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Case Studies 

St. Mark's Place

New York



Contributed by 
Ben Adler
Project for Public Spaces
January 7, 2005
December 14, 2017

A residential and commercial street that plays host to a wild pastiche of characters, day and night.

What makes it Great?

Why it doesn't work?

St. Mark's Place is vibrant at all times of day. It teems with interesting stores, including numerous record stores and tattoo and piercing parlors. It also has a wide array of bars and eateries, catering to a very mixed crowd. The prime block of St. Mark's, between Second Avenue and Cooper Square, is full of people at all hours, while the beauty of the architecture is more noticeable on the eastern end of St. Mark's, which is quieter.

Access & Linkages

St. Mark's has the ideal design for an urban street, it runs from one public square to another. At the west end is Cooper Square, where numerous streets converge, and teenagers can be found skateboarding and hanging out on any sunny day. There is also a subway station there. On the other end is Tompkins Square Park. Once blighted, it is now a well used and popular greenspace in the center of Alphabet City, New York's trendiest neighborhood. The westernmost block of St. Mark's can be so crowded as to create impediments to foot traffic, but it is not a street one would choose to walk down in a hurry. There are simply too many interesting things on display in store windows, and too many people with interesting body art, not to stop and take notice.

Comfort & Image

St. Mark's is without question dominated by pedestrians rather than vehicles. It definitely makes a good first impression on anyone interested in streets with diverse urban life on display. Considering that it once had a very seedy reputation, it is reasonably clean, and the crowdedness and heavy police presence keep it safe. People sit at outdoor restaurant tables, on stoops and doorsteps or anywhere else that they can.

Uses & Activities

The range of activities on St. Mark's includes but is not limited to: shopping for any kind of item, eating and drinking, people watching, on the quieter eastern blocks possibly reading, and hanging out and talking. It would be hard to find a nook or cranny on St. Mark's that has not been used at one point or another (although that would include a lot of "undesirable" activities.)


It is a sociable street, although it is too much a destination for people from all over to constitute a neighborhood street where people know one another. St. Mark's is a meeting place for like-minded individuals from all over the world. Most of the people on St. Mark's at any given time are probably "visitors" in that they live elsewhere in the NY metro area, but many are probably regulars there. There is also a sprinkling of tourists, but St. Mark's is not "touristy."

How Light?

How Quick?

How Cheap?

History & Background

Although originally designed as primarily residential, it is lined with old brownstones and tenement buildings, St. Mark's Place filled up over the years with businesses on the first and second floors of most buildings, especially between Cooper Square and Second Avenue. In the 1970Ís it was the heart of New York's punk rock scene. It has retained some of that image, but styles change, and the surrounding East Village neighborhood has gentrified. When the rock club Coney Island High closed a few years ago, a major part of St. Mark's Place went with it. Gentrification has also brought homogenization, a few years ago a GAP opened up on St. Mark's. But, while the heyday of its grittiness may be gone, St. Mark's remains a fun and fascinating destination street, and today it is much safer than it once was.

Related Links & Sources

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*Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.


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