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Secret Midtown Passageways Seek More Exposure

By DNAinfo Staff on April 27, 2011 7:24am  | Updated on April 27, 2011 7:23am

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — It’s a secret kept by in-the-know Midtown office workers: A stretch of public corridors hidden between Sixth and Seventh avenues that run all the way from West 51st street to West 57th.

The plazas and interior walkways, which form a contiguous six-block pathway, are owned by private buildings but open to the public, allowing pedestrians to travel north and south without having to travel all the way to the major avenues on either end of the blocks.

But because some of the spaces are tucked behind closed doors and others are frequently blocked by parked trucks, many locals have no idea the spaces exist.

"I’m a life-long New Yorker and I had no idea you could walk mid-block from 51st to 57th," said Tom Miller, Transportation Chair of Midtown's Community Board 5, which is home to more privately owned public spaces than any other district.

A map of the public plaza corridor running through Midtown.
A map of the public plaza corridor running through Midtown.
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Courtesy of Friends of Privately Owned Public Spaces

But Brian Nesin, the founder of "Friends of Privately Owned Public Spaces" is hoping to change that.

Nesin, 41, is lobbying to give the spaces more recognition with a new name — the "Holly Whyte Way" — and wants to add new signs to make them more visible. He's also pushing the Department of Transportation to make it easier for pedestrians to safely cross the street between the blocks, floating ideas such as adding new traffic lights, stop signs or speed bumps mid-block.

Similar mid-block crossings already operate on high-pedestrian streets including West 42nd and West 34th streets between Seventh and Eighth avenues.

“When you come out of one, you don’t even know there’s a connection on the other side because there’s a truck parked there," said Nesin, who appeared before CB5's transportation committee Monday night to ask them to support a request he submitted to the DOT earlier this month to study his suggested changes.

He argued his plan would boost pedestrian life as well as help mid-block businesses sandwiched between Sixth and Seventh avenues — the longest Midtown block.

"It doesn’t really function as a single entity. … [This is an] opportunity to connect them," he said.

Committee members agreed that the plan was worth studying.

"It’s a win-win all around," said board member and local resident Daly Reville.

The DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether they will consider the plan.