“Boulevard 41” Poised to Reclaim Space for People Near Bryant Park

While Vision42 might not happen soon, Boulevard 41 is more likely. The plan from the Bryant Park Corporation has approvals in hand but needs funding from adjacent property owners. Image: Bryant Park Corporation [PDF]
A plan from the Bryant Park Corporation to replace car parking with seating has approvals in hand but needs funding from adjacent property owners. Image: Bryant Park Corporation [PDF]
A crowded Midtown block could get more space for people and plantings if adjacent property owners decide to foot the bill.

The local business improvement district, the Bryant Park Corporation, wants to convert the curbside lanes of 41st Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway into a pedestrian seating zone as part of proposal it’s calling “Boulevard 41” [PDF]. The plan, which received approvals from DOT, FDNY, and Community Board 5 [PDF] last year, is on hold, however, until the Bryant Park Corporation secures funding from adjacent property owners.

“The intention was to cover the entire cost of the project with private money coming from the buildings on the block,” said Ignacio Ciocchini, vice president of design for the Bryant Park Corporation. The block is split between about seven property owners whose territory falls under three BIDs covering Bryant Park, Times Square, and the Garment District, so Ciocchini had additional hoops to jump through before getting a green light for the project.

The plan would replace about half of the curbside along one block 41st Street with seating and greenery. Image:
The plan would replace about half of the curbside along 41st Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway with seating and plantings. Image: Bryant Park Corporation [PDF]
“The whole project was initiated by property owners to improve the street,” he said. “They came to us.”

“As many of the buildings are now changing hands this proved difficult to accomplish, but we are not giving up yet,” Ciocchini said. He is meeting with some of the new property owners next week and hopes to get their support without having to make many changes to the approved plan.

The street seating would be installed seasonally from April to October. It is expected to cost $1.5 million the first year and $500,000 each following year to cover fabrication, installation, planting, maintenance, sanitation, and security.

While some elements of the installation might be ready to go later this year with the backing of the new property owners, Ciocchini said the complete project would more likely have to wait until 2016. “It really depends on the reaction that these new companies have,” he said.

  • Jeff

    Wow, we really do hate “shared space” schemes in this city, don’t we? I mean, you have a block on which you want to prioritize space for pedestrians, yet still retain access for deliveries and infrequent through traffic. So instead of looking out towards the rest of the world for solutions, we look up our own asses and come up with a series of little boxes that pedestrians can hang out in? Are passing motorists allowed to feed the pedestrians?

  • Inspector Spacetime

    If my understanding of the Bryant Park Corporation is accurate, I’m appalled it exists in the first place.

  • Alex

    It’s cheap, it can be moved where needed and it gives more space to peds without taking up the entire side street for liveries and stopped vehicles. This is a great solution to fix up streets that need extra space without needing major construction and expensive improvements. Not every street can be totally redesigned with the snap of your fingers.

  • Bolwerk

    How much for the models?

  • Mark Walker

    The design seems to reduce the potential for pedestrians crossing in mid-block. Is that good or bad?

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Maybe a good place for all the creatures in kids costumes hanging out in Times Square to take a break.

  • AnoNYC

    Chicanes?

  • comment flagged

    As I understand it, that’s just the entity for the Business Improvement District, property owners in the BID fund it through a special property tax they have to pay, is that how you understood it?

  • Inspector Spacetime

    It was explained, in general terms, that control over Bryant Park has largely been handed over to a private entity with a separate budget for additional improvements and amenities that the entity gets to decide upon. The Parks Department’s ability to manage what happens in the park is largely nonexistent. The entity has the city-backed ability to compel assessments from the surrounding businesses, but the corporation’s decisions have no formal appeals process – and none of its assessments are attached to Parks budgets. They make an effort to keep events open to the public, but it’s not a requirement on their part and they essentially control access; that on a square footage basis Bryant Park’s budget is about 60-70 times more than other comparably-sized Parks Department land, and they can freely make undisclosed agreements with other entities and not be held accountable by the local community board either.

    That’s not how a public park should operate. You can point to how successful it’s been run, and I can appreciate that but a lack of active public oversight into a private agency running public park property that can easily make agreements it need not have vetted nor even disclose seems pretty broken. (If my friend is accurately describing the situation to me. It’s not a stranger’s job to my research for me, so forgive if it sounds like I’m putting it on anyone.)

  • comment flagged

    I did not catch that they run the park…!

  • al

    Spots for vans, trucks and taxis to stop and load/offload stuff and people.

  • BBnet3000

    Yeah its easily the most privatized, corporate and over-programmed park I’m aware of anywhere and the BPC seems to have way more power than most BIDs do over street and plaza spaces within their area.

  • BBnet3000

    While I’d be glad to see some real pedestrianization in Midtown, I wouldn’t knock parklets which are a great use of space previously devoted to an unoccupied car. Copenhagenize wrote:

    While there is nothing regarding bicycle infrastructure that we can learn from the Americans, the parklet concept is something that we can happily subscribe to.

  • sammy davis jr jr

    They have my approval, so I think they can go ahead with the plan!

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