It’s a $6 billion undertaking that began in 1970 and won’t be completed for another decade — the largest capital project in New York City history. Now, the construction of Water Tunnel #3 is going to be making its mark on the Lower East Side. Last night, Community Board 3 got a glimpse of what’s ahead on Grand Street.
In a nutshell, a huge stretch of Grand (from Essex to Broadway) is going to be impacted in a major way, starting next spring. The installation of a new water distribution shaft, necessary to make the tunnel operational, will take five-and-a-half years. In an informal presentation, officials with the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) said the project would entail reducing Grand Street to one lane of eastbound only traffic (plus a bike lane). There will be a detour between Essex and Forsyth, to accommodate westbound traffic.
The $19 million job will be conducted in two phases. Work will begin in the spring on a section from Broadway to the Bowery. When it’s completed, in about two years, the Bowery to Essex portion of the water shaft will be installed. DDC community liaison, Norberto Acevedo, told members of CB3’s transportation committee that the project would also involve replacing parts of the sewer system, as well as sidewalks. To enhance pedestrian safety, curb extensions will be added at two intersections: Grand & Essex (SE corner) and Allen & Grand (SW & SE corners).
Susan Stetzer, CB3’s district manager expressed concerns about the impact on small businesses. Shops on Grand Street have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Many business owners also say the bike lanes installed a couple of years ago have made deliveries difficult and discouraged customers (many of whom drive-in from outside the neighborhood) from patronizing their stores. The upcoming construction project is sure to cause new anxiety. Stetzer asked whether the city would consider subsidies to help businesses get through the ordeal.
While officials did not have an immediate response, they said last night’s briefing was only the first of many opportunities the community would have to learn about their plans. Acevedo said the city had not even begun soliciting bids for this phase of the project. He indicated the city was willing to work with businesses to make the hassles as painless as possible.
Stetzer said she was also concerned about the detours, especially since there so many construction projects going on at the same time. The rehab of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, as well as the reconstruction of Houston Street are already causing major traffic headaches.
The water tunnel project has been a big issue in other neighborhoods. Just this week, there have been numerous reports about the impact its having in Tribeca.