Off late several streets in New York City have been given a facelift to make them more pedestrian-friendly. However, in the midst of such a flurry of activity, the Financial District has largely remained unmoved, untouched, and unchanged. However, with the Economic Development Corp. calling out to expert consultants to conduct an in-depth analysis into Lower Manhattan’s Water Street, there is every indication that the latter may be in line for a major overhaul.
The driving force behind this move is Downtown Alliance, a group that is dedicated to promoting development in the Lower Manhattan area. A study released by them last summer outlined the details of the proposed modifications to be carried out on Water Street – specifically with reference to the area between the Staten Island Ferry terminal and the South Street Seaport. Their vision is for a boulevard that has more trees, fewer cars and traffic lanes, leaving more space for those on foot. The idea is to turn the area into an active destination for pedestrians. The plan could also include a median in the center of the street as well as lighting changes.
While not too many areas in Lower Manhattan can accommodate all the elements mentioned above, Water Street scores over the nearby area in this respect. Though it does have narrow streets that are typical of most neighborhoods in New York City, there is enough potential for it to be revamped into a pedestrian-friendly street.
Currently, Water Street sees mostly commercial use. Lack of retail and dining options in the neighborhood leave it looking pretty desolate and deserted after office hours and on weekends. However, Nicole LaRusso, a senior vice president for planning and economic development at the Downtown Alliance is hoping that after the changes are made Water Street will cultivate a more Park Avenue-like feel.
Although these changes in Lower Manhattan promise a better environment for pedestrians, cyclists will have very little to look forward to. Although there have been requests to incorporate bike lanes in the proposed plans, the brains behind this project have sent out a clear message that they cannot be accommodated.
As Ms. LaRusso explains, being a commercial district, the curb space on Water Street will be used for black cars, taxi pick-ups, and loading or unloading of deliveries. However, cyclists can take comfort from the fact that they will have an entire lane dedicated to them a block away. This lane is being constructed by the city and will run along the East River Esplanade.
In spite of the minor let down for cycling-enthusiasts, most of the other denizens of Lower Manhattan can’t wait to see what Water Street looks like once the project is complete.