Tiny DUMBO street would go car-free under new plan

Street art: Painter turns pedestrian plaza into mural
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The city and DUMBO merchants are working together to close the tiny street of Anchorage Place to cars and expand a pedestrian plaza at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge.

The short street would become a walker’s paradise under a plan drafted by the DUMBO Business Improvement District and the Department of Transportation that would convert the roadway into an extension of the Pearl Street Triangle that connects to the pedestrian-only Manhattan Bridge archway.

Demapping the street would make strolling through DUMBO safer and give the neighborhood more space for outdoor events and programming, proponents say.

“This will continue the remarkable transformation of this part of the neighborhood into a retail corridor,” said Alexandria Sica, executive director of the DUMBO Business Improvement District.

Closing Anchorage Place, which runs between Plymouth and Pearl streets, will cost the neighborhood 24 parking spaces according to planners — but the city will change parking regulations on John and Pearl streets to allow parking at 20 to 30 new spaces.

The proposal has won the endorsement of Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee. It must go before the full board and face an environmental assessment before it becomes reality.

If all goes according to plan, the hypotenuse of the Pearl Street Triangle will be closed off with planters or other movable bollards starting this summer — which is way too soon according to Doreen Gallo, executive director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, who fears the plan will push traffic to the other side of the pedestrian plaza.

“It’s going to impose a lot of vehicles over on Pearl Street, and it’ll dramatically change what’s happening there,” said Gallo. “The [city] is taking the street away from real uses — a lot of cars are depending on using that way.”

Gallo says the project should be put on hold — at least until the city repaves Anchorage Place with classic-looking Belgian Block, a $20-million proposal expected to begin in 2014.

Her organization also says reserving the road for pedestrians only makes little sense because of Anchorage Place’s industrial feel.

Project backers say closing the throughway will have little impact on automotive traffic because most cars frequent Pearl Street already.

And many DUMBO denizens — especially those lunching in the Pearl Street Triangle — say the asphalt should be re-purposed for the people.

“It isn’t really used as a roadway, I think it’d be more useful as a bike lane or a pedestrian walkway,” says David Chang, who works nearby.