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08 Feb 2022

NYC’s Park Avenue Medians Are Getting a Face-Lift

NYC’s Park Avenue Medians Are Getting a Face-Lift
People walk and ride bicycles along Park Avenue on Aug. 7, 2021 as part of the New York City Department of Transportation’s Summer Streets event. The planted medians that divide the iconic avenue are slated for a major renovation. Photographer: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
With JPMorgan and Grand Central Station set to temporarily tear up the avenue’s malls, local officials are seizing the opportunity to renovate.  

A long-ignored strip of planted medians on an iconic Manhattan avenue is set to undergo a major renovation that could last decades. 

New York City’s Department of Transportation plans to hire a landscape architect to reinvent the malls that divide Park Avenue along the 11 blocks from Grand Central to East 57th Street. Councilmember Keith Powers, who represents the area, says he expects the request for proposals to be sent out in the coming months. The renovations will proceed in stages and likely won’t be completed for at least 20 years. 

The changes will also leave less room for vehicles. NYCDOT hopes to more than double the width of the malls in some spots by cutting out two lanes of traffic, leaving two running in each direction. In the end, the malls could expand to as much as 110,000 square feet from their current 50,000 square feet.

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With a yet-to-be-determined budget provided by a public improvement fund, the exact design will depend on the future architect. But benches, walking and biking paths, and mall-to-mall crosswalks are all in the cards, says Ed Pincar, the Manhattan Borough Commissioner for NYCDOT, who calls it a “once in a century” infrastructure project. 

For decades, rotating plantings of tulips, begonias and mums have made the malls pretty to look at, but inaccessible to pedestrians. Curbs are crumbling in some areas: Unlike other green spaces in the city, the Park Avenue malls haven’t been renovated since before the late 1920s, when they were narrowed drastically to accommodate more cars. In terms of the square footage of open space per office worker, the area ranks dead last behind Times Square, Bryant Park and Hudson Yards — an issue that has become more apparent as workers return to the city.

Median Expansion
The project would expand the median from 20 feet to 48 feet wide.

Source: Amelia Pollard, Bloomberg

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