Community Board 5 is experimenting with a temporary pedestrian plaza and sidewalk expansion around Penn Station to manage foot traffic around one of the busiest rail stations in the world. A guiding vision behind these projects is to link Penn Station and Madison Square Garden to the more pleasant Herald Square and Greeley Square area. Snøhetta designed the master plan for the area while Brooklyn's W Architecture & Landscape Architecture, working with Production Glue and in partnership with Vornado Realty Trust, designed Plaza33 on 33rd Street between 7th and 8th avenues. The plaza is intended to create a smoother gradient between the street and the sidewalk to streamline pedestrian flow. The trial period for Plaza33 began July 19th and runs through October 11th. So far, Plaza33 has received positive feedback from Community Board 5's constituents. Street furniture, including hybrid benches and planters, offers a place for pedestrians to relax and socialize. Public art by Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein enlivens the corridor, while community programming, including yoga and film screenings, are planned to activate the space. The West 32nd Street sidewalk expansion transforms the space more minimally but is far more controversial. In principle, residential and commercial stakeholders on the target blocks strongly support the plazas. In practice, however, the re-arrangement of space creates conflicts for users. Loading zones on 32nd Street were reduced by 500 feet. Trash collection, boarding for the M4 bus, and services for residential tenants compete for only 180 feet of loading space. Vornado is working with property owners and renters on the block to mitigate the impact of reduced street space. It remains to be seen whether these problems can be resolved to the satisfaction of all (or most) parties before the end of the trial period.
Posts tagged with "Plaza33":
[Update: While Snøhetta is drawing up the master plan for the area around Penn Station, Brooklyn-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, working with Production Glue, designed the new Plaza33.] Turning the truly miserable blocks around New York City’s Penn Station into a pleasant and calming retreat would appear to be an impossible undertaking. But Vornado Realty Trust—the primary property owner around the station—believes it can do it with the help of some experienced, Norwegian architects. Enter: Snøhetta. In June, it was reported that Vornado tapped the Oslo- and New York–based firm, which is also sprucing up the pedestrian environment around Times Square, to revamp its building stock in the area and generally improve the street-level experience around the station. This undertaking would kick off with a temporary public plaza on a stretch of West 33rd Street, designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture. That plaza, called Plaza33, is now open, and to the designers' credit, people seem to be really enjoying it. (Again, remember that it is right next to Penn Station, a notoriously overcrowded and people-unfriendly part of New York City). "Long talked about as a vital yet underutilized and underdeveloped part of Manhattan, Plaza 33 reinvorgates the area around Penn Station and Madison Square Garden with public activities and a new food hall," said W Architecture in a statement. "The architectural and landscape interventions in the plaza are temporary, so the design and construction of the plaza employed very innovative techniques to both accommodate thousands of people per day and provide a respite in one of the busiest ares of Manhattan." The plaza features a stepped, wooden amphitheater with overflowing planters. These materials are repeated with benches that also function as flower boxes. The roadway has been painted blue with diagonal stripes cutting across it. The plaza also features sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring. The move is part of the popular Tactical Urbanism movement that encourages experimenting with public space—in this case temporarily shutting down a street—to figure out new ways to interact with cities. The concept holds up short-term actions as a generator of long-term change. Times Square, years ago, underwent similar temporary transformations leading up to its ongoing permanent redesign. Plaza33 will be used to host concerts, fitness workshops, movie screenings, and games. (A full lineup of events is here.) But all good things apparently must come to an end. The plaza will be disassembled on October 11th. But could we see a more permanent solution in coming years? New Yorkers will likely vote with their feet. [h/t StreetsBlog]