By Julie Shapiro
CHINATOWN — The city's plan to overhaul Chatham Square is finally dead.
Following vehement opposition from residents, business owners and politicians, the city has decided to use the $30 million earmarked for the famous Chinatown intersection where seven streets neet for other lower Manhattan projects instead, officials said last week.
The money will likely help the Department of Transportation manage the 9/11 memorial buses expected to flood downtown starting this fall, and it will also likely go toward improvements on Water Street, one of downtown's main commercial corridors, said Andrew Winters, director of the Mayor's Office of Capital Projects.
"A reconstruction of Chatham Square is not an option for at least five years given the Brooklyn Bridge reconstruction detours, and we’re not going to wait to invest the $30 million in lower Manhattan," Winters told DNAinfo.
The Brooklyn Bridge project, which started last year, frequently routes extra traffic over the Manhattan Bridge and into Chatham Square, so the city did not want the two jobs going on simultaneously, Winters said.
The Chatham Square project would have reconfigured the complicated intersection with the goal of improving traffic flow and pedestrian safety. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. pledged $30 million of the total $50 million price tag, making an otherwise prohibitively costly project feasible.
Residents objected to the proposal because it would have permanently closed Park Row, a street running beneath NYPD headquarters that has been shut since 9/11 but that residents and business owners hope will reopen soon. Community leaders also worried that the changes would make the Chatham Square intersection more dangerous.
Jan Lee, a leader of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, a group that strongly opposed the Chatham Square plan, was glad to hear the city is not moving forward with the proposal.
"But at least some of the money should remain in Chinatown," Lee said.
Lee suggested that the city put the money toward an independent study on the feasibility of reopening Park Row, which was once a key bridge between Chinatown and the Civic Center.
"That money was supposed to be set aside for rebuilding downtown Manhattan post-9/11," Lee said. "This is a logical step toward that."
Winters said the city would be open to additional uses for the Chatham Square money. Two other ideas he mentioned were repairs to Pier 42 on the Lower East Side and minor beautification and pedestrian safety improvements to Chatham Square itself.