Orchard Street — with its historic tenements, mix old and new retail and distinctive character — remains a Lower East Side treasure. But it’s also got some drawbacks. The narrow corridor is often congested with trucks making deliveries, and the street is a bit of a hodgepodge. Curb cuts, benches and bike racks tend to pop up indiscriminately. In short, it’s a section of the neighborhood that could benefit not only from some TLC, but also from a coherent master plan.
This is what’s about to happen. The Lower East Side Business Improvement District is launching a community engagement process for the entire stretch of Orchard, from canal to East Houston Street. It begins with a “Streetscape Visioning Meeting” Wednesday evening, February 19. In partnership with Pilot Projects, a local design firm, the BID will present a 16-foot replica of Orchard Street, which includes moveable parts (such as miniature benches, bike racks and sidewalk corrals). The scale model will be used as part of a “gaming approach” during the public meeting, which is intended to build community-wide consensus.
In a recent interview, BID Executive Director Tim Laughlin said the goal is to come up with a plan to be presented to the Department of Transportation focused on strengthening pedestrian safety, easing congestion, improving the area for both residents and merchants and streamlining transit for motorists and cyclists. Among the topics that will be under discussion: possibly changing parking regulations, adding designated loading/unloading zones and creating a pedestrian plaza. The proposal will go through Community Board 3 before being presented to city agencies. Laughlin said he hopes the engagement program will “create a new standard” that could be applied to other blocks in the neighborhood.
There is already some money allocated for street improvements, including tree plantings and new seating. City Council member Margaret Chin was able to set aside $60,000 for the project in last year’s capital budget.
If you would like to participate in the BID’s Orchard Street pre-meeting survey, click here. The workshop on the 19th will be held at the Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard Street. To RSVP, email Katie Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 212-226-9010. The event is being co-sponsored by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Sen. Daniel Squadron, City Council member Margaret Chin and Community Board 3. U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez is also collaborating in the workshop.