A direct rail link to JFK Airport, a beautiful and secure Wall Street area, and a summer 2004 groundbreaking for the Freedom Tower are but just a few of the promises Governor George Pataki has made since September 11, 2001, to rebuild Lower Manhattan. Yesterday, the governor delivered a status report on these and other downtown projects, each of which, he declared, is entirely achievable -- with several already completed or underway.
Speaking at a downtown luncheon sponsored by the Association for a Better New York, and delivered to government officials and other VIPs -- including former Mayor David Dinkins and New York filmmaker Edward Burns -- the governor enthusiastically outlined short- and long-term plans to promote Lower Manhattan, develop its real estate, and make it more accessible.
Pataki broke his vision into three main areas: airport mass transit, short-term initiatives, and downtown construction.
"One-seat ride" to JFK
After three months of studying four options that would create a direct rail link from Lower Manhattan to JFK International Airport, Pataki announced two final contenders: the Montague Tunnel and the New Tunnel.
The Montague Tunnel would use the existing subway tunnel under the East River, currently used by the M and R trains, and connect to a new Brooklyn tunnel between Atlantic Avenue and the JFK AirTrain. At a cost of $3.5 to 4.5 billion, the service would stop downtown at the Broad, Fulton, Chambers, and Canal Street subway stations.
The second option -- favored by the governor and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as by study officials -- would mean construction of a new tunnel under the East River and cost approximately $6 billion. Pataki explained that the New Tunnel would save Long Island commuters 40 percent more time traveling to and from Lower Manhattan, and deliver faster, more reliable service to airport-bound riders than would the Montague alternative.
|Pataki autographs a helmet for a Seven World Trade Center construction worker
Regardless of which option is chosen, Pataki said, "By offering a one-seat ride to JFK, this line will offer a convenient, no-transfer rail route for Manhattan's airport-bound passengers, taking them all the way to their terminals. In so doing, it will position New York alongside the other world-class cities that already have such seamless global access."
The two options will be further analyzed beginning this summer in a formal environmental review, which will take approximately two years to complete. Construction would begin in 2006 or 2007, and the new service would begin operating by 2013.
The governor outlined a handful of more immediate initiatives that will boost "quality of life" in Lower Manhattan. The first will be felt as soon as the summer when the River-to-River Festival returns. The festival, supported again by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), will bring live music and dance performances to locations from the South Street Seaport to Battery Park. For the long term, the LMDC is launching a planning study to create the "Downtown Y," a community and cultural center to operate like and be run by the 92nd Street Y.
Also on the horizon is a second phase of work to secure and beautify the Financial District, where several steps have already been taken to finesse security around the New York Stock Exchange.
Another business improvement for the area is more technological: installation of a wireless data network for downtown businesses to broadcast data through secure channels to satellite locations. Pataki said the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) will dedicate $10 million to establish the new infrastructure.
The LMDC is charged with funding three open-space projects, including reconstruction of Louise Nevelson Plaza (at William Street and Maiden Lane) into a tree-lined court. Hudson River Park's Pier 40 will also be transformed, in this case from a parking lot into a three-acre recreational field. The third project is a study to convert the 30,000-square-foot roof of Pace University's Spruce Street building into a "green roof" that could function as a public park as well as a research site for air quality, native plants, and storm water capture.
To help draw visitors downtown during the coming months, Pataki announced the launch of a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign on May 10. It will be funded and developed by the LMDC and ESDC (with the help of the Alliance for Downtown New York and Wall Street Rising), and work in tandem with other downtown marketing plans, such as the Chinatown tourism campaign. The LMDC also will install new wayfinding signs to point visitors in the direction of transportation hubs, cultural institutions, and specific neighborhoods.
The World Trade Center's 16 acres will officially transform from a clean-up and construction preparation site into a rebuilding zone with the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Freedom Tower on July 4 -- months ahead of schedule. "On July 4, as fireworks burst in the sky -- ephemeral reminders of our liberty -- we will begin to reclaim our skyline with a permanent symbol of our freedom," said Pataki.
And beyond the much-anticipated groundbreaking, there will be activity elsewhere around the site as well. To the south, deconstruction will begin on the Deutsche Bank building this fall, and to the north, the Con Ed electric substation will resume operations from lower floors of the Seven World Trade Center building (already 13 stories tall and growing) later this month.
|Groundbreaking for Freedom Tower at the WTC site will take place on July 4
For the WTC memorial, Pataki said that the full schematic design will be complete by late 2004, with construction commencing in 2006. In the meantime, he called upon the LMDC to create a new welcoming center near the WTC where survivors and 9/11 victims' family members can visit and preserve their memories through audio and written archives.
To aid the memorial process, the governor announced the first $1 million donation to the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation Center, made by Major League Baseball, the Baseball Players Association, and the Baseball Tomorrow Fund.
Several construction projects outside of the WTC site promise to improve circulation in and around downtown. Pataki put the spotlight on one of downtown's largest transportation projects, the Fulton Transit Center, stating that its completed design will be unveiled at the American Institute of Architects meeting on May 26. Meanwhile, the renovated South Ferry station is on track to open in 2007.
Ferry service also is getting attention, as Port Authority-run service from downtown to LaGuardia Airport begins later in 2004 and a similar service to JFK will ship out next year. These lines may be bolstered by construction of a permanent, expanded Battery Park City Ferry Terminal to open in spring 2006.
And as planned, West Street will get a facelift starting in September, when the State Department of Transportation begins revamping the southern portion of the highway (from Washington to West Thames Street) into a tree-lined promenade.
To read the full text of Governor Pataki's speech, click here.
Click here to read about the governor's vision for downtown as presented April 2003, and here to read more about the original four airport rail link proposals.