420 Fifth Avenue

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Some urban plazas are designed with narrow width and considerable depth relative to the street. This urban plaza on the north side of West 37th Street, 75 feet west of Fifth Avenue, reverses the ratio, employing a wider street frontage and shallower depth to great effect. The proportions keep it closer and exposed to sidewalk and street, and the result is an open, less claustrophobic feeling than that experienced at other similarly sized spaces.

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

A Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. sign is prominently displayed at the western end, practically guaranteeing that the space will meet certain standards of excellence. Although advertising at spaces is strictly limited by the Zoning Resolution, the idea of encouraging tenants or owners to identify themselves prominently in or with a space has a certain appeal, if only because the condition of the space then reflects positively or negatively on that tenant or owner and renders them more responsible. Here, the quality shows through. Planters on the western side are well-landscaped with trees, overflowing ivy, and flowers. Elegant marble benches and ledges provide fixed seating, and movable café chairs and tables are scattered about. Stylish stanchions balancing globes of light lead up to the front lobby.

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5 User Submissions

  1. submitted by: Marissa Lazar

    The plaza at 420 Fifth Avenue sits on the north side of 37th street and sits off the sidewalk seamlessly, widening the space people can use to move through the street as the constructed benches and seats sit back from the sidewalk. It is also an open space as no gate is tucked away during the day.

    It is quite spacious and open as it also serves as the entryway into the main building there which is the main focal point of the space. The public space around the entrance consists of seating built into the step structures with trees and lights outlining the main path. There are two main light posts that sit at the top of the stairs as almost a gateway to the building.

    It seems very well cared for as it is clean and well-landscaped. The space itself consists of numerous trees, potted plants, and a plotted garden with trees and flowers on the west side of the space. The space is handicap accessible as there are multiple ways to get through the space and to the door besides the main steps. On the east side of the park, the ground is built on an incline so one can reach the top without needing to climb the stairs. The permanent structures allow for seating along the corners, edges, and the middle of the space. There are specific spots where the steps themselves are smaller to stop people from sitting on the main pathway but there are plenty of spaces around that can be used for seating in different ways. Most spots in the inner section of the space are benches that do not have a back so numerous people can sit on other side. In one section there are two heights of benches allowing for one to lean back or to sit on top like a step. There are permanent potted plants that are built into the corners of these structures, beautifying the space.

    The space also includes bike racks on the outskirts and corners of the space along the walls of the east side, out of the way from where most pedestrians would be. There are two signs hung on the park, one indicated it is open to the public and one providing more details, both stating it is accessible to the physically handicapped. It explains that the space is owned and maintained by 420 5th Avenue Condominium. They also state what the park is required to have and what they provide, however, the sign states that there are 24 moveable chairs provided yet there is no seating besides the permanent structures embedded in the space.

  2. submitted by: Anne Sophie Kiepe

    420 Fifth Ave is a Privately Owned Public Space located on 37th Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway. The plaza is situated at, and serves as, the entrance to the office building it sits in front of. It is owned and maintained by 5th Avenue Condominium company. This space also serves as the entrance to the Girl Scouts offices, which owns several floors of the building. To the left of the plaza’s entrance is a large granite plaque and the company flag. The plaza is a popular and frequently used space for good reason. It is an unusually green and well maintained space. The entrance is decorated with a variety of flowers, hedges, trees, and stepping stones. While there are no moveable chairs or tables, the space consists of scattered ledges along the edges of the plaza, offering a variety of seating to visitors. It is evident that the designer chose to make the steps leading to the building through the plaza’s entrance shallow and long, so that people are unlikely to use them as seating rather than the ledges. The designers utilized plants and trees to effectively create a range of seating options that allowed visitors to feel secluded and part of a natural environment. With no gate or raised ledges, there is very little that separates the sidewalk and passersby from the plaza itself, allowing easy and seamless access for all pedestrians 24 hours a day. It is also a fully handicapped accessible space, and offers plenty of bike racks along the edges of the plaza, available to the public as well as the building’s office staff. The plaza and its landscaping is very well maintained, with a building staff member regularly cleaning the space, taking down the flags, and emptying the ashtray post. The plaza is clearly a rather safe one, with a security camera post monitoring the majority of the space. There are two plaques posted clearly on either side of the entrance, providing detailed information of the space including its dimensions and number of trees. Although the plaque states that moveable chairs are provided, they were absent at the time of site visit in late September 2017. Despite the construction of a building diagonally across from the plaza, the street adjacent to 420 Fifth Ave is relatively quiet for Midtown, with only two car lanes and consistently slow-moving westbound traffic throughout the day. The construction and consistent traffic does not seem to deter visitors from enjoying the plaza as a place to relax. Overall, this space seems to be enjoyed by a variety of individuals who make use of the plaza and its amenities throughout the day.

  3. submitted by: Anne Sophie Kiepe

    Photo of plaza from west side of the entrance.

  4. submitted by: Anne Sophie Kiepe

    Photo of landcaping and ledges, September 2017.

  5. submitted by: Anne Sophie Kiepe

    Photo of landscaping and ledges, September 2017.