Don’t change Orchard St. too much, BID is told | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Don’t change Orchard St. too much, BID is told

A concept drawing showing the “grove concept” in place on Orchard St.

A concept drawing showing the “grove concept” in place on Orchard St.

BY ZACH WILLIAMS   |  Aplan to improve the safety, traffic and appearance of Orchard St. received support from a Community Board 3 committee on Sept. 4.

Presented by the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, proposed changes to the streetscape would increase consistency among curbside amenities, such as trees, bike racks and benches, among other proposals. 

However, the C.B. 3 Transportation Committee urged the BID to protect the historic street’s character.

Additionally, the committee made its support for the plan conditional upon further study of the traffic implications of a proposed pedestrian plaza on Broome St. meant to prevent drivers from bypassing Allen St. via Orchard St. on their way to the Williamsburg Bridge.

“I would caution you against sanitizing Orchard St. too much. It’s part of its charm,” Karen Blatt, the committee’s chairperson, told Tim Laughlin, the BID’s executive director, who presented the plan.

Laughlin said that some improvements were underway, such as installation of new trees. However, implementing much of the project depends on acquiring further funding, as well as additional design and cooperation with city agencies. The proposed plaza on Broome St. would require an additional design process, he added.

The project’s overarching theme is “celebrating the past and looking to the future in a way that stays true to the Lower East Side,” he added.

Inviting local artists to participate is one way that the street could better reflect the surrounding neighborhood, suggested committee member Morris Faitelewicz, who specifically mentioned Jim “Mosaic Man” Power as a candidate for such outreach.

Chad Marlow, another committee member, said the loss of community-oriented businesses along the street has diminished some of its uniqueness in recent years. However, the street must remain relevant in the coming years, he added.

“And this may be it if it’s done in the right way,” he said during the meeting.

According to the 47-page “Orchard Streetscape Manual,” developed in cooperation with the Pilot Projects Design collective, the “grove concept” guided the design process. By placing street furniture and bike facilities together in various combinations, traffic is calmed and pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy additional space within a grove. Under the plan, groves would be placed at every corner of Orchard St. between Canal and E. Houston Sts.

“It is a variant of what a slow zone does,” Laughlin explained.