A Bold Plan for W. Broadway

A handful of local groups are hatching a plan to merge the block of W. Broadway between Franklin and Leonard—the one flanked by the Con Ed substation—into the Finn Square park. Here’s an explanation from Lynn Ellsworth of Tribeca Trust:

Tribeca Trust, Friends of Finn Square, New York Academy of Arts, and New York Law School are developing a memorandum of collaboration for an initiative to explore redevelopment of Finn Square. A draft of that is now under discussion. Alessandra Galleti, a board member of Tribeca Trust, is serving as the principal facilitator of the group at present. Alessandra is an architect, a Tribeca resident, and is a staff person at the Project for Public Spaces. We plan to hold a design idea workshop very soon with neighbors in the immediate area. Ideas under discussion include mostly garden expansion, possible seating, public art, and ways to visually “green” the Con-Ed substation wall (climbing ivy?). Other ideas that have been tossed around are the use of simple naturalistic elements to encourage active play by the “tween” demographic. This latter element could be something like climbing boulders. Others have discussed the idea of occasional dance programming targeting Tribecans, provided by a coalition of local arts groups.

When I first heard about it, I wasn’t so sure. Like any every blowhard with a blog, I’m suspicious of change, and I’m tired of the ways the Department of Transportation messes with traffic flow. But closing that block to cars wouldn’t actually stop anyone from getting where they want to go; take a look at the map below, and you’ll see what I mean. And Bogardus Plaza (not spearheaded by the DOT) has been an appealing addition and not too disruptive, and I say that as someone who lives in southeast Tribeca—i.e., someone who used to drive up that block of Hudson and still has to remind cab drivers to turn up Church or be doomed to West Street. If the local groups can find a way to make the orange Con Ed substation wall less hideous—a big if, I’d think, given that Con Ed can’t want access to the substation impacted in any way—I can’t come up with a reason to oppose it. Unless, of course, someone takes my April Fools joke to heart….

What do you think?

proposed Finn Square expansion mapHere’s a pulled-back map, per Susan’s request:

finn square map2



  1. I am also typically resistant to changes in traffic flow, but I think this makes a lot of sense. As a resident of Leonard Street, I have witnessed a number of near-accidents as cars from Varick merge into West Broadway without a clear right-of-way indicator or also when cars from West Broadway try to make a right onto Leonard. It would be very simple and less dangerous just to redirect West Broadway traffic to Varick via the tiny part of Franklin St. in front of Pecan.

  2. although this map doesn’t show it, its important to remember that that part of West Broadway is impassable south-bound from Soho because of Beech St Park, so I don’t think it will impact traffic flow.

    (Eric, maybe you can illustrate this on the map?)

  3. After seeing the really good effects, including traffic calming, of the establishment of Bogardus Plaza, I think this is a terrific idea. As long as DOT makes the Varick/Franklin pedestrian crossing light a 4-way light, like they did at Reade & Hudson, it’ll be safer and easier to get to the uptown subway station and the neighborhood will get another great public space.

  4. Seeing as that one block stretch is mainly used by Fresh Direct as a place to park their truck all day for unloading deliveries, I can’t see much opposition… It would be a lovely change to the neighborhood with little to no impact on traffic.

  5. @Nancy: That does raise an interesting question…. Where would the Fresh Direct trucks go?

  6. I love glazed brick, and I happen to think that huge wall is one of the most beautiful walls in the city. It is quintessentially New York in its feel and look and structure. It’s like a huge piece of relief sculpture. It’s a mass of pure color: no ads anywhere. That is very rare! I hope nothing changes that wall, whatever happens. Take another look at it the next time you walk by. Walk close, step back, walk slowly. Really look at it. I can’t believe you won’t fall in love with it.

  7. …but as Robert Frost wrote…

    “something there is that does not love a wall…”

  8. @N: I have to say, the four-way stop at Reade and Hudson makes me crazy. It’s that sometimes the traffic light is green but the pedestrian signal is red. Today I saw the green traffic light and forged ahead, and a car was clearly annoyed with me. At this point, I think the DOT is disingenuous if it thinks that New Yorkers pay attention to the pedestrian signals (especially since so many had conflicting messages this winter!).

  9. West Broadway may not have traffic on it from SoHo, but with no right turn allowed at Ericsson Place onto Varick, traffic exiting the Holland Tunnel is forced to go one block east, and then turn right onto West Broadway. I definitely noticed an increase in traffic on West Broadway when they instituted that change a few years ago. Plus, White Street ends at West Broadway, so that traffic also ends up turning onto West Broadway.

    Closing that block of West Broadway below Franklin would force all that traffic to turn right onto the short westbound section of Franklin Street, which would then have to make the left turn onto Varick to continue downtown. Now when a few cars make that turn (mostly to make the light and/or make the turn onto Leonard), they have to deal with oncoming traffic from the regular eastbound part of Franklin, plus all the pedestrians crossing Varick there entering and exiting the uptown Franklin Street #1 station. Since Franklin also make a slight jog there, it is a bit confusing intersection already with vehicles & pedestrians.

    Adding more vehicles to the mix, especially at rush hour could lead to some dangerous congestion and situations would I think.

  10. Robert,
    I think your point is well taken about the increased traffic on west broadway due to the forbidden right off Ericsson onto Varick. Living on N Moore I can attest to the frustration of having to go down to West Broadway to get to our street. But that is also a point at which those who want to go south on Varick may do so. Giving another option to Franklin. I see very little traffic coming from White to West Broadway so that is not much of an issue. But I have a huge issue trying to make a right from West Broadway onto Leonard as traffic has to cross Varick to get there. Even if you forbid that right you still have a dangerous merge with faster moving Varick traffic. Many of whom are trying to make a left onto Worth, which can get really interesting if you are just trying to get south. By closing that section of West Broadway you alleviate those two issues. I know this is a stretch, but if you then allow right turns off Erricson you alleviate the extra West Broadway traffic. But even without doing that it seems between N Moore and Franklin you have enough left turn options to make Varick a safer, smoother area to drive. Plus you get an amazing green space to help beautify that drap area.