Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Could the Atlantic Yards arena plaza resemble Gansevoort Plaza or Union Square? Unlikely; they've reduced traffic

Only this past Saturday, October 2, did I finish transcribing most of the September 29 presentation on the planned plaza in front of the Atlantic Yards arena. My report is here.

Upon reflection, I thought that architect Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects did a good job articulating much of the rationale for his work.

Not that the solutions proposed will necessarily work--the proof is in the pudding--but such things as paving, lighting, and signage have been approached thoughtfully.

But even a good architect can do only so much with a problematic site. That's why the plan was found Highbrow/Despicable by the New York Magazine Approval Matrix and deemed Eyesore of the Month by James Howard Kunstler.

So I think Pasquarelli just wasn't convincing when faced with a tough question: "What are the examples of traffic islands as credible urban space?"

His answer is on the video below.



Like the Meatpacking District?

"It's a good question," responded Pasquarelli. "It's definitely something that's a concern. The one that we thought of right away, a brand new one… just got put in at 9th Avenue between 14th and 15th Street... it's much smaller than this… it is unbelievably successful... people sit there from morning until night, enjoying themselves, meeting people, they even have samba classes on this tiny little traffic island."

Yes, it's tiny. I stopped by yesterday, and saw a few light tables and chairs that were the subject of brief visits. It's an oasis in a very interesting area, with those sitting able to gaze on the eclectic architecture and activity of the Meatpacking District.

There's a good deal of traffic, and it's not quiet, but it didn't roar like the traffic in Brooklyn. (Here's a rendering of the Gansevoort Plaza when it was being designed, though it's now a bit different.)

In fact, by creating the plaza, they've reduced traffic.

Like Union Square?

"Another thing we thought of is larger spaces that are right next to two large roads," Pasquarelli said.

"When you think of Union Square, which is obviously bigger space… but is on 14th Street and Broadway, which would be two similarly trafficked roads," he said. "There are ways to make great public space that are surrounded by traffic. Is this a bucolic park? No, not at all. It's a plaza, it's urban, and it has a lot of activity on it. But the idea was to make something that was engaging, that people felt really comfortable coming to, that was safe and bright and open."

Ah, but Union Square has also gone on a road diet, with Broadway being slimmed. The traffic coming down Union Square East wasn't going too fast when I stopped by yesterday.

More importantly, the public space at Union Square is elevated, and buffered by trees. This plaza would be quite different.

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