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Met Drops Kiosks From $60M Plaza Overhaul Plan

By Amy Zimmer | September 11, 2012 2:35pm

MANHATTAN — The Metropolitan Museum of Art has dropped a controversial component of its $60 million plans to turn its Fifth Avenue sidewalk into a huge public plaza.

The design will no longer include kiosks for selling refreshments or museum tickets, museum officials told DNAinfo.com New York, after neighbors complained that they would turn the block into a Starbucks-like “hangout."

“It was put aside for now so we could proceed expeditiously with what we think will be an amazing plaza for visitors and neighbors alike,” Met spokesman Harold Holzer wrote in an email.

The world-famous institution and No. 1 tourist attraction in New York will start renovations in mid-October, adding dramatic new lighting, a lush canopy of trees and a modernized fountain.

Met officials want to renovate the plaza to help relieve the jam-packed museum steps. They are also planning to install 100 tables, 400 chairs and a smattering of red umbrellas for shade in the plaza in front of the museum.

The public seating plan also frustrated some residents and members of the area’s community board.

"This spells Starbucks: a place to hang out all day and have coffee," Community Board 8 member Peggy Price said in February of the seating areas coupled with the Met's planned snack kiosk.

“I think if you’re providing additional seating for 400 people," board member Michele Birnbaum had said. "I think it will be a picnic destination.”

Paul Whitby, who lives across the street from the Met, stated his case during the winter community meetings on the plans: "We don’t really need ticket vending outside the museum in that gorgeous plaza you’re going to create.”

The Met’s director and CEO Thomas Campbell told the board the museum’s proposal was aimed to make the often-overcrowded space work better.

"We're trying to turn this large, barren space into an attractive entrance to the greatest museum in the world,” he said.

Met officials, who have monthly briefings on the plan with nearby co-op board presidents, will be presenting an update to them on Thursday about construction schedules and how it will impact lane closings. The iconic institution expects to return to the community board in October with a presentation on how the project will affect traffic patterns, Holzer said.

David Koch, a billionaire industrialist who lives nearby at 740 Park Ave., is footing the bill for the renovation project.