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Columbus Avenue Streetscape Brightens Once-Neglected UWS Stretch

By Emily Frost | May 13, 2013 2:39pm | Updated on May 20, 2013 9:17am
 The streetscape has new benches and plants to try to create a welcoming area on an underutilized block. 
Columbus Avenue Streetscape Debuts
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Locals are lauding a new streetscape on Columbus Avenue that has spruced up a stretch of the Upper West Side that had been neglected and had become an eyesore for years.

The shiny new metal benches, plantings and trees on the avenue, between West 76th and West 77th streets, were sponsored by the Columbus Avenue BID, which funded the project with $100,000 from its annual Taste of the Upper West Side food event. 

The beautification process, which debuted earlier this month, aimed to create a more pleasing experience for visitors and residents.

And it was a far cry from what it looked like a decade ago.

"It was awful," said nearby resident Marc Glazer. "[The streetscape] turns it around." 

The reinvention has been a longtime coming, said Barbara Adler, executive director of the BID.

Instead of seeing an empty block and an old chain link fence, now "you concentrate on the green." 

For years, the BID wanted to replace the fence entirely but found it didn't have enough funding for that level of reconstruction. Over time, it decided a streetscape was the right route.

"It looks like it's always been here, but it's taken 10 years to put this together," said Mel Wymore, the former chair of Community Board 7. 

With solar lighting along the sidewalk, and Manhattan's first bioswale — an innovative drainage system that helps prevent flooding — the BID is also touting its sustainability.

"They created a park on Columbus Avenue," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

He added that the block now serves as a model for how the rest of the city can redesign their neighborhoods.

"This important work will raise the bar," Stringer said.

The BID funded the project, but Department of Transportation and the Parks Department chipped in with the design and implementation of the streetscape.

The project took about 18 months to complete, said Nick Pettinati, a project manager at the DOT's urban design and art department.

"There's a real space to sit and enjoy," said Pettinati, adding that hardy plants were sprinkled among the new beds, including grasses, holy plants, narcissuses and crocuses.

The BID hopes to replicate parts of the streetscape along the avenue with a grant from Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.