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Chatham Kimlau Square in Chinatown
Photograph: Shutterstock

NYC announces a major overhaul of public space in Chinatown

‘Chinatown Connections’ will redesign Park Row and Chatham/Kimlau Square.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

A major thoroughfare in Manhattan’s Chinatown is about to undergo a huge change that’ll greatly enhance and expand public space.

If you’re familiar with Chatham/Kimlau Square, you know its heavy traffic flow and current car-centric design. Well, according to NYC, this area, Park Row and Chatham/Kimlau Square, is going to be redesigned to make the area safer and more pedestrian-friendly.

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According to Gothamist, residents of this area say it needs major attention because it has had a big rat problem as well as confusing pedestrian and car paths. Officials have said they want to make the areas “the Columbus Circle of Lower Manhattan.”

There’s been some criticism from residents and community leaders about the amount the city and state are putting into this area, saying it’s not enough, but today, the city announced it has a budget of $56 million—$44.3 million in city capital funding with $11.5 million from New York state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative awards—for the ”Chinatown Connections” project.

There’s essentially mean a three-pronged approach.

A Chinatown Welcome Gateway

Chinatown will get the “entrance it deserves,” according to Mayor Eric Adams’ office. This new gateway will draw visitors to local businesses while marking the cultural significance of the neighborhood … but what it will look like is still unknown. Before any design is put forward, there will be a traffic study, an assessment of the existing conditions in this area and community engagement—the results of which will go toward designing the gateway. 

Community leaders are hoping the arch will be unique and representative of Manhattan’s Chinatown, rather than a copy-paste monument, according to Gothamist.

There’s currently no timeline on when this will be constructed but the city says it depends on private fundraising to bolster the $2.5 million set aside for this element.

Chatham/Kimlau Square

This busy five-street intersection apparently has “many conflict points” that put walkers, cyclists and drivers in danger, the city says. Some local leaders say its current condition is disrespectful to the man the plaza is named after, according to Gothamist. Kimlau Square is named after a Chinese-American bomber pilot who died in World War II. An 18-foot-tall memorial in the square represents and honors Chinese-American soldiers who died in battle for the U.S.

Once the city consults with the community, the city will do a traffic study to help it redesign the intersection and square to create a four-way intersection, an even larger public space/square, shorter pedestrian crossings and direct bike lanes.

The city will also see if it’s worth keeping Park Row closed to private car traffic or if it should reopen with a newly redesigned Kimlau Square and will take into consideration existing traffic conditions and future traffic conditions under congestion pricing. Once the community input portion is down, construction of the redesign will begin in 2027 and finish in 2029 if all goes to plan.

About $5 million of the $11.5 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award will go towards this redesign.

“We’ll beautify Park Row, making it easier for New Yorkers and tourists to get from the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge to Chinatown and all the small businesses here, and we’ll give Chinatown the entrance it deserves with a new Welcome Gateway that honors this neighborhood’s rich cultural heritage,” Mayor Adams said in a statement.

Kimlau Square redesign graphic
Photograph: courtesy of New York City Economic Development Corporation

Beautifying the Park Row connection to Chinatown

Right now, Park Row connects Lower Manhattan, Chinatown, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge Arches for cyclists and pedestrians, so the city will focus on improvements that will make it safer for them in the short term and long term. It says it’ll introduce new safety improvements, art interventions, new planters and additional wayfinding and signs in the meantime while it talks with the public about options for using $4 million of the $11.5 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award for permanent improvements.

This part of the project will begin with a community engagement period with construction starting this year, including short-term improvements throughout the year.

The mayor reassures the public that the local community will have a say in the project moving forward. “At every step of the way, we will work hand-in-hand with the local Chinatown community so that the project reflects what the community wants and needs from our city,” he said. “This announcement is another step in our work to revitalize the future of Chinatown and reimagine the urban experience for all New Yorkers.” 

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