Bringing Life to Water Street’s ‘Deadening Pedestrian Experience’

Detail from rendering of proposed design for Whitehall Plaza, which extends on Water Street from Whitehall Street to Broad Street. Rendering: RBA Group

By
CARL GLASSMAN / TribecaTribOnline

Plans are afoot to make pedestrian-unfriendly Water Street more welcoming.

New plaza designs, wider sidewalks and a unified streetscape are among the features slated for the street’s five southern-most blocks—between Whitehall Street and Hanover Square.

“This is the beginning of our efforts to reimagine how this corridor looks,” said Josh Nachowitz, an economic development official at the Downtown Alliance, which is planning the project with the city. “To take what is a deadening pedestrian environment and turn it into a 21st-century commercial corridor.”

The five blocks of Water Street, from Whitehall Street to Hanover Square, with design improvements meant to give a unified look to the street. Diagram by the RBA Group

Nachowitz and other planners presented preliminary designs of the improvements this month to Community Board 1’s Planning Committee. The designs grow out of an initiative begun in 2010 by the Alliance to look for ways to enhance Water Street from Whitehall to Fulton, a stretch of street lined with office towers that Nachowitz said is the largest concentration of high-grade commercial buildings in Lower Manhattan, “hugely important to the economy of the business district.”

In 2013, Water Street between Whitehall and Hanover Square was narrowed by a lane, allowing for a wider walkway, and two temporary plazas were created, laid out with epoxy gravel, pavement striping, plastic bollards and other materials.

Construction of the redesigned plazas and other permanent improvements are expected to begin by spring 2017.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. provided $10 million for the remaking of these five blocks, only a portion of the estimated $23 million that is needed to remake the entire streetscape up to Fulton. Officials said they are looking to the LMDC for the remaining funds.

A completed Whitehall Plaza, as it is to be called, will allow its visitors to be “somewhat protected from the noise and the traffic and the heavy wind that blows,” said Jackson Wandres, a landscape architect with the RBA Group, the project consultants.

Moveable tables and chairs, partially shielded by raised plant beds rimmed with heavy-duty, galvanized steel walls, would include spaces for additional seating.

Moore Street, which dead-ends at Water Street and runs through Whitehall Plaza, would be raised to the same level as the plaza, with the same paving materials “so the space will feel unified and vehicles will know to slow down when they’re crossing the plaza space,” Wandres said.

Rendering of proposed Whitehall Plaza and (inset) the space today, with temporary paving, bollards and striping. In 2013 a traffic lane, at right, was taken over for pedestrian and where the plaza is proposed to expand. The white area shown in the rendering is the location of a future commercial kiosk. Rendering: RBA Group/Photo: Tribeca Trib

At Coenties Slip Plaza, a triangular park between Water and Pearl Streets, changes to paving materials and planters, along with new tree pits and benches will give the space “a more integrated and cohesive feeling,” Wandres said.

Missing from the plan, cycling advocates complained, is a bike lane.

“It’s a very natural and important corridor to have a bike lane,” said Charles Komanoff, a cycling activist and energy policy analyst, who called the street “really dangerous” for bike riders.

Rich Carmona, a Department of Transportation planner and engineer who worked on the project, said the feasibility of a bike lane on Water Street was studied, and it was determined that truck loadings, taxi pickups and drop offs and buses made the idea unworkable.

The cross section of a raised plant bed, or berm, that is the type proposed for Whitehall Plaza. Subsurface “Silva Cells” allow tree roots to grow under the sidewalk. Diagram by the RBA Group

“We decided as an agency to focus our attention as cyclists onto

The cross section of a raised plant bed, or berm, that is the type proposed for Whitehall Plaza. Subsurface “Silva Cells” allow tree roots to grow under the sidewalk. Diagram by the RBA Group

South Street where we are implementing a grade-separated cycle track” that is protected, Carmona said.

“I think that’s a terrible decision,” Komanoff replied. “I haven’t been on South Street in years. It’s not my desire or others, I think, who are trying to get somewhere.”

