Drastic architectural overhauls often require the eviction or removal of those living in the area that has been designated for revamping. The ongoing redesign of Manhattan’s Astor Place and Cooper Square is no exception, though in this case, authorities are looking beyond mere eviction in favor of extermination. The rodent residents of the area have proven a recent set-back for a project that was first revealed over three years ago.
Following its 2011 debut, the plan for the block by WXY architecture + urban design has undergone slight revisions. The goals of creating extra public space, improving storm drainage, and making the area more pedestrian-friendly remain in place. Towards this end Cooper Square Park will be expanded and the surrounding street-grid will be altered. Quennell-Rothschild & Partners will adorn the newly formed plazas and walkways with trees and other vegetation. Updated renderings released at the end of 2013 show additional seating added to the area immediately surrounding the Astor Place Subway station and the creation of a new Alamo plaza, formed by an expansion of the sidewalk that currently houses the rotating public sculpture.
Construction began in the fall of 2013 on new drainage systems at East 4th Street and is slated to progress northward over the two years that are said to be required for its completion. In December, however, the steadily growing rat population living underneath Cooper Square became problematic enough that the park needed to be shut down for three weeks to allow for a large-scale poisoning operation. New York Department of Design and Construction spokesman Craig Chin sees the WXY design itself as a more long-term means of addressing the infestation: “The actual reconstruction of the park helps address the issue at the root…with construction removing the burrows and subterranean rodent habitats that formed in the vaulted spaces underground.”