Exclusive: New plan to reopen Park Row to help Chinatown businesses struggling since 9/11

CHINATOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- In an Eyewitness News exclusive, there is a new proposal to reopen Park Row in an effort to reclaim a bustling Chinatown post-9/11.

Ever since the terrorist attack, merchants say business has suffered greatly with Park Row closed to traffic for security reasons.

They say passing the proposal is essential for their survival.

"It's getting worse, this neighborhood used to be hundreds of jewelers each in their own individual stores. Now it's changed from jewelry stores to bootleggers on the street," said business owner Vinny Fung.

He remembers what Canal Street "used" to look like. His family-owned jewelry store was one of many in Chinatown.

But the September 11th attacks changed things, crippling the local economy in the immediate aftermath.

And today, 15 years later, Chinatown still has not fully recovered.

Fung's business is down 50% since pre-9/11. Many here blame the closure of Park Row.

Park Row used to provide a direct link from Chinatown to the rest of Lower Manhattan.

But it was shut down to traffic due to security concerns.

Sitting right above it is NYPD headquarters.

The Chinatown community has been fighting a long and fruitless battle to re-open this major artery linking it to the financial district, arguing that with seven different streets intersecting here, the shutdown is choking their neighborhood.

Now in an Eyewitness News exclusive, community Leader Don Lee is proposing a new idea that he hopes will make the NYPD reconsider.

"One World Trade Center for example, the walls are there to make that happen and I'm sure that all of our bridges and tunnels are secure and bomb proof," said Lee.

Lee is talking about a reinforced barrier, built around Park Row.

An artist's rendering shows what it could look like: the layer on top of the underpass would protect One Police Plaza.

An open park space would be built on top of that.

"It would be wonderful to connect Chinatown to Lower Manhattan, for the businesses in both neighborhoods, for the people who work here, for the people who visit who are trying to go from one neighborhood to the other. We feel cut off from each other," said Jessica Lappin of The Alliance for Downtown New York.

As for the NYPD, a spokesperson says they can't comment on an idea that hasn't been formally proposed yet.

"The residents in Chinatown and the local businesses, they feel like they're being ignored," said Lee.
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