611 Fifth Avenue

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Pockets of outdoor required pedestrian circulation space are located at both ends of this mid-block, through-block building on East 49th and 50th Streets between Madison and Fifth Avenues. Old and new city are physically juxtaposed at the 930-square-foot special permit pedestrian circulation space, where the modern Saks Tower and the venerable department store Saks Fifth Avenue with its stylized metal canopy co-exist. The space is large enough to accommodate smokers who, ostracized from building interiors, take their cigarette breaks here. Some seating and planting are required. On East 50th Street, the building entrance recess area is, as it should be, miniscule.

The owner is also required to allow public passage from East 49th to 50th Streets through a portion of the Saks department store men’s department. Together with Tower 49’s public access passageway linking East 48th and 49th Streets one block south, this permission to pass through establishes a two-block pathway connecting East 48th and 50th Streets. At a recent site visit, the required signs at both entrances were absent. No record of City approval for the absence has been found.

Another mid-block, two-block run exists between East 51st and 53rd Streets, composed of spaces at Olympic Tower and HarperCollins. Given the almost instinctive human longing to connect the dots, it is interesting to wonder what possibilities exist for installing a through-block connection on the block between Saks Tower and Olympic Tower, thereby forging a five-block chain. The answer is none. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral occupies the full block separating Saks Tower and Olympic Tower. Although the cathedral authorities may look benevolently upon persons entering their place of worship, they would hardly call it a private through-block corridor, let alone a privately owned public space.

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