Columbus Avenue Solar-Powered Makeover Gets Greenlight

By Emily Frost on July 10, 2012 5:17pm 

The Columbus Avenue BID is designing a streetscape to cover part of the avenue that's considered an eyesore.
The Columbus Avenue BID is designing a streetscape to cover part of the avenue that's considered an eyesore.
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Department of Transportation

UPPER WEST SIDE — The Columbus Avenue BID won permission Monday night to convert a run-down block of Columbus Avenue between 76th and 77th streets into a manicured earth-friendly oasis. 

Community Board 7 unanimously approved the streetscape, which is set to be funded by the BID and designed by the Department of Transportation, which will feature expanded tree pits, additional trees and benches, solar lighting set into the sidewalk, and a bioswell, an eco-friendly storm water removal system.

The BID will also be responsible for the site's upkeep.

In its presentation to the board the BID explained that "the block between 76th and 77th streets breaks from the character of the rest of the district."

The block is located within a historic district and will have to get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission prior to moving forward. The board's preservation committee said the plan was "reasonably appropriate." The plan is set to go before the LPC for review on July 24. 

"Pending [LPC] approval of our project, we will hope to start the project this fall," said BID president Barbara Adler.

Adler said the BID is "very happy" with the board's vote in support of the project. She would not say how much the conversions will cost. 

The BID drew inspiration from the streetscape on Bleecker Street between Hudson and Bank streets, and the walkways surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Park at 81st Street and Columbus Avenue, which are full of plantings and benches.

The only concern voiced by the board was that the width of Columbus Ave. would be narrowed from 20-plus feet down to 9.3 feet. Other members pointed out that that puts the design just within the confines of the board's guideline that sidewalks span at least 9 feet deep.  

Michelle Parker remarked that additional benches along the busy commercial corridor make good business sense. "You can rest and regroup and then keep shopping, rather than going home," she said. 

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