Presenting Bogardus Plaza: Here's the Plan for a New Tribeca Park

Rendering of proposed plan for Bogardus Garden, looking south. Rendering: Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects

Sep. 11, 2014

 The public got its first look at the design for Bogardus Plaza.

The plan, now up for approval by the city, was presented last month to Com­munity Board 1’s Tribeca Com­mittee—with fans of the project and upset next-door neighbors on hand as well.

The design for what is now a fenced garden and popular pedestrian plaza on Hudson Street, between Reade and Chambers, is meant to bring the two together. It’s a challenge, said the architect, Signe Nielsen: “How do we merge garden and plaza into a place we all want to go to?”

What is being called a “consensus” plan, which can still be modified, incorporates aspects of three schemes presented for public comment in May and adds nearly half again as much greenery to the space. Among its features are more lighting and new cobblestone-like paving, and a wooden platform, with a step for seating, that can serve as a performance space. A diagonal path through the gardens would provide a kind of short cut from the northeast corner of the plaza on Reade Street, through the garden and to the subway on Chambers.

The plan also provides for both movable chairs and fixed seating, including permanent egg-shaped seats on the platform that Nielsen calls a “playful element” that celebrates Tribeca's history as a butter-and-egg district.

A commercial kiosk at the south end of the plaza is not part of the project but the Friends Group hopes that revenue from a vendor will help support the park’s maintenance.

Wary residents of 1 Hudson Street, the 10-unit building that abuts the plaza on the west, had been given a preview of the plan by Victoria Weil, president of Friends of Bogardus Garden. An­ticipating their objections, Weil began the presentation by stressing that the plan evolved over the years with the backing of many residents and nearby businesses, and in consultation with Community Board 1

“This has been supported by the community from the get-go,” Weil said of the project, which began by convincing the city to first temporarily, then permanently, close the block of Hudson street to traffic. Last year, the city awarded $2 million to the Friends group to help create the park.

“It’s not been something that just seemed like a fun thing to do,” Weil added. “We have hundreds of letters of support about making the plaza permanent and we’ve grown from the support of the community to this point.”

But the neighbors at 1 Hudson Street expressed a wide range of concerns, from the prospect of rats living beneath the wooden deck to trash piling up at their door to the “eggs” that several found objectionable.

“It’s going to be disgusting in the evening,” said second-floor resident Nancy Fried, who fears that the plaza will become a magnet for kids and homeless people. “It’s a welcoming place to hang out.”

Celia Hartmann, a resident in the same building, complained about “another round” of construction, now that the Chambers Street project is finally completed. “This takes place in front of our house,” she said. “And I don’t see the huge improvement that’s going to happen with it.”

But others in the room spoke passionately in favor of the project. Anne Patterson said her building, 16 Hudson Street, which lies on the north side of the plaza, is 70 percent in favor.
“It’s really important for you to know that while some buildings are not thrilled with it, we are very much in support of it,” she said.

Nadine Deeghan, the mother of two young children who frequently play in the plaza, defended the egg-shaped seats—especially for her kids’ sake. “I like them because they’re safer. They have round edges,” she said.

“I just want to say thank you,” said Alice Blank, a member of the committee. “What a brilliant, fabulous addition to the neighborhood.”

Nielsen and Friends of Bogardus Garden are expected to return to the Tribeca Committee next month for what they hope will be a resolution of support for the project, which needs the approval of the Landmarks Preservation Com­mission. Construction is anticipated to begin in the summer of 2016 and be completed a year later.