Eyes on the Street: Pedestrians Get Room to Breathe at Astor Place

The new "Alamo Plaza" awaits the return of the "The Cube" and the installation of new planted trees. Photo: David Meyer
People can walk across the new “Alamo Plaza” without worrying about Astor Place traffic. Photo: David Meyer
"The Alamo," also known as "the Cube," in July 2013. Google Maps
The 2013 Street View of Alamo, also known as “The Cube,” and the chunk of Astor Place that’s been pedestrianized. Image: Google Maps

The redesign of Astor Place and Cooper Square, first unveiled in 2008, is nearly complete. The new layout greatly expands pedestrian space in an area with lots of foot traffic.

While some construction work is still in progress around the subway entrance between Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue, the rest of the sidewalk expansions are all but finished — missing only final landscaping touches.

The capstone will be the reinstallation of Alamo, the sculpture famously known as “The Cube,” which previously stood on a traffic island between Astor Place and 8th Street. When it returns in August, the sculpture won’t be surrounded by traffic on all sides, instead sitting squarely in “Alamo Plaza” thanks to the pedestrianization of one block of Astor Place.

South of Cooper Union, the sidewalk by Cooper Triangle is much wider and the roadbed much narrower. Outside the offices of the Village Voice there’s an expanded pedestrian zone called “Village Plaza.” Tree beds in the area await plantings, and the park in Cooper Triangle has yet to reopen.

Cooper Triangle last week. Photo: David Meyer
The sidewalk from Sixth Street past Cooper Triangle to Astor Place is much wider. Photo: David Meyer
Cooper Triangle, August 2013. Photo: Google Maps
The same block in August 2013. Photo: Google Maps

Like most capital projects built by the Department of Design and Construction, these changes have taken a long time to complete. The project was first floated in 2008. The community board voted for it in January of 2011. The groundbreaking happened two and half years later. Earlier this year, when Streetsblog inquired about the still-unfinished project, DDC said the “delays [are] due to utility interference and additional work from our client agency,” referring to NYC DOT.

The city’s online database of projects says the Astor Place project will wrap up August 5.

A diagram shows just how much new public space will be created under the new design. Image: DDC.
The four areas where pedestrian space has been expanded by Astor Place. Image: DDC