New Pedestrian Plaza Envisioned for the Intersection of Orchard and Broome

Posted on: September 5th, 2014 at 5:49 am by

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Photo: Pilot Projects

The broad-strokes master plan is to completely change the face of Orchard Street from the Hell Square hotel zone of East Houston to the Chinatown bus depot of Canal. At the helm of this titanic endeavor is the Lower East Side BID, which hopes to “create a safer more enjoyable environment” for residents, merchants, and commuters along the seven-block stretch (Division Street is not included). Executive Director Tim Laughlin presented the initiative to the transportation subcommittee of Community Board 3 last night after months of neighborhood outreach and grassroots survey work.

Probably the most dramatic (nay, controversial) element of the revitalization plan – designed by Pilot Projects – is a plaza in the western intersection with Broome. The goal of the pedestrian amenity is to curb the bus and bridge traffic that often capitalizes on this junction as a shortcut to the Williamsburg Bridge.

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While seemingly a friendly addition, the plaza idea caused plenty of backlash from the panel. There was legit concern that this particular installation would totally jeopardize the traffic situation in the vicinity. By eliminating a through street, there would be bottlenecks and more congestion along Allen and over to Essex. Not to mention the imminent arrival of Essex Crossing construction. And all this potential headache for one organization, namely the Tenement Museum (not to mention the stakeholders on the block).

Yet before we get ahead of ourselves, the Broome Street plaza pitch still needs secondary review and future approval from the EDC.

Other design elements include the introduction of forty new trees, various seating, and “groves” that signify an entrance onto Orchard Street (four at each intersection). One such prototype is already functioning outside the Tenement Museum.

To its credit, the subcommittee was also worried that the “upgrades” might render obsolete the charm of Orchard Street. That even though the genie of affordability couldn’t be re-bottled, the Lower East Side BID should strive to keep this area “vibrant and special.” After all, readers continually point out that the BID constantly tries to sanitize the surroundings.

In the end, the committee voted to approve the master plan, albeit with the stipulation that the BID must return along every step of the way. Meaning, as each component of the project is funded, they’ll need to approach CB3 for blessings.

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