City to Give $2 Million to Remake a Tribeca Garden and Plaza

The initial design concept for the new Bogardus Plaza includes features such as square granite pavers, in-ground and pole lighting, and permanent as well as moveable seating. The concept also includes multiple plantings—ferns, perenials and bulbs, shrubs, grassy plants and others. Rendering by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects/Courtesy of Friends of Bogardus Garden.

Mar. 11, 2013

A small patch of Tribeca is $2 million closer to becoming a green, re-imagined oasis from the frenzy of street life.

Friends of Bogardus Garden have been chosen for a grant from the city Department of Transportation to turn what is now a fenced-in garden and an adjacent pedestrian plaza into a unified, 9,000-square-foot public space.

The concept calls for the current iron fence to come down and a landscape of plantings, special pavement and seating to be installed in the triangle bordered by West Broadway and Chambers, Reade and Hudson Streets.

“Why do we have two separate areas?” said the Friends president and founder, Victoria Weil, whose apartment at 90 West Broadway overlooks the area. “Let’s integrate them. Take down the fence and have a plaza and a garden that intermingle sensibly. Beautifully.”

Weil will present her plans to the public on Wednesday before Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee.

Vaidila Satvika, director of the DOT’s Plaza Program, said the city could create a “bare-bones” version of that concept with the $2 million, but added, “in a neighborhood like this, if you want to be unique with paving materials that are distinct, it certainly will cost a lot more than that.”

The DOT estimates that at least another million dollars is needed to create what Weil calls a “more jewel-like” space, with custom pavers and more landscaping and lighting. The Friends group, which maintains the area, says it has already raised $200,000 towards that goal and has applied for another $600,000 from elected officials. It is now fundraising for the remaining $200,000.

“It’s a lot of work, but we feel very confident that we’re going to get there by summer in time to start design,” Friends board member Annie Tirschwell told guests last week at a cocktail party fundraiser held in the four-story penthouse at 60 Warren St., owned by Ed Bazinet.

Tirschwell said that, of the many causes she and her husband give to, this one is unique. “I feel like I will be walking through this garden for the rest of my life, as will my children and my grandchildren,” she said.

In December, 2011, the city declared the popular seating area on Hudson Street, between Chambers and Reade, to be a permanent plaza. In warm weather, tables and chairs are put out at 8 a.m. by hired workers from the ACE Programs for the Homeless and, at dusk, owners of nearby businesses volunteer to take them away. The plaza is enjoyed by just about every kind of visitor, Weil said. “You see the construction worker, the nanny, the tourist, the students from BMCC and Stuyvesant. It brings everyone together.”

“Public space is a very democratic space, and it really reflects the health of the community you live in,” said Lisa Hill, who programs events for the plaza. “Now is the time to seize the moment.”

Initial concept designs for the project were drawn up by landscape architect and long-time Tribeca resident Signe Nielsen, who has worked on many of Lower Manhattan’s public spaces, including the reconfigured and greened Duane Park and the widened and landscaped west side of Greenwich Street. The Friends group would like Nielsen to design the plaza, but that decision rests with the city.

The Friends group now raises $25,000 annually to maintain the space and it will cost them more than that once the three-to-four-year-long project is completed. The members are exploring the idea of a concession stand on the south end of the plaza—“something appropriate that doesn’t compete with local businesses,” said Weill, who anticipates possible controversy over the plan.

Weil acknowledged that more construction in the area could be unwelcomed by some, particularly following the years-long disruptions from the Chambers Street reconstruction project. “We’ve gone through so much construction on that corner and, as much as I'm excited about what it will be, I worry that the street will be opened up again,” she said. “That’s not great.”

But ultimately, she believes, her neighbors will be convinced that the makeover is worth the hardships, given its eventual rewards.

“Right now there’s a gated garden, there’s a sidewalk, and there’s a roadbed with epoxy gravel and some plastic planters,” she said. “This is Tribeca. We can do better than that.”