Of the three through-block passages linking West 56th and 57th Streets between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, this indoor through block connection is the most logical choice for pedestrians seeking to walk to or from part or all of the mid-block chain running from West 51st to 57th Streets. From a location point of view, this passageway is most closely aligned with the through block connection at CitySpire directly south. It also features a sunny, functional urban plaza on West 56th Street, with four square detached brick planters and attached wall planters offering plentiful ledge seating, and a retail food service outlet for refreshment. The minimalist black metal-and-glass canopy toward the west leads to a private entrance that has nothing to do with the through block connection. Entry to the connection is more centrally placed off the urban plaza and serves not only as a through path for passing pedestrians, but as the entrance for office tenants and visitors of the building. From a zoning point of view, the urban plaza holds additional interest, since it does double duty as both bonused “urban plaza” and required “through block connection” satisfying the building’s “pedestrian circulation space” requirement under the Special Midtown District’s zoning standards. By tracing a legally mapped corridor between the four square planters from West 56th Street to the entrance of the interior portion of the through block corridor, it is possible to imagine the full legal extent, including an exterior portion, of the through block connection here.
Why are there three parallel through-block passageways on the same one-block stretch? Surely the foot traffic between West 56th and 57th Streets in the vicinity of Sixth and Seventh Avenues does not call for such a surplus of choice. The Zoning Resolution did not mandate the provision of all three, since the through block arcade at Le Parker Meridien Hotel to the east is the product of a floor area bonus voluntarily sought and received by the developer in 1979. However, the through block connections here and at Carnegie Hall Tower to the west were provided to satisfy pedestrian circulation space requirements announced by the Special Midtown District zoning. At the time of their provision, the Special Midtown District did not require the provision of a third through block connection where two already existed on the same block, but it also did not disqualify the provision of a third for satisfying the pedestrian circulation space criteria. An amendment to the Special Midtown District zoning now prevents a developer from counting a through block connection as pedestrian circulation space if there are already two through block connections. But even if such amendment had existed when Carnegie Hall Tower’s through block connection was proposed, the question remains whether Le Parker Meridien Hotel’s through block arcade would be counted as a through block connection for this purpose. From West 51st Street to here, the other spaces in the six-block chain include the through block gallerias at PaineWebber, Flatotel, and 1325 Avenue of the Americas, and the through block connections at Rihga Royal Hotel and CitySpire.