City Shows Off Plan to Reclaim Astor Place for Pedestrians [Updated]

New plazas would return Astor Place to pedestrians. Image: DDC.
New plazas would return Astor Place to pedestrians. Image: DDC.

Plans to transform another asphalt tangle into a great public space are moving forward at Astor Place, and Curbed has the details. With significant street space being reclaimed for pedestrians, the plan should serve as a new gathering place in the East Village and make the neighborhood safer for walking.

Here are a few of the highlights from the presentation made by the Department of Design and Construction to Community Boards 2 and 3 last night:

  • The block of Astor Place south of the cube will be completely replaced by a new plaza, integrating the island where the sculpture sits with the pedestrian environment.
  • The plaza around the subway entrance at Astor Place will be expanded considerably, as will the sidewalks around that intersection.
  • 8,000 new square feet of pedestrian space will be built at the southern edge of Cooper Square, roughly between E. 5th and 6th Streets.

As a capital project, the reconstruction will include more heavy-duty elements than the pedestrian reclamations built out on Broadway so far. Think concrete, granite, street trees, benches, bike racks, and a new green stormwater management system.

We’re still waiting for additional information about the plan from DDC and the local community board, like when exactly this plan, which has been in the works for several years, will become a reality. In the meantime, though, be sure to check out Curbed for the most comprehensive look at the new design so far, including 24 images. Here are two more images from last night presentation:

UPDATE: A DDC spokesperson informs us that the project will be put out to bid this summer and that construction should begin in spring 2012.

A diagram shows just how much new public space will be created under the new design. Image: DDC.
A diagram shows just how much new public space will be created under the new design. Image: DDC.
A rendering shows the southern "Village Plaza" in use by people, not cars. Image: DDC.
A rendering shows the southern "Village Plaza" in use by people, not cars. Image: DDC.
  • Moser

    Hearing the knuckle-draggers on CB3 are trying to prevent any public seating in this thing.

  • So theyre going to take an existing underground restroom, and instead of remodeling it, they will fill it with dirt?

    Why does modern government think that people no longer need to use restrooms as much as we did 60 years ago?

  • Tsuyoshi

    They don’t want restrooms that can be used for shooting heroin. The best place for shooting up, as we all know, is in public.

  • Greg

    Moveable chairs and food carts add life to any plaza.

  • Good point on the public restrooms. We really need those in NYC, but I understand how hard it would be to keep them clean and safe.

    And “Yeeeehaw!” on another pedestrian plaza… although I’m a cyclist >90% of the time, but anything that takes space away from cars is a win for all, even those in the cars, they just don’t see it yet.

    I only hope those plazas would feature nice bicycle parking facilities so we could stop, enjoy a snack or sit down on a bench for a while to relax.


  • Who knew there was an underground public bathroom?

    The sweetest part of this reconfiguration is the filling in of that last block of Astor Place just south of the Alamo. It never seemed to have all that much vehicular traffic- just enough to make pedestrians wish they had eyes in the back of their heads for the occasional taxi that makes a right turn off Lafayette. Doing away with this strip will make one of the main plazas of the East Village a more enjoyable and safer space.

  • My 2 cents:

    Overall a good looking design but…

    …the bike racks are way too close to the curbs in every rendering (I saw the photo gallery on Curbed). Their placement just seems to be an afterthought.

    As an urban planner I’m well versed in the concept of a “furniture zone” so it would seem at first glance (and to a planner who isn’t a cyclist) that placement of the bicycle racks in this location is satisfactory. Unfortunately it’s not.

    This is NOT in anyway like placing a bicycle rack on a 8, 10 OR 12 foot wide sidewalk where such a placement is all you can do. These are huge public plazas with plenty of space to work with.

    I can see these bike racks getting buried in snow every time we have a snowstorm of more than 6 inches making them totally useless and prone to damage from plows along with any hapless bikes that are parked there at the time. Also being so close to the curb the racks and any bikes locked to them will also be prone to damage from errant vehicles which NYC seems to have in abundance.

    Also, are there any destinations at the site that are attractors for bicycle traffic (I’m not intimately familiar with the plaza though I have walked through it)? Is there obvious bicycle parking demand present with bikes parked to every immovable object? If so, where is it? If there is bicycle parking demand at a certain location, put the bicycle racks there in compliance to the standards set forth by APBP. DO NOT just anyplace them anywhere you can find a spot. And finally don’t place them right at the curb where the racks and the bicycles locked to them are prone to so many hazards.

    Ill placed bicycle racks abound in way too many designs I’ve seen because not enough designers understand the parking needs of bicyclists.

  • Anthony

    Can’t wait! Too bad they’re not also planning on widening the sidewalks on St. Mark’s, too…

  • Woody

    It’s a simple thing to keep public restrooms clean and safe. Every country in Europe does it with PAID TOILET ATTENDANTS.

    But in our country apparently we either don’t think toilet attendants are worth being paid a living wage, or we think the work is so demeaning that the would-be paid attendants are better off living in shelters with no work at all.

  • AdamDZ: Plans are for 113 bike racks… and 64 new trees, 7900 sq. ft. of new plantings, 6620 sq. ft. of permeable surfaces!

  • Duncan

    As to the restroom, make it like the ones in Europe where there’s an attendant, and you have to pay a quarter to go in. Result: clean restrooms which are used for their intended purpose.

  • Anthony

    Totally agree about charging for the bathroom, but please don’t let some sour-faced attendant decide on how much toilet paper I deserve — as is often the policy in Eastern Europe 😉

  • Oleg

    Why keep the 4th Avenue spur which isolates the 3 plazas: Alamo, Cooper Triangle, and Village  Plazas? Connect them all. Be majestic.


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