NEW YORK -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday proposed a $10.5 billion revitalization of Lower Manhattan public places and neighborhoods that would include new direct PATH service downtown from Newark Liberty International Airport.
Bloomberg said a 30-minute nonstop rail service between the city, JFK International Airport and Liberty would make New York a truly global city by enabling center city businessmen to fly to and from international desitinations with ease.
"Imagine stepping onto an AirTrain or PATH car and 30 minutes later walking to your gate
at JFK or Newark (airports)," said Bloomberg. "How? By extending the AirTrain system -- from JFK through a new tunnel to Lower Manhattan -- and by extending the PATH train -- from Newark's Penn Station to Newark Liberty Airport. This can be done, and it must be done."
For Bloomberg, it was his chance to weigh in on Lower Manhattan's future before the groups charting the former World Trade Center site's rebirth unveil seven new plans from internationally renowned architects next week.
Those proposals will set aside space for a Ground Zero memorial to Sept. 11 victims, provide designs to reclaim the lost skyline, replace office and retail space, as well as create a new transit hub at or near the Broadway/Fulton Street intersection to link the PATH and
Joseph Seymour, the Port Authority's executive director, estimated the cost of extending PATH service from downtown to Newark airport at $500 million to $700 million. He said the Port Authority expects to put funding in its 2003 budget to study the project -- an amount expected to be $50 million. "We feel that's an excellent project," said Seymour. But he hedged when asked if the Port Authority would pay for the entire Newark PATH extension. "That is something we would certainly participate in."
The Port Authority is currently rebuilding the destroyed PATH station at Ground Zero, slated for completion by the end of next year. That station is expected to become the permanent one, connected by concourse to the proposed transit hub. Roughly 66,000 New Jersey residents commuted via PATH to downtown on an average weekday before the attack.
Seymour sounded less enthusiastic about Bloomberg's call for direct AirTrain service from JFK to downtown -- a project Bloomberg estimated could cost nearly $4 billion because it would require a new tunnel. "That's a much larger project," said Seymour. "More detail needs to be evaluated before we can really comment on that."
Larry Silverstein, the World Trade Center leaseholder, embraced the mayor's transportation goals.
"This will be the first new mass transit initiative that Lower Manhattan will have received in 70 years," Silverstein said. "You cannot have major foreign companies moving into New York and doing business on a worldwide, global basis unless you provide them with ease and facility of moving from the airports to the center city. You have this in every other major city in the world. You don't have it in New York."
LMDC officials concurred. "We are extremely enthusiastic about the vision the mayor put out," said Matthew Higgins, an LMDC spokesman, adding that Bloomberg's transportation goals "are consistent with what we hope to achieve."
On Wednesday, the LMDC will unveil seven new visions for Ground Zero, which will be used to create a final site plan in conjunction with the Port Authority by February. An international design competition for the memorial will begin soon after.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, also called for building new neighborhoods, creating new public places and noted a plan is still being discussed to have the city take over Ground Zero in a possible land swap with the Port Authority.
His plan includes a 2.2-mile loop involving a transformed Battery Park, a tree-lined Water Street, a waterfront park from the island's tip to the South Street Seaport and re-establishing Fulton Street as a river-to-river thoroughfare with ferry stops on both ends and the transit hub in between. The final section, West Street, would be turned into a promenade with hundreds of trees, akin to the Champs-Elysées in Paris. He also proposed a new public square for shopping and gathering that would be called Fulton Market Square, while calling for a school to be built at Ground Zero as part of a plan to encourage families to move downtown.
Bloomberg, who also proposed an array of arts centers and museums, said he understands there will be doubts.
"But if history teaches us anything, it's that you should never doubt New York. Never," he said. "We can do this -- because we have to."
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