Esther Regelson, who said she frequently rides on Water Street, agreed. “It’s just a crucial corridor for us right now,” she said. “South Street is not because, first of all, it’s full of tourists.”

In a resolution, CB1 also called for a bike path along Water Street. The design must win the approval of the city’s Public Design Commission and Economic Development Corporation before going forward.

Montgomery Township Appoints RBA As Traffic Engineer

The RBA Group was recently appointed as the traffic engineer for Montgomery Township in Somerset County, NJ. Tasks for this appointment will include review of Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment applications, as well as providing general traffic engineering services including assisting the town with safety and traffic flow improvements. RBA will also be tasked with and identifying required access improvements and mitigation measures as the Town considers zoning changes and overlay zones to improve development potential in key areas while maintain the character the town desires. The RBA Group was also recently appointed as traffic engineer or the Washington Township, Morris County, NJ Planning Board and the Mountainside, Union County, NJ Land Use Board.

The RBA Group’s appointments as traffic engineer to the following boards continues:

  • Parsippany Troy Hills, Morris County, NJ Planning Board
  • Florham Park, Morris County, NJ Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment
  • Westfield, Union County, NJ Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment
  • Clark, Union County, NJ Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment

Sound Beach – Echo Avenue Safety Project Completed

By Deon J Hampton

A busy downtown Avenue in South Beach has been revitalized. Town officials said the pedestrian safety project on Echo Avenue between North Country Road and New York Avenue cost $500,000, of which $110,000 was funded by a Community Development Block Grant.

The downtown project included the addition of handicap-accessible sidewalks, new curbs and guiderails, cross-walks, decorative lighting and ornamental trees.

Town Councilmember Jane Bonner, who represents Sound Beach, and Town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro announced the completion of the project. “The completion of this project is just another example of the highway department’s continuing efforts to bring a downtown feel to one of our Brookhaven communities.” Losquadro said in a statement.

As part of the three-month revitalization project, a 4-foot-wide sidewalk was constructed on the north side of Echo Avenue starting at North Country Road, and a crosswalk was installed at the corner of Devon Road to connect the sidewalks the continue New York Avenue. “Walkable communities can only happen if pedestrians feel safe and the streetscapes that they travel are pleasant and inviting.” Bonner said in a statement.

“The improvements to this roadway have not only made it better for residents to walk and drive, but have also made it more welcoming to those entering our hamlet.” Bea Ruberto, president of the South Beach Civic Organization, said in a statement.

Town Unveils New RBA Designed Parking Lot

North Hempstead officials tomorrow will unveil a new parking lot in Port Washington, replacing a structure that was long dilapidated and recently demolished.

Twenty-eight spaced will be made available for shoppers in the district. The 13,050-square foot lot is on the former Shields property at 1070 Port Washington Blvd.

“It was a blighted property and now it’s a beautiful functional space that can impact our parking challenges,” said Mindy Germain, executive director of the Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington. “We’re hoping that merchants will participate in this new amenity, and that will free up some on-street parking for shoppers.”

Germain described the former Shields site as “an eye-sore, right at

Photo by Danielle Finkelstein
The revamped public lot has a pedestrian entrance with bike racks.

the Gateway of Main Street.”

The lot now has a pedestrian entrance with bike racks, benches and garden.

Town officials authorized $483,465 in construction but anticipate the project, which took four months to complete, will cost as much as $465,000.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a statement that the new lot “will free up prime spaces on the the street for shoppers to park, making shopping in downtown Port Washington more convenient. We want people to have a great experience shopping in our downtowns, and providing easy and accessible parking is key.”

The community has sought to revitalize the business district. Three businesses in the community are unveiling new facades today as part of an incentive program rolled out by the Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, which offered funds to companies that adopted new storefront signs.

Germain said the group has plans to add 20 plantings to the Main Street, many of them oversized teak planters.

“People complain that when they’re driving down Main Street they keep going,” Germain said. “We’re hoping there will be spots available.”

Story by Scott Eidler of Newsday (scott.eidler@newsday.com) and courtesy of Newsday.

