Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lower Manhattan - the perfect place to store buses!

The East River waterfront in lower Manhattan is planned to one day be a relaxing place for pedestrians to stroll. For me personally, it's hard to relax with the FDR Drive over my head, but it's at least supposed to be a link in the greenway loop, allowing cyclists, skaters and pedestrians to get from Lower Manhattan to and from the Lower East Side and points north in a relatively quick and convenient way. To that end, the city has striped bike lanes along a significant stretch of the waterfront, and they're planning to build a fancy esplanade there. That's a good thing.

Curbed reports that one obstacle to the esplanade is that there are 92 buses that currently lay over there. The city had planned to move eighteen of those buses to the Hudson River waterfront in Tribeca, but the Tribeca NIMBYs rose up in force, prompting Councilmember Gerson and Borough President Stringer to grandstand in their favor. The latest news is that the City will put the project on hold until it can find a new place to put the buses.

The thing I hate most about NIMBYs is that they're all negative. They don't care about any of the reasons why someone would want that project, they just want it out of their backyard. That's the case with all of the Tribeca NIMBYs quoted in the Trib article: yes, buses are not fun to look at and they foul the air, but they're just as ugly and smelly over by the East River.

Fortunately, some of the people in the Downtown Express article are more reasonable, and are actually looking for, you know, solutions. There's eventually going to be a rebuilt garage in the World Trade Center bathtub with space for 80 buses. Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin likes a plan by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to take over part of the current 2,000-space Battery Parking Garage eyesore and put the buses there. "The plan Menin supports, formulated by the L.M.D.C., would be for the L.M.D.C. or the city to buy half of the garage and rebuild it so it can house 120 buses."

Sounds good, right? The garage is a parking magnet, drawing private cars into Lower Manhattan where they don't belong. Converting some of that space to bus parking would remove that incentive. The plan would even deck over part of the tunnel exit and make the area much more pedestrian friendly - sadly, too late for poor Marilyn Feng.

Except the more elaborate the plans get, the more expensive they get, and nobody wants to pay for it. The LMDC is apparently broke. When you get cash-strapped public agencies and developers in the same room, you get wacky plans like this, as described by the Express:
The L.M.D.C.’s plan for the site shows either a five-story or a seven-story garage, with either a 41-story or 31-story residential tower on top of it. The development can total nearly 1 million square feet, based on available air rights, according to the L.M.D.C. plan.

Money is the chief obstacle. The L.M.D.C. was once expected to fund the garage, but spokesperson Mike Murphy said there is no money allocated. Money for the garage could have come from a $29 million economic development fund, but that fund is nearly empty after $5 million went to help small businesses and $22 million went to cost overruns at the Deutsche Bank building.

Okay, so why not put in for stimulus funds? With enough money, we could even turn it into an actual bus station, so that commuters can wait in comfort instead of on the street. Apparently that hasn't occurred to anyone, so we'll be using the stim to resurface roads around the city.

Oh, and some people want to expand the parking garage so that there's still room for cars. Genius...

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