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Kips Bay Residents Mount Opposition to Public Plaza Plan

By Amy Zimmer | December 8, 2010 2:13pm

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

KIPS BAY — It may not be Times Square or Union Square, but the service road stretching along a strip of chain stores on Second Avenue is on the city's radar to become a pedestrian plaza, and many residents are already up in arms.

The Doe Fund, a nonprofit that employs formerly homeless and incarcerated workers as street cleaners, submitted an application to the Department of Transportation's NYC Plaza Program to convert the stretch between East 30th and 33rd streets that's lined by Kips Bay Plaza, which includes a Borders Books, AMC Loews movie theater, Petco shop, Crunch Fitness center and 24-hour Rite Aid, into new open space.

But more than 500 of the roughly 2,000 residents at Kips Bay Towers — two 1960s-era buildings designed by world-famous architect I.M. Pei with a private three-acre courtyard between them — have already signed a petition opposing the plaza, said Loren Ross, treasurer of the Kips Bay Condominium Association. They had concerns about potential crowds of moviegoers and spillover from the nearby homeless shelter on East 29th Street.

“We don’t want it because we haven’t been given enough information,” Ross said. “How do they plan to deal with the vagrants and the homeless people in the area?” he asked.  “What about the garbage that will build up?"

Some also expressed concerned about the stores being able to receive deliveries and the loss of parking space just a block away from NYU Hospital. They feared that handicapped tenants might be adversely affected since ramps to the Kips Bay Towers open onto Kips Bay Plaza where they can then pick up accessible transporation.

Community Board 6 says the area has the least amount of open space per capita in Manhattan. Others residents welcomed replacing cars with café chairs.

“I’m all for it,” said Rodney Grapengater, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years. “I don’t drive, so it would be great for me."

He acknowledged that disrupting traffic could inspire ire, but added, “People get used to it.”

“I’m sure it would be cool,” said Crunch employee James Harris. “In the summer, I’d go out there and have my lunch.”

The Doe Fund has been collaborating with Community Board 6 on the proposal, but couldn't comment on the plan's specifics since they are still under consideration, a Doe Fund spokesman said.

The DOT is still reviewing applications for its public plaza program’s third round and expects to make selections in the next few weeks.

A similar service road on Brooklyn’s Myrtle Avenue, between Grand Avenue and Emerson Place, was selected in 2008 during the DOT’s first round of the plaza program to be overhauled into a new 25,000 square foot public space with new trees and plants. It is a multi-year effort: That project is soon set to be awarded professional designers to help move the plan forward.