Grand Central has always been more than a train station. It’s an architectural and cultural touchstone for New York City. Even the most hurried commuter will stop to admire the building’s impressive scale and immaculate detail, before making their next transfer or stepping onto the crowded Midtown streets.
Since Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to rezone midtown east was first announced, it has stirred debate among local stakeholders, preservationists, and advocacy groups. Now Department of City Planning has offered up a set of new amendments—in the “A Text” section of the proposal—that responds to some of these key concerns expressed by New Yorkers while also serving the primary goal of the rezoning: To support and boost the growth of midtown’s competitive office district.
In New York these days, pedestrian plazas keep sprouting up in different pockets around Midtown Manhattan, an area known more for its heavily trafficked avenues and streets than its pedestrian-friendly corridors. And now, The New York Times reported that business owners along West 41st Street are pushing for their block, stretching from Broadway to Bryant Park, to be transformed into a tree-lined plaza, dotted with tables and seats. The street will stay open to traffic, but parking would be eliminated to make room for the promenade connecting Bryant Park with Snøhetta’s now-under-construction revamp of the Times Square pedestrian plaza.
Wally Rubin, District Manager of Community Board 5, told AN that the transportation and environment committee voted last Thursday to recommend approval of the plan, dubbed “Boulevard 41,” which will then go in front of the full board for a final vote on April 11th. If the Department of Transportation then green lights the proposal, the plaza could open as soon as this summer.
It’s not all glitz in Midtown Manhattan. One block of 35th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues was awarded the pernicious title of Midtown’s ugliest stretch on the appropriately named “Ugly Streets” walking tour, headed up last Friday by the Municipal Art Society‘s Frank Addeo.
Jean Nouvel feels like his MoMA Tower has been put under the guillotine. The starchitect behind the lopped-off Midtown Manhattan proposal told CBS News this weekend that “It’s very French to cut the head, eh?” His 75-story tower would have rivaled the Empire State Building for supremacy over the New York skyline, standing 1,250 feet tall, but met significant opposition from neighbors worried the tower would drown their street in shadow.
City Planning Commission officials voted earlier this year to allow a shortened version of the tower – chopping off 200 feet of the Pritzker Prize winner’s design. Nouvel’s vision has been sent back to the drawing boards, but he says it’s “not in his character” to feel discouraged. Be sure to check out AN‘s cameo appearance at the end of the interview.