A Triangle Returns Decades Later

One of the earliest things agreed upon during discussions of rebuilding the World Trade Center was that Greenwich Street and possibly other streets obliterated by the former WTC superblock (Fulton, Dey, Cortlandt) should be restored. The new 7 World Trade Center, more slender and taller, leaves room for Greenwich Street. A block of Greenwich Street that didn’t exist on Sept. 10, 2001, has returned, thanks to good urban planning that understands the street grid. It also leaves room for the adjacent colorful triangular park. After years of construction, the area is starting to look promising.

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8 Responses to A Triangle Returns Decades Later

  1. peakguy says:

    Restoring the grid was a great idea. Thanks for the visuals AD!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Your celebration is premature. “Restoring the street grid” guarantees that, under the proposed plan, the site itself will occasion the worst urban environment of any neighborhood in the City, with densities ranging from 26 up to a staggering 54 FAR — up to 3 times what the Zoning Resolution allows. This will be the bulkiest, most congested, and most shadowcast area in the history of New York.

    And Greenwich in front 7 WTC is a private drive, not a through street.

  3. Marc Shepherd says:

    If you look at the 7WTC site carefully, you will see that it is not designed to allow thru traffic on Greenwich. Pedestrians can pass through (which is a good thing), but I wouldn’t really say that the street grid has been fully restored.

  4. AD says:

    Marc, it looked to me to be one lane in one direction and a parking pull-up lane. Maybe they won’t allow cars at all, but I think there will be some limited traffic there. You gotta have all the black cars park somewhere.

    Anon 5:24, I’d say that “the worst urban environment of any neighborhood in the City” is a bit of a stretch. Density is what makes the city what it is. What was the FAR of the WTC?

  5. Anonymous says:

    AD –

    The City’s landmark Zoning Resolution is what governs exactly how much density “makes the city what it is.”

    The Resolution measures density, or bulk, via FAR. This and the Resolution’s height-and-setback provisions are the most crucial indexes of a building’s many impacts on its urban environment.

    These physical impacts — the sky-dome, daylight and sunlight a building obstructs; the congestion it creates on surrounding streets and sidewalks; the size and duration of its shadows; its effect on air quality; its wind regimens on the ground — are what define and qualify our experience of the public realm.

    Assuming the provision of certain public amenities like public open space, the Resolution limits the size, or density, of buildings on the World Trade Center site to 18 FAR — about what it was previously.

    The buildings at what is currently the densest intersection in the City — Broadway & Seventh Avenue, in Times Square — are about 35 FAR.

    The Times Square buildings were allowed to go to 35, because they were built as part of a State-funded project and thus — at least, theoretically — immune from the Resolution. The LMDC and the Port Authority make similar claims for zoning immunity at Ground Zero. The 1962 legislation establishing the WTC does not support this claim, but it has yet to be effectively challenged.

    At any rate, the numbers speak for themselves. With buildings ranging from 26 to 54 FAR — this last number is unprecedented in New York’s history — and practically no public open space, it is not an exaggeration to say the next World Trade Center, as proposed, would be the worst urban environment in the City.

  6. AD says:

    Thanks for the information. Yes, I’m very familiar with the city’s zoning code from my two years studying for a masters degree in urban planning. That the FAR of the planned redevelopment of the buildings at ground zero will be 26 to 54 is news to me. But when you add them up, and include the memorial, what will be the overall FAR for the entire site? It isn’t fair to say the FAR of the Freedom Tower will be 54 and the Twin Towers were 18, because the buildings themselves were obviously a lot more than 18. That figure includes the plaza. The point is to compare apples to apples.

    But even if the FAR of the whole site was 54, I’m still hard pressed to call it “the worst urban environment” in the City. Certainly not the most congested by a long shot since most people will take mass transit to get there. My vote for the worst environment in NYC goes to The 2900 block of Cropsey Avenue in Brooklyn. Take a look at that baby: Vast lifeless parking lots, big box stores, gas stations, highway entrance ramps. It’s a little piece of suburban hell that somehow made it into the city limits. That’s the worst environment in the city.

  7. Anonymous says:

    In the Zoning Resolution, FAR means FAR of a given zoning lot. The only way to compare apples to apples is to look at what the zoning lots were/are.

    For the former WTC, the superblock just WAS the zoning lot — the FAR is the FAR of the whole thing, which was a little less than 18.

    But according to the ZR, one zoning lot can never be more than one block. Since the proposed plan carves the site up with public streets, the resulting blocks are what they are — blocks — which makes them, by definition and by design, separate zoning lots that have to be calculated that way.

    There is no such thing as an “overall FAR” for this plan, given how it’s designed. To argue that would be to say, as the LMDC essentially does, that the buildings surrounding the “memorial quadrant” should be given a density credit for the memorial and the streets.

    But no one argues that we should be able to line Central Park with 200 FAR buildings. That, too, is apples to apples.

    The authorities are proposing the equivalent of four Empire State Buildings in a 2-block radius. No one has yet imagined what that would feel like on the ground.

    (FYI, the 54 FAR building is Tower 2, in the northeast corner. FT is closer to 30 — which is already twice the bulk of the Time Warner Center, at Columbus Circle.)

  8. AD says:

    I still don’t think you’re comparing apples to apples, despite the technicalities of the Zoning Resolution. When dealing with the same piece of land over time, you’re counting unbuilt land two different ways: If it’s a plaza, it counts toward the FAR, but if it is a street, it doesn’t. That sounds like a value judgment. If you prefer plazas to streets, that’s fine. Everyone has his or her own opinion on that. I prefer the vitality of an active street that includes a mix of uses like ground floor retail, people walking around, and even a little car traffic over a the bleak moonscape of an uninviting plaza used on nice days by a few tourists. Hence, my original praise for restoring the grid. FAR numbers ignore this qualitative improvement.