Astor Place Moves Closer to Becoming a Great Public Space

astor_plaza.gif
A rendering of "Village Plaza" — a pedestrian space that may supplant the asphalt-covered area south of Astor Place.

Remember the Alamo? That’s the public sculpture (AKA "The Cube") located on a pedestrian island in the middle of Manhattan’s Astor Place. It’s a decent landmark for meeting up with a friend, but it always looks forlorn out there with lanes of traffic moving by on every side, a constant reminder that huge swaths of Astor Place and its environs can be reclaimed from vehicles and put to better use.

Astor Place was one of the first spots identified by the New York City Streets Renaissance as a potential Public Space Transformation
project. Now that transformation seems within reach, as a plan to reshape the area into a pedestrian haven moves closer to fruition. If implemented, the changes could remake Astor
Place into a space that binds together the East Village and the NYU
district with pedestrian amenities rather than dividing them with traffic.

The Villager’s Gabriel Zucker has the details:

astor_sidewalk_plan.gifThe renovation includes a realignment of Cooper Square from Sixth St.
to Astor Place, with the street being thinned and made one-way
northbound. The thinner avenue will provide new space alongside Peter
Cooper Park, and will create a two-block-long plaza space almost the
same size alongside the Bowery, extending down to E. Fourth St.

In
addition, Astor Place will be closed to cars between Fourth Ave. and
Lafayette St. where it passes “The Alamo” cube sculpture. On the
opposite side of Fourth Ave., Astor Place will also be realigned with
Eighth St., creating even more pedestrian space. The traffic island for
the northbound No. 6 train will be doubled in size.

As
part of the capital project, the city Department of Transportation will
also be installing medians along Third Ave. to facilitate pedestrian
crossings on the blocks between Fourth and Ninth Sts.

Zucker reports that construction may begin this winter, pending public input and review by the Art Commission.

Now, if only the owners of the ultra-luxe "Sculpture for Living" would find a ground floor tenant who engages the sidewalk, instead of another Chase branch.

Images: NYCDOT / The Villager

  • sounds interesting, but, what if, Cooper square went south bound and not north bound? Then the pedestrian island at the 6 train station, could be enlarged to close off the un-necessary 4th avenue merge, while auto traffic can have the benefit of choosing 6th street to drive east bound and not 8th. also this would prevent north bound traffic backing up on the bowery. In fact, all of Cooper Square is not necessary really. Being a taxi driver, i’ll probably regret saying all of this.

  • Sounds awesome. There’s already a pretty active street scene around there, and it could totally use some room to spread out.

    Slightly off-topic, but when is the new plaza outside Madison Square Park going to get some seating or something? They powered through the repaving and rerouting of traffic, but now it’s just a bunch of empty lanes with no trees or seating. Maybe the furniture is on back-order.

  • As the founder and Chair of Auto-Free New York for 19 years, I can’t help but cheer on efforts to shift even tiny segments of street space from cars to people. However, this plan seems to be driven more by not significantly displacing motorists than in creating a “great public place”. What’s missing is a comprehensive planning effort to explore the upper limits of “devehicularization” of the core of our great city.

    In this part of the Village, the streets with the most pedestrians are probably Broadway and 8th Street. In a really smart city, both would become auto-free light rail boulevards, like our plan for 42nd Street. (see http://www.vision42.org ). A group of us in the Village have been pressing for a carfree, river-to-river Christopher St./8th Street/St. Marks Place with a crostown trolley for many years. See http://www.villagetrolley.org

    The NYCDOT plan does little to further this goal, and in some ways makes it harder to achieve. In particular, to close Broadway south of 14th Street, 4th Avenue south of 14th Street might be best made two-way, essentially a continuation of Union Square East and 4th Avenue north of 14th Street. But in doing this, crossing the intersection at Astor Place becomes a critical issue. The NYCDOT plan could be adapted to this bigger vision, but it would be better to think in larger and bolder terms sooner, than later.

  • The most productive use I’ve seen for Cooper Square is a bus layup. Is that going to be eliminated under this plan?

  • why have any traffic on cooper square?
    it should be closed off entirely

  • Bob

    cooper sq is a bus route, no? or at least a bus layover. i guess that’s the only reason it ‘has’ to be open.

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