Home Asides Amidst Fulton St. construction, history unearthed

Amidst Fulton St. construction, history unearthed

by Benjamin Kabak

Whenever the MTA starts digging out subway infrastructure around Lower Manhattan, they seem to unearth history as well. Contractors wound up excavating a 350-year-old wall during construction of the new South Ferry terminal, and as work at the Fulton St. Transit Hub has continued, New York history has emerged in the process.

Near the corner of Fulton St. and Pearl St. on what was once primo riverfront property on the East River, crews recently unearthed a well on land owned in the late 1600s by Stephanus van Cortlandt. Andy Newman of The Times has more on this historic find. The wall, he said, was five feet wide and around four feet deep. The water wasn’t potable though, and archaeologists believe it was for “early-industrial use.” Alyssa Loorya said, “Any work or jobs you would do around the property. Washing, cooling. Anything that we could use gray water for, they could have used gray water.”

Within the well, excavators uncovered a ceramic bird from the early 18th century as well as a variety of other fragments from the era. City officials hope to put these on display in the lobby of the Department of Design and Construction in Queens. Meanwhile, city historians are intrigued by the historic well. “Everything you find,” Loorya said, “adds to the knowledge of material culture and lifeways of colonial New York.”

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Jerrold April 18, 2011 - 1:17 pm

What also was interesting in that article was that the entire
Fulton St. (the STREET, that is) is being completely redone along its entire length.
What they did NOT mention was that Fulton St. will be extended westward, to run through the new World Trade Center.

R. Graham April 18, 2011 - 4:08 pm

Is it must me or are some of you thinking what I’m thinking?

I’m thinking they are making the WTC area way to vehicle accessible. We’re talking about most of the area in general hasn’t been vehicle accessible in 40+ years.

In this day and age I don’t understand the logic.

Alon Levy April 18, 2011 - 5:52 pm

Not vehicle accessible – pedestrian-accessible. Towers in a park or in a plaza are not pedestrian-friendly; a normal street grid with towers on a base is much better.

Bolwerk April 18, 2011 - 8:01 pm

Streets have had non-automotive uses for millennia. The original WTC was built in a time period when “urban renewal,” still a dirty word today because of this, consisted of making urban spaces desirable by removing pedestrians based on the theory that driving was better anyway and, if people had better places to hang out, people wouldn’t want to be on the street anyway.

The urban planning “theory” behind the WTC is more or less that propounded by Le Corbusier, who apparently influenced Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of the World Trade Center. For whatever reason, his ideas also were popular with the Rockefellers, who patronized architect Wallace Harrison (most notable for Empire State Plaza in Albany, and Robert Moses.

If you ever wondered by the World Trade Center, Empire State Plaza, NYCHA housing and redevelopment projects, EDC projects, and many private postwar developments look like $hit and are dull to visit, the gentlemen listed above were/are largely to blame.

Edward April 18, 2011 - 4:18 pm

I think it’s more about restoring the original street grid (which is also helpful for pedestrians) than to make car access easier. Knowing the stringent security measures that will be in place, I’m sure they’ll make it uber-hard to for cars and trucks to drive along that part of Fulton Street.

Jerrold April 18, 2011 - 4:44 pm

They are restoring PART of the original street grid.
Fulton St. will run east-west through the site and Greenwich St. will run north-south.

As for the security issue, I don’t see how they will be able to monitor each vehicle as it passes by.
Remember how they closed off Vanderbilt Ave. alongside Grand Central for a long time? They did the same with 41st St. where it runs underneath part of the Port Authority. Both of those streets were eventually reopened to traffic.
It looks like the only post-9/11 change that is still in effect is that the Staten Island Ferry does not carry cars.

Jerrold April 18, 2011 - 4:45 pm

Oh, and I forgot that Wall Street is still for pedestrians only.

Christopher April 18, 2011 - 5:17 pm

As is a good portion of Broad Street and part of Exchange Place.

Bolwerk April 18, 2011 - 8:03 pm

It’s easy enough to keep vehicles out while allowing pedestrians in.

Jerrold April 18, 2011 - 8:16 pm

But I believe that THAT is not the intent.
I think tht traffic WILL be allowed on Fulton St. and Greenwich St.

BEN, do you know anything about this issue?

Bolwerk April 18, 2011 - 10:09 pm

Well, is that necessarily a bad thing? I mean, traffic is allowed in much of the rest of the area. Restoring the street grid somewhat doesn’t sound horrible to me. There will still be ample pedestrian space.

R. Graham April 18, 2011 - 8:41 pm

Jerrold is right.

And that’s what him and I were referring to is the opening or re-instituting of streets long removed decades ago. These streets open up access for regular vehicles very close to WTC 1/Freedom Tower which was in dispute one year by the NYPD for being too close to West Street. Yet Vesey Street and Fulton Street will be open full time on either side. The Visitor Center & PATH hub along with Towers 2, 3, 4 and 5 will line Greenwich Street and Church Street. I know these buildings will be lined with vehicle barriers but from the plans I only understand two of the buildings two be blast protected at the base. One of them is built and that’s Tower 7 and one is being constructed and that’s Tower 1.

A link to the plans below:

Alon Levy April 18, 2011 - 9:14 pm

You mean we get streets and they’ll be car-free on grounds that the Weinshalls and Kramers can support? Sign me up!

Jerrold April 18, 2011 - 10:10 pm

Thanks for the links!

In the recent past, I remembered about that map one day,
and looked for it in vain.
Now that you gave me the link, I bookmarked that page.
That map is worth referring to whenever I’m trying to figure out something about the WTC site.

You know, I was thinking all along that the Calatrava Center was going to be further west. Now I see that it will be right at Church and Fulton Sts.

John-2 April 18, 2011 - 10:45 pm

The slope of the land at the WTC site, with the 1 1/2 floor drop in elevation from Church to West streets, made the original WTC plaza very pedestrian unfriendly, because it maintained the same elevation from Church to West Street. That meant that until Batter Park City and the World Financial Center were completed, permitting the construction of the West Street overpasses, the western end of the plaza left people almost two stories above ground with no place to go, and even at Greenwhich Street, the plaza was already one floor above ground (which is why the MTA and the Port Authority were able to simply put the Cortlandt Street station entrance to the No. 1 train at street level at Greenwich and Vescey).

The design worked against a free flow of pedestrians both north-south and east-west through the area. With the 9/11 Memorial going into the pad sites where Tower 1 and Tower 1 are, you obviously can’t run Fulton all the way to West Street as it was back in the Hudson Terminal days, but restoring the street between Church and Greenwich and making the ground floors of the building conform to the lay of the land instead of trying to rise out of the way of them will make the entire area far more accessible (in a good way) than what came before it.

Jerrold April 18, 2011 - 11:44 pm

According to the map on that link provided by R. Graham,
Fulton St. WILL go all the way through the new World Trade Center.
It shows the 1 World Trade Center tower as being between Fulton and Vesey Sts., and the Memorial grounds bordering the south side of Fulton St.

John-2 April 19, 2011 - 8:58 am

Then the memorial area will be different than the initial plan, since the footprint of Tower 1 was south of Fulton St., while Tower 2 was north of Fulton. A single memorial area would have to cross the steert’s path in some way.

AlexB April 19, 2011 - 11:05 am

No, both towers fit in the area bounded by Liberty, Fulton, Greenwich, and the West Side Hwy.



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