'We're Just About There': Bogardus Plaza Construction Nearing an End

Victoria Weil, president of Friends of Bogardus Plaza, began spearheading the reimagining of the traffic triangle 10 years ago. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib, with access granted during non-construction hours.

Oct. 21, 2020

Bogardus Plaza may be better known these days as a much maligned construction site than for its promise as a beautified public space. But now the years of project delays appear to be coming to an end. 

The opening of the reimagined Tribeca triangle, at Chambers Street, West Broadway and Reade Street, is expected by year’s end, according to city officials in charge of the project.

“Yes, it’s taken too long. And, yes, it’s been bumpy and the neighbors have been upset, rightfully so,” said Victoria Weil, president of Friends of Bogardus Plaza who, for a decade, has been the driving force behind the revamping of the 10,000-square-foot garden and plaza. “But think bigger picture,” she added. “We’re just about there.”

What had been a viewing garden and adjacent plaza is being merged into a unified triangular park, with new seating and lighting, added trees and plants, and new paving. Work began in the fall of 2017 and the three years of construction—two years longer than expected—have been a source of consternation and complaints from neighbors, one telling Weil he wouldn’t have bought his apartment if he’d known the work would take so long.

Now, with construction nearing an end and landscaping, a one-week process, soon to follow, the “last piece of the puzzle,” as Weil put it, is a utility hookup by Con Ed, which must take place before the plaza can open. She said she is unclear on how long that will take. (Con Ed inspectors will check city-installed underground work next week before determining next steps to energize, a Con Ed source told the Trib.)

There is, however, another piece of that puzzle. It’s a concession stand, to be located on the West Broadway side of the plaza, which will provide the Friends group with the bulk of its annual maintenance revenue. The group would buy the cart, a standard design with flexible fit out issued by the city’s Department of Transportation, and receive rent from the operator. The design is meant to be in the same style as the DOT’s other street furniture—bus shelters, city benches and public toilets. But because Bogardus Plaza is in a landmark district, the structure, like others to be placed in historic districts, requires special approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

This month, the design came before Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee for advisory approval, and got a thumbs down. “It’s from outer space, that’s my immediate reaction,” said Bruce Ehrmann, the committee’s chair..

The committee complained about the stainless steel cladding and amount of signage, and said the one-design-fits-all approach is wrong for the historic district.

“We don’t support a city-wide prototype being plopped down in our beautiful plaza,” said the committee’s co-chair, Jason Friedman.

Weil told the Trib that a number of local businesses have expressed interest in operating the kiosk, “but they were more interested when we talked about how there would be a structure in place for them.”

“They don’t have to pay for it, design it and get it approved,” she noted. “That is why we want to do this [design] and why we think it makes the most sense.”

An LPC hearing on the design is yet to be scheduled. If it’s rejected, Weil said, “This is a longer, more difficult journey for us, which will cost us in time and money.”

In the meantime, Weil is looking ahead to the reimagined public plaza that the neighborhood finally appears soon to enjoy. “We’re at the end of it. We’re so close now,” she said. “And it’s going to be pretty awesome when it’s done.”