Meeting on Astor Place/Cooper Square Reconstruction
About fifty neighborhood folk turned out for last night’s Community Boards 2 & 3 Joint Astor Place Task Force meeting. The gathering was held in the main room at the JASA/Green residence, which reeked of wet paint and a faint hint of weed. But that’s neither here nor there. DOT, DDC, and the architects’ spokespeople powered through a slideshow outlining the proposal to completely retool the confluence of Astor Place and Cooper Square. The gathering was pretty much a two-year homecoming, as similar ideas were presented before the joint board in July 2008. Snail’s pace, for sure!
The upper stem of the Bowery, where our beloved thoroughfare forks, is completely hazardous. Crossing the street here is like a perpetual game of Frogger. So the planners and landscape architects ultimately set out to transform the area from “a liability to an asset.” Here’s how – by converting pavement to parkspace, planting green infrastructure (64 trees) that will simultaneously aid with drainage, adding benches, and 113 new bike racks.
The first monumental change is the Astor Place subway island. Proposal seeks to widen the narrow sidewalk into a plaza complete with “diverse seating options” and a path through a “grove of trees.” Oh, and a little cosmetic surgery for the entrance itself.
Next would be filling in the sliver of Astor Place between Lafayette and Cooper Square, which runs alongside the Rosenthal Alamo cube. More perimeter trees, cafe seating, and an open plaza are all components of the plan.
The plan also calls for a Cooper Triangle facelift, which includes more of the same.
Then there’s the confusing collection of medians below Cooper Triangle which would be forged into a large open space called Village Plaza. This is the area directly in front of the Village Voice HQ.
But the proposal didn’t go over very well with the task force and residents alike. The bone of contention was that city planning didn’t listen to the criticisms posed two years ago. Indeed, Susan Stetzer in particular was quite vocal in her opposition, especially with regard to the proposed seating in Cooper Triangle and Village Plaza. Much like the July 2008 meeting, many still fear that the already overburdened nightlife scene here (i.e. Cooper Square Hotel) will spill over into these newly-created park spaces. Stetzer’s quote of the night pretty much summarized the community position: “it’s [the plan] beautiful but you’re making it miserable for the people who live here.”
Despite the static, both boards unanimously passed the design proposal, with the exception of the permanent seating outside Cooper Triangle Park.