By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — With 200 days to go before the 9/11 memorial opens to the public, city officials still have not released a detailed plan for managing the millions of visitors expected to flood lower Manhattan.
At a town hall meeting Wednesday night, Borough President Scott Stringer pressed the Department of Transportation to begin working with the community immediately to figure out how to accommodate the thousands of extra tour buses.
"We need to start discussing specific corners and blocks now," Stringer said. "We don't have time to waste."
Luis Sanchez, the DOT's lower Manhattan borough commissioner, said he would begin working with the community in mid-April to identify specific sites for bus drop-offs and layovers.
The city hopes to limit the number of tour buses entering lower Manhattan by encouraging tour companies to drop the visitors off in New Jersey and having them use public transportation. The city will withhold the free, timed tickets to the 9/11 memorial from bus companies that don't comply.
However, the city cannot ban all tour buses from downtown, Sanchez said. Those carrying school children, the elderly and the disabled will need to have access to the site, and then they will then need a place to lay over for an hour or two.
Sanchez expects only six to eight buses per hour will need layover spaces, and he said he would try to keep them away from residential and commercial entrances. He promised to do walk-throughs with the community starting later this spring.
At Wednesday night's meeting, which drew more than 100 people to the Downtown Community Center on Warren Street, rebuilding officials also offered an update on progress at the World Trade Center site.
The 9/11 memorial is still on schedule to open on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, and steel for One World Trade Center has reached the 58th floor, the Port Authority said. Tower 4 at Church and Liberty streets is following behind at the 17th floor, and Tower 3 just to the north will reach street level by early 2012, Silverstein Properties said.
One World Trade Center and Tower 4 are both expected to open in 2013.