of which is slated for an Oct. 30 ribbon cutting, Leslie Koch, president of The Trust for Governors Island, told members of Community Board 1 recently. The new public spaces won't be ready for public use during the upcoming Governors Island season -- which runs every weekend from May 25 to Sept. 29 -- but the public will be able to preview the new park on guided tours, according to the trust. The trust has not yet announced plans for public access to the new park after Oct. 30. The public space is just one piece of a massive plan for transforming the former Coast Guard base. The city plans to invest more than $260 million by 2014 to revamp the island's infrastructure. Proposals for private development -- both for the reuse of 40 existing historic buildings on the northern half of the island, and to build on 33 acres of mostly unused land in the south -- are due on March 14. The trust anticipates that the historic buildings will be renovated and occupied by 2015.
Downtown Alliance Report Documents Lower Manhattan Post-Sandy Resilience
March 14 - The Downtown Alliance has completed a report about the area recovery from Hurricane Sandy, reported the Broadsheet. The report, Back to Business: The State of Lower Manhattan Four Months After Hurricane Sandy, notes that in a range of critical sectors, the constellation of neighborhoods south of Chambers Street has bounced back. Some 99 percent of commercial office space is open, while 90 percent of retailers are operating. Around 99 percent of residential inventory is habitable once again, and 96 percent of hotel inventory is also open. Alliance data shows that four months after the storm almost 6,000 residential units in Lower Manhattan (about 20 percent of the local total of 30,500 households) were rendered at least temporarily inaccessible by flood waters and related damage. By mid-November, more than half of those closed units were back online and by January 1, the total has risen to more than 80 percent. As of this writing, some 99 percent of the apartments rendered uninhabitable by the storm are open once again.