Uncertain Future for Newly-Vacant Lot Near World Trade Center Site

This 7,000-square-foot lot at Greenwich and Albany streets, until recently a queuing area for the Sept. 11 Memorial, will be taken over by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. on July 1. It is part of the larger, 35,000-square-foot Site 5. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jun. 23, 2014

Beginning July 1, 7,000 square feet of empty lot—a stone's throw from the World Trade Center site—will have a new owner with a looming question.

What to do with it?

Until May 15, when the September 11 Memorial Museum opened, the half-block-long lot at Albany Street, between Washington and Greenwich served as the queuing area for visitors to the 9/11 memorial plaza. On Tuesday, July 1, the area will be taken over by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which so far has no plans for its use.

The space is part of a larger 32,000-foot lot known as Site 5, just south of  the World Trade Center, where the demolished Deutsche Bank building had stood. (The northern part of the site remains a staging area for construction of the Vehicle Security Center.)

“It’s insane to have a beautiful public space with trees, fenced off,” LMDC President David Emil told Community Board 1’s Executive Committee last week. “It could be for a year. It could be for two years. It could be for 10 years, depending on what the ultimate disposition of [the site] is. But even if it’s only for a year, why shouldn’t we have a plan to use it?”

Emil spoke about the possibility of landscaping the lot with "nice plantings" and called on the community to contribute their ideas.

But members of the Community Board committee already know what they want to see there: a Greenmarket.

In an April CB1 resolution, the board said that a Greenmarket would let the community “reclaim” the space and transform “it into a dynamic, vibrant area.”

The board also noted that it would be a long-awaited replacement for the popular Greenmarket that had been at the World Trade Center for 15 years prior to 9/11.

According to board chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes, GrowNYC, which runs the city’s greenmarkets, is considering the idea.  “At this moment, we are waiting to hear back from GrowNYC,” she said, “who is trying to figure out if the pedestrian foot traffic is enough there to sustain a farmer’s market.”

Laura McDonald, a communications specialist for the GrowNYC Greenmarkets, would not comment on the likelihood of the Greenmarket coming to the site. In a statement to the Trib she noted that GrowNYC is “working with the Community Board and several community organizations that service the area to determine the best way to activate the space.”

The future of the entire Site 5 is yet to be determined. While a “general project plan” for the space calls for a 1.3 million-square foot office tower, Emil said that the glut of office space in the area makes the site currently unsuitable for commercial development.

“If, for example, everyone in the government were to agree, we really don't need a fifth office tower in Lower Manhattan—what we’d really rather have there is something else, it could be something else,” Emil said. “Today, certainly we don't need a new office tower in Lower Manhattan. In the next year or two, that’s a bigger issue.”

Asked if it would be possible to build affordable housing on the site, Emil responded that it was in the discretion of the LMDC board to change the designated use of the site to allow residential development.

In the meantime, Emil said, it’s the LMDC’s job to come up with a “good use” for now-vacant site.

“It’s public land,” he said. “We should use it well.”