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Met Slashes 280 Planned Seats From Plaza Redesign

By DNAinfo Staff on October 4, 2012 4:21pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — Plans for a $60 million makeover of the plaza outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art have continued to shrink, as organizers announced they're slashing 280 seats from a planned 400-seat courtyard.

After stepping back in September from plans to include food and ticket kiosks — largely because residents feared that they would turn the area into a Starbucks-like "hangout" — the Met has agreed to decrease the planned seating from 100 tables and 400 chairs to 30 tables and 120 chairs, a 70 percent decrease in the number of seats.

"We did this out of respect to the neighbors," said Harold Holzer, senior vice president for external affairs at the Met, who spoke at Community Board 8's Transportation Committee meeting Wednesday night.

They thought "it was too much too soon," he explained.

After construction is completed in two years, Met officials will study the area and reconsider whether kiosks should be permitted, he added.

The changes are part of a long-planned overhaul to New York's top tourist attraction, slated to start Oct. 15.

In addition to bolstered public seating — in the style of a European plaza — Met officials will install new lighting, trees, and a modernized fountain.

Officials wanted the renovation — funded by David Koch — to help relieve congestion on the oft-crowded musem steps. 

Neighbors, however, fear that the plaza would harm the neighborhood's quality of life and bring too many loiterers. 

"This spells Starbucks: a place to hang out all day and have coffee," Peggy Price, Community Board 8 member, said at that time. 

Attendees also wanted to know whether present foodsellers and artists would be permitted after the construction, adding that they don't want hot dog vendors around.

"We don't control that," Holzer explained.

Those present also worried about the trees selected for the plaza — sycamores and lindens — might make the museum look bad if poorly maintained.

Lindens, one woman said, required constant watering and maintanence. 

"If you had a row full of wilted lindens, it would not be an asset to the museum," said the woman, who did not give her name.

Museum officials responded that the trees would be adequately hydrated, as they are installing an underground irrigation system.