By Jennifer Glickel
EAST VILLAGE — The city proposed a major overhaul of Astor Place and Cooper Square on Thursday that would reconfigure the tangled streets intersecting at the bustling corridor to provide more open space for pedestrians.
The Department of Design and Construction unveiled its redesign before a joint meeting of Community Boards 2 and 3, whose districts both cover the area.
Architects presented a plan that consists of four plaza areas: the Astor Place subway plaza, the Alamo plaza, Cooper Triangle, and the Village plaza.
Just to the north, the space designers call the Alamo plaza, which encompasses the stretch of Astor Place between Lafayette Street and Cooper Square, will be closed to traffic, freeing up the space for pedestrian use surrounding the famous "Alamo" cube sculpture.
The proposed design for Cooper Triangle Park, the area where Third and Fourth avenues converge in Cooper Square, would expand the sidewalks to include more seating and plantings outside the formal park boundaries — which did not sit well with community board members and neighborhood residents.
“What we’re afraid of by having public seating outside of a park that can be locked after 11 p.m. or something is that it will become a hangout spot for noisy, drunk hooligans who go out to the surrounding bars,” said David Crane, the chair of Community Board 3’s Transportation Committee.
The last resolution proposed by the two community boards in July 2008 specifically requested that the amount of public seating be limited in the new design to deal with what board members referred to as the “nightlife issue.”
“It’s beautiful, but it’s as if the meeting we had with you two years ago did not exist. We need beauty balanced by the needs of this community,” said Susan Stetzer the CB3 district manager.
“You were going to enlarge the park, but you didn’t actually enlarge the park, you just created seating outside of the park. We specifically asked for a design that would not encourage this problem, and you went in a different direction,” Stetzer said in addressing the plan’s designers, as well as DOT and Parks representatives at Thursday night’s meeting.
The design proposal was ultimately passed unanimously by both community boards to exclude the southern permanent seating outside of the proposed Cooper Triangle Park south of Seventh Street.