59 Maiden Lane

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Originally a barren plaza developed under the 1961 Zoning Resolution’s minimal “as-of-right” plaza standards, this space was voluntarily upgraded by its owner in the late 1980s as part of a general renovation to fix rainwater leaks, a common problem at plazas. The result is a substantial improvement. The red-brick-and-granite plaza fronting the northeast side of Maiden Lane and the northwest side of William Street features a large L-shaped landscaped swath that buffers interior seating from street and sidewalk. The thoughtful landscaping scheme has employed a variety of plant materials to ensure something of interest throughout the year. Over time, the tree palette has mixed Siberian dogwoods, andromedas, Japanese pagoda trees, pear trees, ginkos, crabapples, saucer magnolias, and hawthornes; the shrubs have included witch hazel, cornelian cherry, Japanese holly, and vibernum; and the myrtle ground cover has been interspersed with daffodils and narcissus.

Photo: Kayden et al. (2000)
Photo: Kayden et al. (2000)

The wood benches and antique-style lampposts bring to mind turn-of-the-century urban park appointments, while the urban-themed wall art keeps the space up-to-date. Granite ledges on the planter provide additional seating, while a smaller planter and two benches to the northwest offer an alternative experience. A standard arcade on Maiden Lane and a sliver of arcade on William Street offer protection from the weather.

The message from this transformation is readily apparent. Plazas created under the original 1961 Zoning Resolution’s bare-bones plaza rules can be voluntarily improved by their owners, to the benefit of the public as well as the private interest.

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