A measure to convert open air arcades along Water Street in Lower Manhattan into retail has been approved by the City Council, Crain’s reports. The measure pertains to a 10-block stretch between Whitehall Street and Fulton Street, and includes the areas in front of 20 buildings.
Most of the arcades are used as outdoor seating area for cafes or as smoking lounges, and are generally avoided by pedestrians, and City Council members like Margaret Chin described them as "underutilized spaces," and "simply not working."
The measure also had the backing of the City Planning Commission and the Economic Development Corporation. But not everyone was enthused, most notably the Municipal Arts Society, who said it was a pricey giveaway to developers without an equitable benefit to the public.
The arcades were built between between the 1960s and the 1980s as part of a deal between the city and the building owners on the street — in exchange for the covered pedestrian walkways, developers could build taller towers. MAS pointed out that these were supposed to be permanently accessible public spaces.
The measure was pushed forward by the local Business Improvement District (BID) — The Alliance of Downtown New York. The BID will be able to collect funds from the retailers that will go towards cleaning the streets and towards beautification projects in the area.