9/11 Memorial Tour Buses Will Pay to Park Downtown
By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Tour buses visiting the 9/11 memorial will have to pay for parking spaces and may also have to buy permits from the city, officials said Friday.
Downtown politicians and community leaders hope to use the fees, which have not yet been set, to pay for NYPD patrols that will keep traffic flowing and pedestrians safe when the 9/11 memorial opens to the public this fall, drawing an estimated 5 million visitors a year.
"It is important to take that revenue that comes of our hosting the memorial and dedicate that to continued assurance of quality of life [downtown]," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Friday.
Silver spoke with other local officials after hosting a closed-door meeting at his office Friday morning with representatives from a bevy of city agencies. The meeting marked the first time the major downtown stakeholders have come together to discuss a bus plan for the memorial's opening, which is less than five months away.
"The process is far from finished, but we certainly are off to a positive start," Silver said.
Much of the plan is still uncertain, including the bus parking and permit fees and how exactly the money will be used.
But the city is moving forward with efforts to encourage tour buses to park at remote sites in Brooklyn and Jersey City and have the tourists take ferries, subways and PATH trains to the memorial, officials said. The 9/11 memorial foundation plans to withhold free, timed tickets to the memorial from tour companies that do not cooperate.
Still, the city estimates that six to eight buses an hour will need to enter lower Manhattan to drop off visitors including schoolchildren and senior citizens. Those buses will park in three-hour layover spaces near the Trade Center site, likely on Barclay Street and West Street, said Luis Sanchez, the Department of Transportation's lower Manhattan borough commissioner.
Sanchez said the city is no longer considering parking tour buses in Battery Park City or in TriBeCa. A previous proposal to park buses on Warren Street near P.S. 234 and the Downtown Community Center drew the ire of local residents.
The city is also exploring retrofitting double-decker tour buses to make them less polluting, Silver said.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron said he hoped that the inter-city bus legislation he and Silver introduced in the wake of last month's deadly Chinatown bus crash would help regulate tour buses as well.
No tour bus companies attended Friday's meeting, but some tour guides have expressed concerns about the restrictiveness of the city's plan.
In 2013, the Port Authority is scheduled to open an underground bus garage at the World Trade Center site, which would help alleviate the problem.
The group of officials and community stakeholders will meet again May 19 and hope to have a more detailed plan then, Silver said.