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Public Plaza to Open Alongside Holland Tunnel Traffic

 Freeman Plaza West, a new public plaza in Hudson Square, is set to open Thursday, May 16, 2013.
Freeman Plaza West
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HUDSON SQUARE — The newest park in lower Manhattan will offer the shade of leafy old trees, tables and chairs with matching lime green umbrellas — and a whiff of car exhaust.

Located next to some of the worst traffic in New York, a public plaza is set to open Thursday at Hudson and Broome streets, just west of the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.

The Hudson Square Connection, the business improvement district for the recently rezoned neighborhood, created the $200,000 park because it saw an opportunity to transform "dead space" owned by the Port Authority, the group's president, Ellen Baer said.

"Open space in Manhattan, especially in this area, is so rare. When you find an opportunity, you want to really take advantage of it," Baer said. "This is a piece of a puzzle that will transform the whole neighborhood."

The 15,000-square-foot area known as Freeman Plaza West will have two entrances on Hudson Street, near Broome Street and Watts Street.

The Port Authority donated 17 small trees and plants for the plaza. Four of the trees will memorialize four Port Authority officers who were killed on 9/11. A fifth tree will be dedicated to other victims of the terrorist attack.

The plaza is the first of four green spaces the BID plans to create around the Holland Tunnel entrance, roughly bound by Broome, Varick, Watts and Hudson streets. These areas are part of the $27 million streetscape project the BID presented in October that would build outdoor "living rooms" on medians along Hudson Street and redesign SoHo Square, the narrow park west of Sixth Avenue from Spring Street to Broome Street.

Baer said she thought workers in Hudson Square, which is home to MTV and WNYC, would have an open mind about eating lunch alongside tunnel traffic.

"We have a very creative and imaginative tenancy here," she said.

"We think they'll use their imaginations. People made fun of the High Line too. You never know until you try it."

The Connection will celebrate the opening of Freeman Plaza West on Thursday from 12 to 2 p.m. with free food from the local caterer Eet, free beverages from the tea company King Kava and music by the "novelty ragtime" group The Xylopholk. The plaza will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to dusk.