Elevated Mini-Parks and Pop-Up Cafes Part of Planned 41st Street Makeover

By Alan Neuhauser on April 15, 2013 10:03am 

MIDTOWN — Street seats and three-foot-high "mini parks" — or high-end planters on wheels — could replace parking spaces along a one-block stretch of West 41st Street leading to Bryant Park.

The plan, titled 'Boulevard 41,' received a thumbs up from Community Board 5 Thursday night. Developed by the Bryant Park Corporation, the roughly $1.2 million proposal is geared toward transforming the shadowy, narrow corridor West 41st Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue into a more lively, colorful and pedestrian-friendly gateway to Bryant Park.

First reported by the New York Times, details have only recently been released.

"There's a visual disconnect as well as a pedestrian-experience disconnect. This is adding interesting places to sit, adding color, and enlivening the space," Bryant Park Corporation president Dan Biederman said at a March 28 Transportation Committee meeting. "Businesses on the block don't get as much foot traffic as others nearby. It's a way to reclaim space for pedestrians without affecting vehicle traffic."

The plan, designed by Ignacio Ciocchini, the man behind the Department of Transporation's metal CityBenches, calls for 210 chairs, 42 tables and 15 large trees and rows of planters to be placed along the sides of 41st Street from May to October each year, as well as the upgrade of six light posts and nine private storefronts.

The seats and tables would be arranged to create "pop-up cafes," both at street level atop wooden decks, and on what might best be described as turf- or grass-topped dumpsters.

"Shorter than roll-line containers, they'll look like large, very high-end planters," Biederman said.

The plan would leave gaps between the pop-up cafes to retain some commercial loading zones, but businesses along 41st Street have nonetheless expressed concerns that the plan would hinder deliveries. But the proposal has won overwhelming support from building owners.

It must ultimately win support from the DOT to be implemented. If approved, it could be installed as early as July or August, Biederman said.

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