It is easy to miss this through-block covered pedestrian space connecting East 57th and 58th Streets between Lexington and Park Avenues. The inconspicuous street entrances and the awkward passage down multiple steps hardly foretell, psychologically or visually, the presence of an eight-story atrium inside. The absence of significant retail tenants or subway access also keeps outside knowledge of the space to a minimum, eroding any reason to visit. Unlike neighboring covered pedestrian spaces at Trump Tower, 590 Madison Avenue, and Sony, this space is not visible from without, flashy from within, or active. Its brown-and-purple color palette, spare natural and artificial illumination, and constrained verticality generate a subdued atmosphere.
The City has worked with the owner to enliven the space, approving the installation of a permanent food kiosk at the eastern edge and additional private restaurant seating along the western wall near the waterfall. Unlike the plentiful tables and chairs near the food kiosk, most recently a delicatessen counter, usable by the public without obligation, the restaurant seating is for paying patrons only. As with the installation of open air cafés in outdoor spaces, it may be sensible at times to permit, even encourage, the private use of a portion of interior public space if it improves the overall environment of the space and in the end enhances overall public use. At the Galleria, this is certainly one of several strategies to be pursued. Others could include new retail and design initiatives.