Riding the September 11th National Memorial Trail from Morristown to Ground Zero

The RBA Group was selected by NJDOT to help define the New Jersey portions of the September 11th National Memorial Trail. The Trail is a 1,300-mile commemorative trail linking the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, the Pentagon Memorial and the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA.  The Trail is envisioned as a multi-use corridor for hiking and bicycling and features an accompanying back-road motor route for driving, motorcycling and public and tour transportation.

The September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance will celebrate the creation of a continuous route with an inaugural bicycle ride from western Pennsylvania to New York City beginning on September 10, 2015. Michael Dannemiller, a Principal Engineer at The RBA Group, will volunteer his time to lead the ride from Morristown to Ground Zero on Monday, September 21st.

The ride began at the Great Allegheny Passage, Berlin, PA, joined commemorative events on September 11 at the Flight 93 National Memorial, and then continued across Pennsylvania and New Jersey making numerous informational stops before concluding at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City on September 21st.

David Brickley, President of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance said, “This will be an historic ride to inaugurate the September 11th National Memorial Trail, a unique tribute to those who so tragically perished on September 11, 2001. The Trail serves as a symbol of the resiliency and character of the communities in which the victims and their families lived and worked.  It also has been designed to link historic points of interest along the route where these fundamental traits of American character have shone throughout our history.”

Eric Brenner, September 11th National Trail Alliance board member and chairman of the Maryland Bicycle /Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said:  “I’m honored to be leading this inaugural bike ride, knowing how many others will enjoy and learn from this route in the years ahead.”

RBA Group – New York Awarded Design-Build Inspection Services Contract by NYSDOT to Repair and Replace Major Roadway in Suffolk County

RBA Group – New York, a provider of professional and technical engineering and consulting solutions, announced today that it was selected to perform construction inspection services by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) as part of a design-build team lead by John P. Picone, Inc. to remove and replace the deficient bridge along NY Route 110 over Route 27 (Sunrise Highway) for $1.4 million. This contract was won by the infrastructure construction services team at The RBA Group. The aluminum bridge will be replaced with a new structure, including new foundations, and will be designed and constructed within the existing right-of-way (ROW) according to current standards requiring a minimum vertical clearance of 14 feet 6 inches.

Project Manager Liam Madden of RBA’s NYC construction services group, explained, “The bridge currently carries two through lanes both northbound and southbound, in addition to a weaving lane in each direction for entering traffic. Our team’s design widens the bridge to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, reconstructs the approach pavements, and connects the on and off ramps, without any ROW taking.”

“NYSDOT has been a great client of ours for decades,” added David Lapping, PTP, President of RBA. “Together, we have worked on new highway and bridge construction projects, rehabilitated and retrofitted existing bridge projects, and made improvements to the paving, median barriers, sound barriers, drainage, toll booth plazas, and landscaping that make New York’s roads safer, more sustainable, and more beautiful.”

About NYSDOT

The New York State Department of Transportation’s mission is to ensure its customers have a safe, efficient, balanced and environmentally sound transportation system. In 1967 NYSDOT was established to deal with the State’s complex transportation system and the need to coordinate the development of transportation with each mode serving its best purpose. Today, NYSDOT transportation network includes: a state and local highway system that annually handles over 130 billion vehicle miles and encompasses more than 113,000 highway miles and more than 17,400 bridges; an extensive 3,500-mile rail network over which 68 million tons of equipment, raw materials, manufactured goods and produce are shipped each year; 485 public and private aviation facilities through which more than 80 million people travel each year; over 130 public transit operators, serving more than 80 million passengers each day; and 12 major public and private ports.

 

RBA Group – New York Wins Green Infrastructure Design Services Contract with the City of New York

RBA Group – New York, a provider of professional and technical engineering and consulting solutions, announced today that it was recently awarded a contract for more than $10 million for the siting and design of right-of-way green infrastructure practices throughout 1,561 acres of Bayside, Queens, New York. The contract was won by the infrastructure and environmental services team at The RBA Group and is one of several green infrastructure projects awarded to RBA under the city-wide NYCDEP green infrastructure program. The project includes a comprehensive site selection process, with site investigations, historical data analysis, surface and subsurface drainage analysis, geotechnical investigation, site survey, and structural analysis followed by green infrastructure design and construction management support services.

