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Thread: Cooper Square - Astor Place reconstruction

  1. #1
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Default Cooper Square - Astor Place reconstruction

    Huge Astor Place and Cooper Square Transformation Revealed

    January 7, 2011, by Pete Davies


    The new Alamo Plaza, contoured and modernized.


    Lots more room for pedestrians at the north end of Astor Place


    The south end of the new plan.

    (more pictures in the article)

    The big plan to transform the acres of asphalt around Astor Place and Cooper Square in the East Village got sidelined when the economy hit the skids, but now this big pedestrian plaza is back on track. The city's Department of Design and Construction met with locals last night to present the latest reconstruction plans. What's in store from the architecture team at Weisz + Yoes is a dramatic four-part reconfiguration of streets, parks and traffic islands that will give more room to pedestrians and, at the same time, help to manage stormwater that occasionally causes chaos in the subways down below.

    Naturally the neighbors responded to the plans with, well, let's call them questions and concerns.

    At the north end of Astor Place (aka Mud Truck Land), where the Astor Place subway kiosk is crammed between Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue, a larger plaza will be installed. The landscape team at Quennell Rothschild & Partners proposes raised planters framed in granite steps, with trees rising overhead. Just across Eighth Street, where the Alamo cube spins atop a little slice of concrete, a new plaza will take over the angled block of Astor Place, putting pedestrians where cars used to crawl. And that's only the beginning.

    This stretch of Astor Place was an Indian trail when the first batch of Eurotrash came to town, and that history is to be memorialized in colored pavement winding around a contoured plaza, configured to control runoff from heavy rains. A row of trees, planted to follow the curve of the old pathway, will hide the Chase Bank branch that takes up the full base of the glassy and blue Sculpture for Living. Down in the plaza W+Y's zipper benches, good for keeping skateboarders in line, will encircle the trees and give East Villagers a chance to kick back on something other than grungy sidewalks.

    Moving south, a new row of trees will frame the street along the brownstone of the Cooper Union's Foundation Building. The tired old Cooper Square "park" will be opened up.

    A reconfigured four-foot fence will mark the current park outline, but new gates will allow entry at the northeast and southwest. This little triangular park, now the favored hangout of ne'er-do-wells, will be remade with curving benches and raised plantings, all in the hope that locals will find it more welcoming. The sidewalks will be widened and buffeted from the streets by more beds for trees and flowers, lushly planted by Piet Oudolf, master planter and friend of the High Line.

    The biggest change will be at the southern end of the new pedestrian-friendly zone, down where the Bowery takes over and asphalt rules. Here the new Village Plaza will go in, a triangular space covering nearly 8,000 square feet with wide expanses of pavers and raised planters edged in granite, perfect for lounging and sipping chai. When the new Grace Church High School at 50 Cooper Square opens next year, no doubt this will be their very own three-sided quad.

    Once the work gets started, one neighborhood nemesis—the local rat population—had better think about finding new digs. There's an old underground restroom hidden beneath the southern tip of the Peter Cooper Park, long closed off and covered over. Some fear that this subterranean hideout is where the rats have taken up roost. This will be dug out and filled in, leaving the night scurriers without a place to rest their weary heads. If that's not enough to drive them out, new illumination by Tillett Lighting Design, the team that brightened the Brooklyn Bridge underpass, should do the trick. We've heard it here once before, but now the transformation really is on the horizon.

    Astor Place Latest Traffic Mess to Get Tweaked [Curbed]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/0...n_revealed.php

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    Very nice! A fountain would have been even nicer though.

  3. #3
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    It seems that the 2008 version of the plan may have included some sort of water feature.

    We're better off without it. Fountains and such require lots of maintenance and many that were installed around the city in the '80s & '90s are now dry and, where water or such used to run, have now been planted over or left forlorn.

  4. #4

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    I disagree.

    Waterfalls really make some little pocket parks in New York like Paley Park, for example.



    And the little plaza just off Madison where the Berlin Wall is situated.


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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    I like waterworks, and wish there were many more. Something down in the Village Plaza planned here (southern end) could have been a good traffic noise buffer.

    But there's a big difference in the level of maintenance of newer public park waterworks (possibly part of the problem is the extended design sequence required for public spaces, along with the contractors hired via that public process) vs. private plaza waterworks. Those in larger more visible and active public spaces (i.e.: Columbus Circle Fountain) seem to get the attention they need. But the misguided installation at the Javits Federal Plaza downtown (really designed to be a fog work [1997; Martha Schwartz], and involved massive plumbing) is one that never worked well and is now defunct and plugged up (and targeted for yet another makeover).

