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New Pedestrian Plazas Coming to Water Street

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Water Street is getting a pedestrian-friendly facelift.

The Department of Transportation is creating new plazas along the Financial District thoroughfare, from Whitehall Street up to Fulton Street, as well as shortening several crosswalks.

The DOT plans to shut down traffic on Coentis Slip, between Water and Pearl streets, and Gouverneur Lane, between Water and Front streets, to turn the blocks into public seating areas, with granite slabs and potted plants, much like the pedestrian plaza that opened at the southern end of Water Street in 2011.

And that original Water Street plaza, which sits across from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at Whitehall Street, will be extended up to Broad Street, the DOT said.

The upgrades will begin this spring and are slated to be done by Labor Day, officials said.

The idea is to better utilize, and beautify, the narrow pathways that lead to the waterfront, said Sean Quinn, planning coordinator for the DOT, in a presentation to Community Board 1's Financial District Committee this week.

"These are transformative, positive improvements to Water Street," said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairwoman of CB1. "It will certainly be nice to see new, beautiful potted plants lining the street and to see areas activated and enlivened."

The DOT will also bump out the curbs on parts of Water Street between Whitehall and Fulton streets to shorten the crosswalks, adding new painted pedestrian areas, Quinn said.

In the future, the DOT will consider changing the bus stops on Water Street, which residents have complained are too frequent for the congested area.

In a separate plan to revitalize Water Street, the Department of City Planning is launching a pilot program that would enable office tower owners to hold public events on the plazas outside their buildings.

Landlords along Water Street own more than 40 public plazas and open spaces that could host tasting events, fitness programs and other activities, city officials said.

The Department of City Planning's program would allow the buildings to run events without having to apply for a special permit each time, as is currently the case.

The pilot, which would run from July 4 through the end of the year, still needs approval from the City Council, but CB1 gave its advisory support this week.