These 3 Developments Threaten to Sever Chinatown Traffic Arteries in the Coming Years [Op-Ed]

Posted on: September 22nd, 2020 at 5:15 am by

As if the climate wasn’t dire enough for Chinatown businesses and residents amidst the pandemic, a proverbial perfect storm is brewing.

Long-suffering Chinatown businesses, like much of the city, are encouraged by the loosening of indoor dining restrictions and remain hopeful for a return to some level of normalcy. However, it could be short-lived due to three pending projects within a two-block radius that threaten to sever major traffic arteries in Chinatown.

The ongoing debacle of the burned-out PS23 building at 70 Mulberry Street now enters its “community engagement” phase with a 90-day period to decide next steps. Yet, the restoration and rebuild options likely require the closure of both Mulberry and Bayard Streets for months on end.  The “restore” option, according to an expert, would probably take half the time, as opposed to demolition and possible 20-story tower, as some in the community want.

Next up, just down the block at 62 Mulberry, hotelier Sam Chang filed paperwork with Department of Buildings to replace the brick parking garage with a 13-story lodge. At best, a construction of this magnitude could last at least three years.

Then we throw in the proposed replacement of the Manhattan Detention Center, as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Borough-based jail plan. Currently at eighteen stories tall, it would take a year to demolish and probably another half-dozen to complete if funding is secured. Though, an injunction from the Neighbors United Below Canal community lawsuit also threatens this project from happening altogether.

It’s frightening to consider the possibility of three concurrent projects in such a small area over the next decade, and the potential disruption to Chinatown. Just picture Centre, White, Baxter, Bayard and Mulberry Streets closed simultaneously, and how that would affect traffic and tourism.

No telling when this pandemic will end, nor how many more area businesses will permanently close. Yet, even if half the lot survives Covid-19, will they weather years of disruption? And what of the health of our residents? Will we survive the air pollution from this “perfect storm” of construction?

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