November 2017
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Javits Expansion Plan: Wrong for the West Side

javits center front small

As Hudson River Park nears completion, new development is rapidly moving into the Far West Side, and New Yorkers are already being drawn to the light, air and magnificent views of one of the city’s greatest assets — the Hudson River waterfront. But the current, ill-conceived plan to expand the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center northward would do the neighborhood and the city irreparable harm.

The Javits Center isolates residents of Midtown and the West Side from the Hudson for more than four blocks from 34th Street to just short of 39th Street. Expanding the center northward to traffic-choked 40th Street would only serve to make a bad situation worse. It would lengthen the massive barrier to six solid blocks — more than a quarter mile — and would force area residents to walk even farther to gain access to the waterfront park.

Neighborhood safety is also a concern. It’s important to remember that on 9/11 and during the 2003 power blackout, waterborne transportation provided the only reliable way of getting into or out of Manhattan. Water transport remains a central part of the city’s emergency preparedness plan and is cited in all contingency plans during transit strikes. A six-block wall along the river is not conducive to a quick escape or rescue.

Perhaps the most irrational consequence of this northward expansion plan would be its blockade effect on the sparkling new ferry terminal that opened last year at 39th Street. The new terminal has drawn rave reviews and crowds of commuters. Why obstruct a big success with a big mistake?

The good news is that viable alternatives to the proposed northward expansion exist. It is not too late for the talented architectural team selected for this project to design a facility that achieves program needs, environmental objectives, river access and community desires. New York’s civic and environmental communities stand ready to assist with making this vision a reality.

Since its inception, Governor Pataki was a great champion of Hudson River Park. Because of his critical role in the state-led expansion of the center and his affection for the park, the Municipal Art Society joined with seven other civic organizations to urge him and the Empire State Development Corporation to take action to ensure that misfortune did not befall one of his greatest legacies.

Our partners in this effort were the American Planning Association’s New York Metro Chapter, Citizens Union, Friends of Hudson River Park, Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association, New Yorkers for Parks and the Waterfront Park Coalition.