A new vision for Wall Street

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Plan reimagines New York Stock Exchange district with curbless shared streets, improved lighting and seating


  • Renderings released by Downtown Alliance show the Charging Bull statue relocated from Bowling Green to the corner of Wall and Broad Streets. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in April that the city intends to move the Fearless Girl statue, and possibly the bull, to the vicinity of the New York Stock Exchange due to pedestrian safety issues at the statues’ current location. Rendering: WXY Architecture + Urban Design

  • Renderings released by Downtown Alliance show the Charging Bull statue relocated from Bowling Green to the corner of Wall and Broad Streets. Curbless streets and new seating areas are among a new report’s recommendations to make the area surrounding the New York Stock Exchange more open and welcoming to pedestrians. Rendering: WXY Architecture + Urban Design

  • Imposing barricades at entrances to Wall Street would be replaced with less obtrusive bollards under a new plan proposed by Downtown Alliance. Photo: Michael Garofalo

From the steps of Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated in 1789, a statue of the first president gazes on in bronze across Wall Street toward the marble façade New York Stock Exchange. The streets around the stock exchange are some of Manhattan’s oldest. The neoclassical grandeur of the district’s architecture communicates permanence, prestige, history.

The streetscape itself? Less so.

“Eurocobble” paving installed in the 2000s to evoke the narrow streets’ colonial past is deteriorated and pockmarked. Moveable police fencing surrounding the stock exchange building is a permanent presence, and a vinyl-sided tent fit for a lawn party serves as a security checkpoint.

Traffic is restricted in much of the district, but streets where vehicles are permitted are regularly clogged by delivery trucks idling on sidewalks and shoulders. Entrances to pedestrian portions of Wall and Broad Streets are choked with imposing security barriers installed after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Tourists jostle with residents and workers to navigate the passageway to Broadway at Wall Street’s western terminus — an already slender corridor in which pedestrians are further constricted by security fencing and scaffolding that takes up much of the street.

“Let’s face it: the area has been stuck, to some extent, in a time warp since 9/11,” said Tom Farley, the president of NYSE Group and the co-chair of a committee of local stakeholders calling for an overhaul of the district’s street design.

The committee’s report, commissioned by the Alliance for Downtown New York, was released May 14 after nine months of study. At the core of the report’s recommendations are measures intended to reorient the area’s streets around the pedestrian experience. Curbs would be removed under the plan and roadways would be uniformly resurfaced with a more durable and historically appropriate material, such as granite pavers, designed to “unify the area’s appearance and enhance a sense of place.”

“These curbs contemplate vehicular traffic,” Farley said at a May 14 press conference on Wall Street announcing the study’s results. “There will not be vehicular traffic in this area.”

Cable lighting strung from building to building across the narrow, canyon-like thoroughfares would provide more consistent illumination and free up pedestrian space now occupied by streetlight posts. Interactive computerized entrance markers would help guide visitors through entrances to Wall Street that are now frequently cluttered. Truck delivery areas on Exchange Place and New Street would be reconfigured to expand loading space and reduce congestion.

New planters would double as seating areas, replacing the low-slung concrete benches that now line Broad Street. “They look so uncomfortable and people sit on them and eat their lunch every day,” Downtown Alliance President Jessica Lappin said.

The security zone’s borders will remain unchanged under the plan, and perimeter fencing will remain in place around the New York Stock Exchange building, but bulky bronze blocks and hydraulic barriers at vehicle checkpoints will be replaced with simplified metal bollards like the slender poles used in Times Square, creating a more welcoming atmosphere for tourists and loosening pedestrian bottlenecks. The plan also envisions a more attractive and permanent screening entrance for the stock exchange.

“Obviously the New York Police Department was very involved” in the plan’s recommendations, Lappin said. “Safety and security is paramount, and anything that we were proposing we wanted to be sure it was in line with the necessary safety measures to make this area secure.”

Downtown Alliance estimates that the proposals would cost roughly $30 million to implement, and recommends that the city fund the project in partnership with private stakeholders. “The figure isn’t all that daunting when you think about what the city has spent on areas like Times Square and Astor Place,” Lappin said.

Private fundraising for the project has not yet begun. “We haven’t had specific discussions with anybody, but we certainly know that there’s interest from the private owners, and we need the city to partner with us,” Lappin said. “The city has to step up.”

Various city agencies contributed to the report, including the Transportation Department, Economic Development Corporation and Department of City Planning. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the district in the city council, each issued statements in support of Downtown Alliance’s efforts.

Anthony Notaro, chair of Community Board 1, said that the influx of new downtown residents since 9/11, as the Financial District transformed from a primarily nine-to-five commuter hub to the city’s fastest growing residential neighborhood, has made smooth pedestrian flow in the district more important than ever. “Safety is always paramount, but making this a usable space is critical,” he said.

Notaro expects the community board to support the plan. “Everyone will have their say, but in concept we love the idea,” he said.

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