Less than six months ago, the city commissioned a team to study the public space (or regrettable lack thereof) within the 73-block swath of East Midtown that is likely to get rezoned before the year is out. Opinion on the plan, which would allow taller and denser office buildings with a stitch of residential development while having property owners pay into a fund to support infrastructure, transit and other public improvements, has been divided… to say the least. One of the ways to woo more supporters is to emphasize how the physical feel of the area around Grand Central will change for the better for pedestrians, commuters, visitors, and everyday New Yorkers, and that’s what the team’s just-released mega-report, “Places for People”(warning: PDF!), did.
Presented by deputy mayor Robert Steel and Daniel Hernandez from urban planning firm Jonathan Rose Companies at this morning’s Municipal Art Society Summit, the 47-page study proposes a number of major revamps to the area, including pedestrianizing Vanderbilt Avenue, a strip of the viaduct above it, and Library Way on 41st Street. There are also public plazas proposed for Pershing Square just south of Grand Central, expanded Park Avenue medians with seating and art, more bike lanes, roomier sidewalks, improved access to the subway and other transportation, and free WiFi.