Astor Place

East Village
New York City, NY

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

Nowhere else in New York offers more opportunity to create something out of nothing than Astor Place.

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Why It Doesn't Work

Nowhere else in New York offers more opportunity to create something out of nothing than Astor Place. It is one of the few places in the city that has the form of a public square, yet there is so little vehicle traffic and so much asphalt that people are compelled to walk straight through the space rather than use it as a destination. The "Alamo" sculpture (also known as "The Cube") and an historic subway entrance provide distinctive landmarks, but people only use them as meeting points before venturing elsewhere. Meanwhile, the recent completion of an ultra-luxury condo tower designed by Gwathmey Siegel has added nothing to the streetlife of the square; another ubiquitous bank branch occupies its ground floor.

Astor Place begs to be transformed into a pedestrian-oriented district. Stretching east-west from Third Avenue to Broadway, and north-south from 10th Street to 4th Street, the new Astor Place would reclaim large swaths of the roadbed for pedestrian use. This common-sense step would open the door for a host of improvements: Cooper Square, currently an isolated triangle sandwiched between two inhospitable streets, could expand and become much more open to the public; Fourth Avenue could become a pedestrian- and bike-friendly boulevard from Grace Church to 14th Street, linking Astor Place to Union Square; Third Avenue could be narrowed to strengthen the connection between Greenwich Village and the East Village. As the core of a vibrant pedestrian district, Astor Place would bind those two neighborhoods together rather than divide them as it does today.

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