Straus Square will Permanently Close to Traffic this Summer

Posted on: June 16th, 2017 at 5:00 am by

Major changes are coming to Straus Square, the small Lower East Side traffic median. Namely, it’ll soon be absorbed by the larger Seward Park at its back, and lose that scruffy feel.

As previously reported, Seward Park is the recipient of $6.4 million in funding as part of the Park’s Without Borders program. While much of that sum is earmarked for the so-called “Library Plaza,” there was apparently plenty of neighborhood demand to connect the green space to the adjacent memorial. In effect, annexing the territory and incorporating it as part of a unified park.

(All this after the entire intersection was realigned two years ago in a $6.5 million project.)

Parks Department presented the proposal of the shutdown and subsequent designs – with Tim Laughlin of the Lower East Side Partnership in tow – during last night’s Parks subcommittee meeting of Community Board 3. The project is pitched in two specific phases.

Summer 2017 design

First, the city kicks it off this summer with the termination of traffic flow through Straus Square. Subsequent steps include – pavement resurfaced with a rumble-strip-type coating that might deter skateboarders from the area; taxi stand moved to the no parking zone along East Broadway; the Citibike dock removed and likely relocated to the sidewalk outside Wu’s on Rutgers Street; planters, temporary seating, and umbrella will arrive shortly thereafter. The Parks Department and the Seward Park Conservancy are the maintenance partners responsible for the area, with plans to host “programming” here.

By next summer, Parks will install a “cycling amenity” for the community. A shed and bike repair shop under the tutelage of Bike New York’s “Recycle-a-Bicycle” program.

Summer 2018 design

As rosy as the business improvement district would have you believe, there were still legitimate concerns aired by the panel, such as the potential impacts on traffic in an already bottlenecked area. Especially given the rerouted cars to the Rutgers light, influx of pedestrians, and the M9 and Chinatown bus situation. Much of this came up during the CB3 agenda last month, but Laughlin reiterated the DOT determination of “minimal” effects on the local patterns. Other concerns included security and potential vandalism.

Looking into the future, the ultimate goal here is for Straus Square to become part of Seward Park. However, it’s going to happen at a reduced pace, since cash is tight.

But will this still happen…?

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