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Carter's View

The Public Design Commission has, at the urging of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, has questioned the city's Department of Transportation about the "lack of integration" of the historic Astor Place and Stuyvesant Street patterns to a major redesign it plans of the streetscapes of Astor Place and Cooper Square.

A major part of the planned redesign is to eliminate a short street between the famous "Cube" sculpture and the north end of the residential tower with sinuous glass curves at 445 Lafayette Street.

According to GVSHP, the planned "fill-in" of the space to the south of the sculpture would be on space that "follows the path of an old Indian trail that appears on maps that date back to 1639" and that it would sever the historic link between Astor Place and its connection to Stuyesant Street, "some of the only reminders of the Native American settlement and Dutch New York."

In an article today by Joey Arak at, "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 Department of Transportation has proposed a redesign of Astor Place and Cooper Square. The plan would expand green space and pedestrian access, but would also eliminate any record of parts of Astor Place and Stuyvesant Street, two of the oldest and most historically significant streets in New York.

GVSHP said it was "happy to report that, citing our letter, the commission questioned DOT about the lack of integration of the Astor Place and Stuyvesant Street patterns into the design, adding that "a public hearing on the plan at the Commission will be scheduled in the coming weeks, and we are hopeful that the Commission will change the plan to ensure that this key element of our city's history - dating back to Dutch and Native American settlement of Lower Manhattan - are preserved."

An article at by Alan G. Brake yesterday said that "as a series of public spaces, it's fairly uninspiring" and that "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."

"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,'" the article said.

Additional Info About the Building

Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.