David Lapping, PTP, President of RBA, and Linda Reardon, PE, Senior Vice President and Director of New York City, Long Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania Operations at RBA, added, “This is a great opportunity for us to expand our growing Green Infrastructure practice in New York City and we hope it will be a springboard towards generating additional opportunities in other geographic markets.”

“The City’s Green Infrastructure program matches our philosophy of incorporating sustainable strategies into all of our design projects. In particular, this project will help mitigate combined sewer overflows by capturing and infiltrating stormwater before it enters the combined sewer system, reducing the amount of traditional grey infrastructure required and simultaneously greening the City in which we work and live,” said David Ksyniak, PE, Project Manager at RBA.

About NYCDDC

The New York City Department of Design and Construction (NYCDDC) is the City’s primary capital construction project manager with a portfolio valued at $10 billion. NYCDDC frequently partners with other city agencies such as the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) to achieve its goal of providing New Yorkers with buildings and services that are socially responsible, progressively designed, and environmentally sound. Over the last decade, NYCDDC’s staff of 1,200 has completed more than 745 miles of new roadway, 735 miles of water mains, 588 miles of storm and sanitary sewers, and 42,000 sidewalk pedestrian ramp installations in all five boroughs. To learn more about NYCDDC and NYCDEP, visit www.NYC.gov.

Linda Reardon, PE of RBA New York Promoted

In conjunction with David Lapping’s recent promotion to President of The RBA Group, Linda Reardon, PE, has been promoted to the position of Director of RBA’s New York City, Long Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania operations, effective immediately.  Linda has been with RBA since 1988 and previously oversaw engineering for the Company’s New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut offices. Dave Lapping will continue to support Linda’s efforts with longstanding clients in Long Island and Connecticut and Linda will continue to work with clients on existing urban infrastructure, traffic safety and urban design projects.

Leadership Transition at RBA – David Lapping Selected as New President

Since the acquisition of The RBA Group last month, the transition of RBA into the NV5 organization is well underway and moving smoothly.  Neil Bernstein, the current President of RBA will remain with the company until the end of 2015 to ensure that the transition is completed by year end.  Since Neil plans to begin retirement by the end of the year, David Lapping, Senior Vice President and Director of New York, Connecticut and Philadelphia operations of RBA, will be promoted to President of RBA effective immediately.  Neil will work closely with Dave to help him to move into the top position at RBA and fully support the transition of RBA into NV5. Regarding his promotion, David Lapping said, “I am honored and excited to serve as President of RBA and look forward to working with NV5 to grow our firm and expand the opportunities for our staff and our clients.”

NV5 Acquires Infrastructure Engineering Firm the RBA Group, Inc

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that effective July 1, 2015 we have joined NV5 Holdings, Inc. (ENR #124) a publicly traded professional and technical engineering and consulting services corporation, serving public and private sector clients in the infrastructure, energy, construction, real estate and environmental markets. RBA will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of NV5.

NV5 primarily focuses on five business verticals: construction quality assurance, infrastructure, engineering and support services, energy, program management and environmental solutions. The Company operates 29 offices in California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming and is headquartered in Hollywood, Florida.

The Board of Directors and our management team is very excited to join NV5 as a platform for both RBA’s and NV5’s continued expansion into the Northeast market while also expanding NV5’s capabilities in RBA’s additional core services of Civil and Transportation Engineering, Architecture, Environmental, Landscape Architecture, Planning and Construction.

RBA will be the largest part of NV5’s business holdings in the northeast and will be a major contributor to their overall business. By becoming part of NV5, we will be offered the opportunity to accelerate our growth. The interface with other NV5 organizations will also offer us the chance to grow the capabilities of our organization and over the long term, provide our employees with a chance to be part of a strong public company.

Our company structure will largely remain the same with the same management team, offices, client base and key personnel. Neil Bernstein will be reporting directly to Dickerson Wright, PE, Chairman and CEO of NV5.