A coalition of
artists and businesspeople is protesting the Port
Authority's vision for the future of their
neighborhood PATH stations because, the group says,
it shows no respect for Greenwich Village's storied
The Christopher Street Preservation Alliance argues
that construction at two stations would create
traffic bottlenecks by widening sidewalks and could
damage historic buildings like the Lucille Lortel
Theatre or the Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969
uprising that gave birth to the gay rights movement.
"It's a little like trying to destroy the Place
de la Bastille," said author Edmund White.
"The Stonewall is the single most important
location in the gay imagination."
The Port Authority this summer plans to build
underground walkways at the Christopher Street and
Ninth Street stations. The new mezzanines, 75 feet
by 25 feet, would ease congestion for emergency
evacuations, the PA says. The plan calls for a new
street-level entrance at each of the stations - work
that would narrow Christopher Street by four feet in
front of each set of stairs.
The new entrances are planned for the southeast
corner of Christopher and Bedford streets and the
southeast corner of Christopher and Waverly at the
Ninth Street station.
But 24 prominent artists - including White,
playwrights Edward Albee and Tony Kushner and
choreographer Bill T. Jones - have written to Gov.
George Pataki, urging him to halt the project. The
Port Authority counters that the work is necessary
to ensure public safety. "Right now, there's
only one way to get in and out of both of those
stations," said Port Authority spokesman Steve
Coleman. "If two trains come in and discharge
at the same time, it could take 18 minutes for
everybody to get out in an emergency. A second
entrance and exit would allow people to get out in
Coleman said the street space that would be taken up
by the new entrances would eat into what is now
parking space and would not impede traffic.
He said the PA would make restitution to anybody
whose property might be damaged - a fear expressed
by George Forbes of the Lucille Lortel Theatre
Foundation. The project could damage the building's
foundation or the $250,000 "Playwrights
Sidewalk," Forbes said.
The PA has hired preservation consultants Higgins
& Quasebarth to evaluate alternate entrances.
Construction, a nine-month project, is to begin in
early July, so the work will not hamper the Gay
Pride Parade on June 30, officials said.