Baruch College Officials Float Pedestrian Plaza Plan
By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
FLATIRON — A new plan for a pedestrian plaza would finally give Baruch College the outdoor space officials say the school sorely needs, but students have mixed feelings about the proposal.
Representatives from the university, whose main buildings flank East 25th Street between Lexington and Third avenues, have just begun to float the idea of creating a new public plaza on the street. They visited Community Board 6 this week to begin discussions with residents on the feasibility of closing the street to all vehicles except emergency and maintenance ones.
Officials hope it would become a hub for their roughly 17,000 students and the surrounding community as well.
"Given Baruch College has no green or outdoor space at all, and the community district has been noted as one of the city's least served with outdoor space, the college is proposing a 'win-win' arrangement," the school's president Mitchel Wallerstein wrote to CB6 members, "that meets the aspirations of the college and the needs of our community district."
Baruch junior Justin Chick, 21, a music industry major from Ridgewood, Queens said he thought the plan was "awesome."
"It means we don't have to worry about getting hit by cars," Chick said, adding that he also thought it would brighten up the grayness of the street.
But, at the same time, Chick was a little turned off by the idea of having a campus-y feel. "One of the reasons I came here is because it's a commuter school and not a campus school. I wanted to avoid that."
And he wouldn't be a fan of the plaza if it cost a lot of money. Tuition and fees were already rising too much, he said.
Natasha Mitrofanova, 24, who is studying marketing and commutes from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, wasn't overly enthused. "It would be nice to have benches, sort of like a campus area, but it's the city. It's not like it's Brooklyn."
Ceasar E. Salama, 20, who is studying real estate development, would miss the 2-hour parking spot he found on the block on Friday. "It's not a bad idea, but it becomes an inconvenience more than you would think," he said.
The bulk of the street's parking spots are reserved for the college's faculty and staff, which is why school reps say the street's closure would have minimal impact on the community.
But Salama and other students were concerned for their professors. "It would be a real inconvenience to them," Salama said.
However, because East 25th Street dead-ends at Madison Square Park at Madison Avenue, the school's traffic study shows the street is not heavily used by cars.
The study said that a minor adjustment to the traffic signal timing at Third Avenue and East 23rd Street would avoid adverse impacts created by diverted traffic.
Most residents are keeping an open mind, said Molly Hollister, vice chair of CB6's transportation committee, who noted that nearly 30 Baruch students in support of the idea attended this week's meeting.
"A few people thought it would be a terrible idea," Hollister said, "but then when [Baruch reps] showed the traffic data, it seems that most of the traffic wouldn't be terribly altered by that one block.
"Everyone seemed to be open to it, to hearing more ideas," Hollister said. "They were careful to say, 'we want to work with the community.'"
UPDATE: Baruch College reported that the undergraduate student government passed a resolution in March in support of the plaza, stating that it was needed because the campus has "severely inadequate communal space." The students also stated it would be a "safer and more-community-oriented gathering spot" for them and "a valuable neighborhood asset" for the public's year-round use.
Baruch College officials will present again at Community Board 6 on May 2.