It’s not too hard to figure out what’s wrong with this picture. As these photos indicate, the wooden strips have been partially and, in some cases, completely removed from the benches installed just a couple of years ago on Pike and Allen streets. The seating is part of a planned rehabilitation of a 13-block stretch from South Street up to East Houston Street.
This month, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wrote to Mitchell Silver, the new commissioner of the Parks Department about the situation:
I am writing to you about a problem we are having at a popular park in my Lower Manhattan district. The Pike Street Mall, between South Street and Madison Street, is in need of some crucial repairs. This park was just redesigned and constructed two years ago and already the benches, which make up its main feature, have been damaged to the point of uselessness. The wooden slats that make up the benches’ seats have almost all been either broken or removed, making the benches impossible to sit on. Residents have even witnessed neighborhood senior citizens fashion their own seats out of scraps of wood just so they can enjoy the outdoor space. My constituents ought to be able to enjoy the park as it was intended, with fully functional benches. This park was such a wonderful addition to our Lower East Side community and it is very important that the benches be repaired as soon as possible so that people can once again enjoy this amenity. In addition, much of the lighting has also gone out and must be fixed.
There’s another problem concerning the Pike/Allen beautification problem, of course. Since work began in 2009, the city has only been able to find the funds for five out of 13 blocks. This means that eight blocks have remained a bleak pedestrian island five years after hopes were raised that the Allen Street corridor would be getting some much-needed TLC. In the past, the Parks Department has placed a $1 million/per block price tag on the renovation.