Last week, we reported on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s meeting with members of the Chinatown Working Group. During that meeting, he promised to look into reasons for the continued closure of Park Row, ten years after 9/11. Community activists, frustrated by the NYPD’s refusal to reopen the street, asked for a comprehensive federal study of the security risks.
Today, Lower Manhattan’s elected officials followed up, releasing a press statement, which reads in part:
Lower Manhattan elected officials welcomed U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s commitment to have the Federal Government evaluate the safety of reopening Park Row, a vital downtown thoroughfare that has been closed since 9/11. Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn), Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) and City Councilmember Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), sent a letter to LaHood asking him to follow up on the offer he made last week, during a meeting of the Chinatown Working Group, to get the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a risk assessment to determine whether the street can be reopened.
In the meeting, LaHood promised to contact the Department of Homeland Security and, at the very least, to facilitate a briefing for community leaders. But he did not, at least in his public remarks, specifically endorse the idea of conducting a “risk assessment.”
Here’s the rest of the statement:
“So many of the streets that were shut down after 9/11 have long since reopened,” said Silver. “Those who live on Park Row have had to show their IDs to drive to their own homes and endure other inconveniences for years. Local businesses have suffered because this important link between Chinatown and the Financial District has been cut off, isolating neighborhoods. It is time to give us back our street.”
“The closure of Park Row in Lower Manhattan has long inconvenienced locals and hampered the flow of traffic in Chinatown,” Nadler said. “I am very pleased to have Secretary LaHood taking a personal interest in this issue and I hope that, with his support, we will finally return Park Row to the neighborhood, or have such closures justified by an independent security assessment. If we have succeeded in balancing security with local and practical needs in the streets near the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court, then we can strike such a balance in New York.”
“I urge the Obama Administration to intervene to help New Yorkers reclaim Park Row. Since Sept. 11, the closure of this thoroughfare has impeded the revitalization of Lower Manhattan, forcing local businesses to close due to lack of foot traffic and residents to feel as if they’re living in a police state” said Stringer. “Terrorism dealt the first blow to Park Row, and we don’t want stringent security measures to be the second. The time has come to reopen Park Row, but let’s do it safely.”
“Park Row is a vitally important artery for Chinatown and all of Lower Manhattan, and its closure continues to have harsh consequences for residents, businesses and the entire community,” Squadron said. “That’s why I was pleased that in response to my comments and others at the Chinatown Working Group, Secretary LaHood committed to having the U.S. Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security work together to assess the security situation on Park Row – an important step toward getting it reopened.”
“We’ve been fighting the closure of Park Row for years. It’s been almost ten years since 9/11, and this crucial thoroughfare remains closed,” Chin said. “I would welcome the Department of Homeland Security reviewing whether Park Row should remain closed after all this time. As a vital link between the Financial District and Chinatown, Park Row is an essential artery and crucial for businesses in the area. Anyone who lives or works in Chinatown knows how important this street is – and how easy it would be to reopen it. I am sure that the Federal government will agree.”
Local residents and businesses have been advocating for the reopening of Park Row for years. Elected officials believe the federal government can play an important role in evaluating whether security concerns can be addressed in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily interfere with the needs of the neighborhood.