Hell’s Kitchen South Coalition Coalesces Around Port Authority Plans

Rev. Tiffany Triplett Henkel addresses the Hell’s Kitchen South Coalition with a preview of what she hopes the face mask-donning crowd will look like at July’s Port Authority board meeting. Photo by Jackson Chen.

BY JACKSON CHEN | The Hell’s Kitchen South Coalition is readying their plans and members in advance of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s expected plans to address the Midtown bus terminal.

The replacement or renovation of the current underperforming facility on Eighth Ave. (btw. W. 40th & 42nd Sts.) is a desperately needed measure, but the project has been steeped in community contention from early on. Due to a lack of community input during the first proposal, the project was restarted and involved residents formed the Coalition to take a proactive role in fielding their concerns to the Port Authority.

The agency recently eliminated the worry that eminent domain, the process in which governments can capture private property for public works, would be used as a part of the project. It was a welcome victory for the Coalition, but the members are not resting on their laurels as they continue to meet every other month at Metro Baptist Church (410 W. 40th St., btw. Ninth & Dyer Aves.).

“We are very excited that they have stated there will be no eminent domain,” Rev. Tiffany Triplett Henkel, the church’s pastor, said at the May 31 meeting. “But we know that wasn’t the whole of what we were gathering for in this Coalition.”

The group is in the process of preparing the Hell’s Kitchen South Neighborhood Plan, which would serve as a bridge between the community and the Port Authority. The plan would cover W. 33rd to 42nd Sts., between Eighth and 12th Aves., and focuses on several major objectives — including preserving the existing community, enhancing the community, improving air quality, and creating a comprehensive transportation plan. As noted by Christine Berthet, a member of the Coalition as well as Community Board 4 (CB4) and the pedestrian safety group CHEKPEDS, the coverage area has the third-highest amount of air pollution in the city, according to the city’s Department of Health and Hygiene.

Betty Mackintosh, also a CB4 and Coalition member, said they’ve been sending out teams to conduct research efforts including field observations, collecting photos, and brainstorming recommendations. While hitting the major objectives, the plan also will look at affordable housing, green public spaces, and strengthening local businesses. Another CB4 and Coalition member, Joe Restuccia, noted the plan would serve as a way to infuse community input into the bus terminal project.

“Where our leverage is on this issue is part of the environmental review that will happen for the new terminal,” Restuccia said. “That’s the huge place that us as a community gets to influence what happens.” 

He added that since the project will receive federal funding, it would go under a more robust reviews process. Most recently, the Port Authority board gave the green light during its April 27 board meeting to pursue a feasibility study about renovating the existing bus terminal at Eighth Avenue. The study is expected to conclude by late July, according to the board chair John Degnan, who added that they expect to take it up at the Sept. 28 board meeting.

However, Henkel and the community are hoping to have at least a dozen people from the alliance donning surgical masks and speaking about air pollution during the Port Authority board’s July 20 meeting at 4 World Trade Center. The group is hoping to garner more attention to their cause of ensuring community input into the project. The upcoming board meeting on June 15 will be held in New Jersey at 2 Montgomery St.

“If we don’t as a community say what we want to be looked at, we will not be able to balance the way for the burden and the benefit we get for our community,” Restuccia said. “We’re embarking on a multi-year process here, but if you don’t get in early, you get nothing.”

At Metro Baptist Church, CB4 Chair Delores Rubin (at podium) moderates a Dec. 6, 2016 Hell’s Kitchen South Community Planning Session that was prompted by Port Authority’s bus terminal expansion plans. Chelsea Now file photo by Eileen Stukane.

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