Debacle on 27th Street

The Fashion Institute of Technology has been trying to permanently close 27th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues for years, in its quest to create a “commons” space on the east end of the street that bisects its campus (along a cul-de-sac for deliveries on the west end of the street).

Most recently, in May of this year, the school ran its plan past Community Board 5, only to be defeated in a full-board vote. Opponents of the plan, including neighbors and community activists, claimed that traffic would increase substantially if the street were closed (a dubious claim, according to pro-commons folks, not only because the school already severely restricts traffic on 27th Street, but because of numerous studies showing that traffic actually decreases if automobile traffic is restricted; furthermore, when F.I.T. was trying to sway the board, Manhattan D.O.T. Comish Margaret Forgione was on hand bolster the school’s case).

Nevertheless, the commons plan is dead for the time being, evidenced by Community Board 5’s e-mail notification yesterday that F.I.T. “is no longer interested in the implementation of this project.”

But try telling that to F.I.T.

Brenda Perez, the school’s director of media relations, e-mailed The Real Estate today: “F.I.T. has deferred the commons until other projects in the college are completed. In addition to pursuing the commons, F.I.T. has been updating its 1995 campus-wide master plan, which will address the college’s critical space shortfall. The original plan stipulated that the commons would follow the completion of other construction and renovation projects within F.I.T.’s existing campus footprint. The college has decided to follow its initial intention to pursue the commons once those projects are completed.”

O.K., so they won’t exactly be ramming this through again posthaste, but The Real Estate has a feeling that this will be coming up again sometime soon. Any bets we’ll be seeing this again in 2006?

– Matthew Grace Debacle on 27th Street