A range of improvements are proposed in the Greenwich Street South study
The neighborhood known as “Greenwich South” comprises a large segment of the Lower Manhattan street grid -- 23 blocks, to be exact -- and now there is a new vision to help enhance the neighborhood as a rich destination for business, families, and innovative public spaces.
The vision comes from a recent study by Lower Manhattan’s Business Improvement District, the Alliance for Downtown New York. Alliance President Liz Berger was the driving force for the “visioning study,” which imagines both short- and long-term plans that “encourage mobility, diversity of use, density, and environmental sustainability,” says Ms. Berger.
Seasoned in urban studies, government relations, law, and public art, Ms. Berger has long been active in the rebuilding and revitalization of Lower Manhattan. In addition to both living and working south of Canal Street, she has served on Manhattan Community Boards 1 and 5, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) Residents Advisory Council, and several more cultural and civic groups, as well as served as a mayoral appointee to the Governors Island Education and Preservation Corporation.
We asked Ms. Berger three questions about the Alliance’s Greenwich South program, its implementation, and its future.
With so many stakeholders with different interests, how did you set the study’s parameters?
Berger: The study was undertaken by an ad-hoc committee of our board, which included stakeholders who are not board members. In addition, we convened an informal “brain trust” of thinkers, restaurateurs, architects, writers, and other creative New Yorkers, consulted regularly with public officials, and organized a design charrette with some of this country’s most imaginative architects and artists. We did this to incorporate a wide variety of views and interests.
Following in the footsteps of David Rockefeller and the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, our goal was to develop a comprehensive point of view on what could and should happen in the area known as “Greenwich South,” to advance Lower Manhattan as a global model for a 21st-century central business district.
Because our goal was to understand why this part of Lower Manhattan looked, felt, and had developed differently from the rest, we set broad geographic parameters. We weren’t tied to a study area that fit a particular planning, development, or political objective. What quickly became clear in our research and early analysis was that the interests of many stakeholders united around several key principles.
One driving principle, for example, is the idea that reconnecting Greenwich Street would create a “Lower West Side” -- an area linking historic mixed-use neighborhoods all along the Hudson River, each home to creative industries and intense street life stretching from the Battery to the High Line.
What also became clear was that it was in the interest of most stakeholders to integrate Greenwich South into the communities that surround it, rather than distinguish it from them -- both from east and west as well as to the north.
Was anything excluded from the study that you hope is addressed in the future?
Berger: Our goal is to inspire decision-makers and opinion leaders to acknowledge the centrality of Greenwich South and invest in the area’s future -- and in the future of Lower Manhattan. Our main objective was not to propose an exhaustive list of specific projects, though the study does present 50 ideas for Greenwich South, including 10 that could happen right now.
This is why we condensed our work into a “tabloid” for broad distribution, mounted a temporary exhibition in Zuccotti Park last month, and put all of our work on the web at www.greenwichsouth.net. It’s also why we have invited the public to let us know their ideas for Greenwich South, and to e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there a focus on implementing any one of the specific concepts (e.g., wayfinding, Edgar Plaza redesign, bike racks, etc.)?
Berger: All of the above. The Downtown Alliance is actively pursuing a number of the immediate opportunities identified in the study and have actually already completed the first of them: animating Rector Street with public art.
In September, we converted two construction fences into canvases for public art through our Re:Construction program, which is funded by the LMDC. We added a third public-art exhibit in October when we partnered with www.smartspaces.org and Thor Equities to install a series of sculptures in the storefront windows at the corner of Rector and Greenwich. Together, these projects have turned Greenwich South’s major commuter corridor into an exciting avenue of public art.
Here are a few other projects that could happen soon:
- Installing bike racks – We are working with the city DOT to bring new bike racks to Greenwich South.
- Expanding the traffic island south of Edgar Street into a real park – With the endorsement of CB1 and Borough President Scott Stringer, we have applied to the DOT Public Plaza program to expand and renovate Edgar Plaza.
- Brooklyn Battery Tunnel – Making the ad hoc passage through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Garage from West Street to Greenwich Street feel safe, attractive, and easy to navigate.
- Developing more artist work space in Greenwich South – We just received a Cultural Innovations Grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to study models for creating sustainable studio space in Lower Manhattan.