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TriBeCa Residents Push for Permanent Pedestrian Plaza on Hudson Street

By Julie Shapiro | December 16, 2011 7:44am
The plaza's diagonal stripes match the pattern embedded in the adjacent sidewalk.
The plaza's diagonal stripes match the pattern embedded in the adjacent sidewalk.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

TRIBECA — A temporary pedestrian plaza in TriBeCa is on the road to becoming permanent, thanks to the advocacy of the residents who built it.

The plaza — formerly a little-used block of Hudson Street just north of Chambers Street, now painted green and dotted with tables, chairs and planters — was supposed to last for three years, while water main construction on Chambers Street prevented the block from being open to traffic.

But the Friends of Bogardus Garden, which advocated for the plaza and handle its maintenance and programming, do not want to see their hard work disappear when the construction concludes in 2013.

"It really brings so many parts of New York together, and that's one of the things we love about it," said Victoria Weil, head of the Friends of Bogardus Garden.

"The idea is to make it as nice as it can be."

Weil hopes the city and private donors will invest more money in the plaza if it becomes permanent, adding more seating and planters, plus umbrellas, electricity for a large three-sided clock, and free wireless Internet.

The Friends of Bogardus Garden gathered signatures from 26 businesses and more than 300 residents in support of keeping the plaza, and on Wednesday Community Board 1's Tribeca Committee voted 9 to 1 in support of permanently closing the block.

"In terms of pedestrian safety, it's been a huge improvement," said Peter Braus, chairman of the Tribeca Committee.

However, Sergio Acappella, owner of the 17-year-old Acappella restaurant at Hudson and Chambers streets, spoke out against the street closure.

Acappella called the plaza "a nuisance" and said he has lost 35 percent of his business over the past year because taxis and limos can no longer pull right up to his entrance to drop off diners.

"It doesn't serve any purpose," Acappella said of the plaza. "The only purpose it's serving is destroying my business."

Vaidila Kungys, senior project manager at the Department of Transportation, said the city is looking into creating a loading zone on the edge of the plaza to serve Acappella's customers, along with the block's residents.

Other nearby businesses said the plaza was helping, not hurting them.

Alan Solman, owner of Kings Pharmacy at Hudson and Reade streets, said he has sold more candy, drinks and knickknacks since the plaza opened in September 2010.

"It just has an overall beneficial effect that helps the TriBeCa neighborhood," Solman said.

"It's like a nice little oasis in the middle of lower Manhattan."

A couple of TriBeCa residents expressed concerns about the plaza's impact on traffic, especially on oft-congested Chambers Street.

But Kungys said the Hudson Street block saw just 114 cars per peak hour before it was closed, noting that the city has closed streets that are more than twice as busy.

The next step in creating a permanent plaza would be for the DOT to approve it.

A spokeswoman for the agency did not respond to a request for comment, but Kungys said he did not think the block had enough traffic to require it to reopen.