1886 Broadway

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Obscured behind 30 Lincoln Plaza is a delightful, neighborhood landscaped plaza. Although access is available from the south side of West 63rd Street east of Broadway, the greatest drama is presented by entering from the east side of Broadway between West 62nd and 63rd Streets. After traversing the store-lined Broadway full blockfront mandatory arcade and continuing east between rows of columns in the plain covered plaza, the visitor emerges into a surprisingly capacious open area. A ground-level corridor surrounds a brick terrace, three steps up, upon which are scattered white movable chairs, three-person fixed wooden benches, and lots of people from the neighborhood.

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

A mysterious landscape arises mound-like out of a brick fortification further east. A narrow strip of lush lawn, connected to a larger patch to the north, defines the foreground. A small waterfall tumbles down part of the fortification into a reflecting pool in the midground. The background is composed of a lush forest of tall trees and understory plants that block views of surrounding structures while framing the midground and foreground. Brightly colored flowers add punctuation marks. This landscaped scene is one of the more felicitous to be found in the City’s collection of privately owned public spaces.

The physical inaccessibility of the majority of the landscaped plaza raises questions. The user wonders, rather than wanders, about the forest beyond, with public access limited to the surrounding brick terrace and the patch of lawn closer to West 63 rd Street. At the same time, the landscaping performs the minor miracle of making this space feel parklike, as if a patch of Central Park had jumped over Central Park West. Visually accessible space that engages the psyche can in some cases by as useful as physically accessible, usable space. In addition to the mandatory arcade that joins with One Lincoln Plaza to the north for a two-block run of blockfront arcades, there is special permit arcade space on West 62nd Street and at the southern end of the landscaped plaza.

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