429 East 52nd Street
Rivercourt

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Between the F.D.R. Drive and First Avenue on the north side of East 52nd Street is this hidden plaza that appears to be private but is legally public. The property’s perimeter is guarded by a 10-foot wall, with entry obtained through a narrow breach. Immediately inside is a small structure suggestive of a sentry house, where guards, if they existed, might pass on the qualifications of entrants before allowing them to continue further.

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

A glass-covered walkway lined with sculptural and architectural elements leads northeast to the building’s front door. East of the walkway are two brick patios matching the purplish bricks of the building. Separated from each other by a tall curving planter wall overflowing with landscaping, the patios are nicely furnished with high-end teak wooden garden benches and chairs. West of the covered walkway is an impressively landscaped natural garden, covered with ivy and speckled with trees. Here, a narrow curving footpath makes its way through the ground cover toward other parts of the plaza and an old brick wall at back. As such, the space offers two distinct experiences not normally included in one public space: a high-quality urban patio and a naturalistic, landscaped garden. On the south side of East 53rd Street at the back of the building is a strip of plaza that has no apparent utility.

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