  6. #6

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    Anyway, it's nice to see this area getting attention. It has become really nice and will only improve.

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    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    I'm looking forward to the new Astor Pl/Cooper Sq. I was almost hit by a car there many moons ago.

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    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    New Bowery Plaza Will Teach During the Day, Party at Night

    January 28, 2011, by Joey Arak

    Somewhat lost in the shuffle of the dramatic transformation of Astor Place is what's planned for the blocks just to the south, namely the tidying up and expansion of the Cooper Triangle, and the creation of a sliver of new pedestrian plaza space called Village Square. These elements have run afoul of Bowery/East Village locals who fear that creating new outdoor spaces where people might actually want to hang out will lead to...people hanging out. Basically they're worried about crowds of drunken idiots pouring out of the Bowery's new hotels and restaurants, congregating here, and causing a ruckus into the wee hours. But The Villager reports that's not the intention of these new gathering grounds. Nope, they're for learnin' and stuff.

    The Grace Church School will soon open a private high school in some Cooper Square classrooms being vacated by NYU, and school officials told Community Board 2 that they will use Village Plaza as a "teaching spot," and they have an agreement with the city to maintain it. But that doesn't account for what goes on when the kiddies are asleep, and so Community Board 2—while endorsing the makeover—included this stipulation: "Therefore it is resolved that C.B. 2 approves this reconstruction as proposed if seating opportunities that cannot be locked or removed at night are eliminated from the areas below Seventh St." Will the city cave to their demands, or will the party go on?

    Plaza plans [The Villager]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/0...night.php#more

  9. #9

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    A detailed description of the Astor Place - Cooper Square project.

    Astor Place - Cooper Square Reconstruction (PDF)

  10. #10
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Cube's New Square

    WXY to expand Astor Place and Cooper Square

    Alan G. Brake


    Cooper Square

    Astor Place figures prominently in New York’s collective imagination. It acquired that character thanks to its location and significance in the city’s cultural history, but as a series of public spaces, it’s fairly uninspiring. In a coordinated effort between the departments of Transportation and Parks and Recreation, a new plan is moving toward approval that would increase the amount of public space, improve storm water drainage, and increase the amount of planting, all while attempting to preserve the area’s informal, spontaneous atmosphere.






    Left to right: The new plaza south of Cooper Square, the subway entrance at Astor Place, and Cooper Square looking east. [Click to enlarge.]

    Designed by WXY architecture + urban design with Quennell Rothschild & Partners landscape architects, the project area includes the two plaza segments at Astor Place, Cooper Square, the areas south to 3rd Street, and all sidewalks connecting them.

    Arguably the biggest change will be the closure of Astor Place itself to traffic, creating a large plaza in front of the Gwathmey Seigel–designed mirrored condominium building. This plaza, which contains the famous Tony Rosenthal sculpture Alamo—colloquially known as “The Cube”—will be left largely open, but the plaza’s surface will be subtly contoured to direct rainwater into a bio-swale and stand of trees at the southern end of the plaza.

    The Cube will be moved about six feet westward to create a new view corridor. “We want The Cube to be visible coming from Union Square,” said Claire Weisz, a principal at WXY. “We also want to preserve the feeling of open-endedness, so that Astor Place is still a site where spontaneous performances and unplanned encounters can happen.”

    Across 8th Street, the plaza with the subway entrance will also be expanded. New trees will be added, as well as benches of informally stacked blocks of stone. A large oak tree—like those found at Cooper Square—will anchor the plaza at the southeast corner. It, too, will feature a bio-swale and improved storm water management. A similar large oak will be planted caddy corner from the front of the Cooper Union Foundation Building.


    A closed Astor Place gives more space to the cube.

    Cooper Square will be expanded, and feature lushly planted beds by Piet Oudoff and benches lining its perimeter. The existing oaks and monument will be preserved. “The language will be a bit more traditional at Cooper Square,” Weisz said, in deference to its more historic character.

