Can DOT Build a Plaza By Grand Central Faster Than DDC?

Two new public spaces connected to the rezoning of Midtown East will be built out by DOT, not the Department of Design and Construction.

A rendering of what 43rd Street will look like in 2021, once its "shared street" design is built out in concrete. image: NYC Mayor's Office
The new "shared space" planned for 43rd Street east of Grand Central. Image: NYC Mayor's Office

The city announced plans today to proceed with construction work on two pedestrian-oriented streets as part of the Midtown East rezoning.

The “shared space” on the block of 43rd Street east of Grand Central and the permanent reconstruction of Pershing Square East as a car-free plaza were already in the works. Today’s news signals that construction is imminent.

The group responsible for administering the “public realm improvement fund” tied to the rezoning had voted to fund “security infrastructure” for the 43rd Street shared space and the construction of a permanent pedestrian plaza along the Park Avenue viaduct between 41st Street and 42nd Street. That block, known as Pershing Square East, is already car-free.

Both projects will be handled by DOT, according to a statement from the city, not the Department of Design and Construction, which typically takes the lead on capital projects for streets. It will be interesting to track how quickly the DOT-led construction projects are completed compared to similar work by DDC.

On the other side of the Park Avenue viaduct, the construction of a plaza at Pershing Square West has suffered interminable delays under DDC’s management. Work on the project was supposed to wrap up in 2014. For the last four years, it’s been enclosed by fencing.

On 43rd Street, meanwhile, DOT will be proceeding with a permanent version of the car-free space it tested out last September. Pedestrians outnumber motorists 16 to 1 on the block between Lexington and Third Avenue. As with the Flatiron shared street implemented last year, pedestrians will take priority here while deliveries and local access will remain permitted.

This is what 43rd Street looked like when the city made it car-free for an afternoon. Photo: David Meyer
This is what 43rd Street looked like when the city made it car-free for an afternoon. Photo: David Meyer