Letter from the President
The last few months have been a busy time for the West 54-55 Street Block Association. In February 2011, I was elected President following the path set by our tireless founder Vera Conant. Vera will continue to serve as a director on the board and will be our source of continuity and purpose.
My vision for the Block Association is to build on Vera’s efforts and expand our goals and borders to make the Block Association a true neighborhood resource.
With that in mind, we’ve expanded the boundaries from West 54-55th Street and Fifth-to-Sixth Avenues to the area from West 53rd Street to West 57th Street and from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue.
We have also expanded our reach from the residents to encouraging workers, corporations, small business owners, shop keepers and restaurants to join us. Dave Achelis has been working with the shops and restaurants on West 56th Street, and, on West 55th Street, Phyllis Cox has been organizing more residents, building presidents and building managers to increase awareness of our programs. As a result of our expansion, we now have even more dedicated volunteers to implement our plans.
STREET SCAPES AND URBAN DESIGN
We all know that we live and work in one of the most wonderful neighborhoods in the world. But not everyone is as aware of the assets as we are. Holding our May 18, 2011 party in the 53rd-54th Street arcade provided an excellent opportunity to showcase one of our outstanding, if perhaps underappreciated public spaces.
Our deepest gratitude extends to Remi restaurant for helping us organize the May 18th party and for providing complimentary appetizers.
1. THE ARCADES
Let me draw your attention to the amazing system of Midtown arcades.
Briefly, they run from West 51st Street to West 57th, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, and there are 11 of them in all. They form a contiguous ribbon and are called Privately Owned Public Spaces, or POPS, as the logo at the entrances indicates.
We are in the process of increasing awareness of these arcades with the help of Community Board 5 (CB5). The Community Board has unanimously voted to request the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) study on how to increase usability of these arcades with signage and pedestrian crossings to link these arcades into a multiblock esplanade of cultural events, information displays, performance art and a place to rest in the heart of our busy city.
This idea was originally brought to the Block Association by Brian Nesin, an architect and a great proponent of POPS. He is a member of Friends of POPS, or F POPS.
Our great thanks to CB5 for their support of this program and other initiatives. We look forward to more involvement between the Block Association and CB5 as we identify opportunities in the future.
2. WEST 56TH STREET
We have already met with CB5 and DOT, obtained the support of Dan Garodnick’s office, with assistance from Dan Pasquini, and Department of Environmental Protection to address the “ponding” in the gutter on West 56h Street, as well as larger urban design opportunities for trees, lighting, widened sidewalks and improved use of parking regulations to enhance the pedestrian experience on our streets. We have been assured that the resurfacing which is underway will correct this problem. We will be following up with the city agencies on the progress of this work.
3. INSTITUTE FOR URBAN DESIGN Another Urban Design Plan is to partner with the Institute For Urban Design this fall for their open competition for creative new ideas. We hope to be one of their target districts. We plan on using:
• PUBLIC ART
• SIDEWALK FURNITURE
• Privately Owned Public Spaces, or POPS
and forming working relationships with our corporate neighbors to develop a lively environment of URBAN EXCELLENCE. Our cultural partners are MUNICIPAL ART SOCIETY, MoMA, CARNEIGIE HALL, CITY CENTER and so many others all are important members of this plan.
4. AND NORTH
DOT has also been asked to study a possibility for a mid-block crossing with a crossing light between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, where one of the arcades meets West 57th Street from the south.
There is a new building under construction on the north side of West 57th Street, and we hope that it would give us a chance to continue the Midtown arcades one more block to the north.
We would like to develop this with the support of the City Planning Commission and others. It could certainly be a win all around. Of course, Central Park would be the best final destination or ANCHOR of the Midtown arcades. We shall see…
We all mourn the loss of our neighborhood Library, the Donnell. The best analysis of the legal situation at this time is for us to pursue developing a new library service ASAP in a temporary space with the help of and partnership with the NYPL. We are very hopeful that NYPL will agree with us that this neighborhood deserves rich library programming. Currently there is no NYPL presence from Park Avenue to Tenth Avenue, from West 64thth Street to East 51st Street. Elena Volkova is leading the effort and welcomes your assistance with finding space, both short term and long term, and with the many other areas of opportunity in the development of this new library service.
Our neighbor and eminent cultural institution is the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA’s development project brought strain because of the neighborhood’s concern for reasonable use of MoMA’s small mid-block vacant lot, but we are looking forward to renewed strong cooperation.
The Museum has committed to the City Planning Commission that they will take down the 13-foot high wall which isolates the sculpture garden from public view. That will be a much welcomed improvement to our street scape on West 54th Street, as it currently resembles an enormous shipping container.
The history of the landmarking effort has brought many of you to our May 18, 2011 party. RitaSue Siegel and David Achelis continue to save our neighborhood from being lost to wholesale reinvention rather than building on the legacy of the architects and builders who worked here before. There is a lot of work still to be done in this area, and we will be depending on our volunteers to save our landmarks more than ever.
I would like to finish by expressing my deepest gratitude for all the support the Block Association’s members provided in the last 6 years. I welcome the new members, and I wish us all success as we tackle our new and ambitious projects for this neighborhood.
Daly Reville, President