    Additional trees will line both sides of a significantly narrowed 4th Avenue. Near the juncture of 3rd and 4th avenues, where a series of scraggly street trees and narrow medians now stand, an expansive plaza will be created along the west side of 4th Avenue. This space, near the entrance to a new private high school being opened by nearby Grace Church, will be left largely unprogrammed, with the exception of another new stand of trees. “We want it open for interpretation,” Weisz said. Fourth Avenue, which currently meets 3rd on the diagonal, creating a wide, wedge-shaped expanse of roadway, will be redirected into a curve. The new plaza will be carved from the former roadbed.

    For the designers, the project is a showcase of what can be done within the framework of the city’s new street design guidelines. “It’s a real deployment of all the new techniques,” Weisz said.

    http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=5119

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    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    I agree LL.
    Schwarz fog machines and other experimental craziness aside, a water feature doesn't have to be overly complicated or incredibly difficult to maintain. My goodness... if it's such a complex feat of engineering to have some water cycling around, one wonders how all of those European cities manage.

    Having said that, I'm going to be very happy to see a reconstruction move forward. The square has needed something like this for a long time. Now if only we could get that Chase Bank out of there and replace it with something that enriches the square instead of deadening it. A couple of cafés or food shops like people originally imagined. Whoever put a bank branch there instead of an eatery should be forced to eat deposit slips and ATM receipts. In that last rendering just look how odd the flat featureless glass looks fronting the entire sidewalk without a doorway or opening in sight. Retarded.

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    How the roadway here along Astor Place has changed over the years ...

    Bible House and Book Row

    EAST VILLAGE TRANSITIONS
    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2010

    The 1853 Bible House was the headquarters of the American Bible Society. It occupied the full block where the Cooper Union engineering building now stands (between Astor Place and 9th Street, Third and Fourth Avenues). It has the distinction of being the city's first cast iron-framed building, and in its day was quite the tourist attraction ...

    An Interesting Artifact, the Stuyvesant Street Roadbed

    The construction of the Cooper Union engineering building in the late 1950's caused a change in the route of Astor Place/Stuyvesant Street, which were once connected across Third Avenue. As shown in the first map, c. 1911, the Bible House (in the center of the map), has minimal frontage on Third Avenue, and the line of Stuyvesant Street continues across Third Avenue to Astor Place:


  13. #13
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    ^ I love those old maps .


    Astor Place Complaint Box: Should This Old Street Be Saved?

    February 1, 2011, by Joey Arak

    There are many parts to the city's ambitious redesign of Astor Place and Cooper Square, and it's looking like each one has its own controversy! The southern part of the plan, including an expanded and renovated Cooper Triangle and a brand new pedestrian plaza, has neighbors worried about rowdy late-night crowds. But up in Astor Place, it's tradition, not tranquility, that is threatened. Can't the Native Americans ever catch a break?

    The most eye-catching part of the Astor Place plan is the pedestrian plaza surrounding the Alamo sculpture, aka The Cube, at the foot of the Sculpture for Living condo tower.

    The expanded space—check out the new rendering above by WXY architecture + urban design, via the Architect's Newspaper—would remove Astor Place between Lafayette and Fourth Avenue, and that's a problem, according to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, because Astor Place follows the path of an old Indian trail that appears on maps that date back to 1639. Astor Place and its connection to Stuyvesant Street—a link that would be severed by the plan—should be better preserved because the two streets are "some of the only reminders of the Native American settlement and Dutch New York," GVSHP writes in a letter to the city's Design Review Commission.

    The current version of the plan does call for memorializing the old trail within the new plaza via a winding path of shaded pavement and trees, but maybe that's not enough to appease the critics. The plan is now in the hands of the Design Review Commission, and according to yesterday's GVSHP update, "The Commission held its first meeting on the plan today; we are happy to report that, citing our letter, the commissionquestioned DOT about the lack of integration of the Astor Place and Stuyvesant Street patterns. into the design." You can read that letter here (warning: PDF), and below is a look at the proposed street reconfiguration and a cheat sheet to the preservationists' gripes.



    Help Preserve Astor Place and Stuyvesant Street [GVSHP]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2011/0...t_be_saved.php

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post
    ^ I love those old maps .
    G (George) W (Walter) Bromley & Co. 1890s - 1920s

    "Atlas of the City of New York" Manhattan editions 1898, 1911.

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    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    Having a shaded trail-like walkway to signify the old Native American trail that used to be there will bring more awareness of the place's history than the current asphalt street does, so the gripes of the GVSHP are silly in my opinion.

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