DEP Site Alongside Merchant’s House Converted to ‘Manuel Plaza’ Public Space
The no-man’s-land beside the Merchant’s House Museum – long a construction site for city water infrastructure – is now open public space for the community.
Located on East 4th Street, just off the Bowery, the site has been open to the public since May, but the city officially commemorated it last week as Manuel Plaza.
It’s a passive recreational space that includes tables and light shrubbery. The design couldn’t include large trees due to the potential of root interference with the tunnel system. Also, the caveat – it’s still under DEP jurisdiction and will require periodic maintenance.
The $1.58 million project was officially conceived in 2018, but the community had pushed for open space in the years prior. It received Mayoral funding from Department of Environmental Preservation ($1.31 million), as well as City Council ($200,000) and Borough President ($71,000) funding.
For over two decades, DEP has used this downtown parcel to work on shafts connected to so-called Water Tunnel No. 3. At $6 billion, it’s considered the largest capital construction project in New York City History that dates back to 1970. Scheduled completion of the overall project is 2026.
Manuel Plaza is named in acknowledgment of the first North American free Black settlement, known as the Land of the Blacks. The name itself three Manuels – Big Manuel, Clyn Manuel, Manuel Gerrit de Reus, Manuel Sanders, and Manuel Trumpeter, who were among 28 people of African descent who negotiated freedom from the West India Dutch Company and over 100 acres in land grants in mid-17th Century New Netherland.