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NYPD releases World Trade Center security measures.
Rendering of proposed security checkpoint on West Broadway at the Federal Office Building.
Courtesy NYPD

One of the most lauded features of Daniel Libeskind’s masterplan for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site is the reintroduction of Fulton and Greenwich streets page to the landscape of Lower Manhattan. Cut off by a raised public plaza in Minoru Yamasaki’s megablock design for the Twin Towers, the reincarnation of these passageways has been promoted as a way of connecting the 16-acre site to the surrounding city. But another of the project’s challenges is raising the question of how “connected” these streets will actually be: security.

On April 8, the New York Police Department (NYPD) released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) detailing the agency’s proposed security measures. Among them are nine guard booths approximately the size of newsstand kiosks with sally ports situated around the perimeter to check vehicles entering the site. In addition, a series of bollards and barricades creates a porous security perimeter around the rest of the site, including closing a lane of Church Street.

The 2004 master plan for the World Trade Center site showing reintroduced Fulton and Greenwich Streets (left) and a diagram of the site showing the location of security checkpoints (right).
Courtesy Silverstein Properties / Courtesy NYPD

“The old World Trade Center site was an absolute island,” said Paul J. Browne, deputy commissioner at the NYPD. “The new site has connectivity with streets running through it,” which he said will remain open to pedestrians and cyclists who are not subject to the checkpoints. “All of this is part of the original design,” he said. “Nothing has changed.” Browne said the NYPD plan uses “very attractive kiosk-style checkpoints in keeping with the designs used downtown that have gone through the public review process.” Browne urged the public to remember that the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was carried out with a truck. “There are serious security issues we think have been balanced in this plan,” he said.

A recently-installed police checkpoint in Louise Nevelson Park in Lower Manhattan.
Courtesy NYPD

“We know security is important, but a less rigorous plan would be better. There’s got to be a better solution,” said Michael Levine, director of planning and land use for Community Board 1, who has followed the security plans since meetings began last fall. He raised concerns about the security plans’ effect on the public realm and the connectivity of the new street grid and how it would affect traffic in surrounding neighborhoods. Few of the community’s concerns, he said, made it into the DEIS. “They have destroyed the concept of connectivity,” said Levine of the NYPD plan. “It’s too invasive a plan and it changes too much of the city fabric downtown.” Levine said his main concern has been the lack of community involvement in the plan.

“A visual barrier of bollards, checkpoints, and sally ports is the biggest off put to pedestrians and cyclists,” said Levine, noting the barriers in place around One Police Plaza in Chinatown. “Pedestrians will just go around the site.” Jeff Zupan, senior fellow for transportation at the Regional Plan Association, told AN that while security interventions can provide challenges to connectivity, he believes the NYPD plan won’t necessarily be a problem. “The police department plan will pretty much be fine for pedestrians. Once they get past the checkpoints, pedestrians are free to roam through the site,” he said, noting that security measures will slow down cars, “but that’s just fine. There’s very little need for vehicular circulation in Lower Manhattan.”

Rendering of the dedicated security lane on Church Street.
Courtesy NYPD

Zupan said the conspicuousness of any security plan comes down to design and logistics, noting that community and city stakeholders “should get together to minimize the visual impact of the checkpoints through design. While a necessary evil, [security] can be minimized more than it is now.”

Rob Rogers, principal at Rogers Marvel Architects, is intimately familiar with the convergence of security planning and design. His firm designed the award-winning checkpoints on Wall Street and is currently working on integrating security and landscape at President’s Park in Washington, D.C. “Security design can become the identity of an entire district, in a positive way, not necessarily in a negative way,” Rogers said. “That’s what we tried to do at Wall Street.” His firm designed bronze barriers to act as bollards, some with integrated lighting, that soften the edge of the security checkpoint.

“None of these [security] elements that exist were intended for urban environments,” Rogers said, pointing to the military origins of security checkpoints. “Their scale, makeup, rhythm, and spacing are not made to be integrated into a pedestrian environment. The best solution is integration into the overall environment.” Rogers also said that coordinating this with multiple interests can be very difficult. “You need everyone to be committed to innovation to make it happen.”

Branden Klayko