805 Third Avenue
Crystal Pavilion

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This three-level covered pedestrian space may be entered from the east side of Third Avenue between East 49th and 50th Streets or from the south side of East 50th Street, roughly 150 feet east of Third Avenue. The avenue entrance heralds itself with overhanging white lattice and the Crystal Pavilion nameplate. If the idea of a crystal pavilion stimulates expectations of a fully skylit, glass-enclosed indoor space, then the reality of a darker interior enclosed principally by opaque surfaces but for a brief run of glass at the eastern side will disappoint. If the crystal allusion is meant to convey, however, the interior’s multiple sources of illumination and their rebounding off the numerous reflective surfaces, then the space will be found truer to its moniker.

The covered pedestrian space identifies its three public levels as terrace, pavilion, and atrium. These labels may be confusing, however, and the space is better understood as having street, concourse (lower), and mezzanine (second) floor levels. The street level is a wide, right-angled circulation corridor, connecting Third Avenue and East 50th Street entrances, and providing access to the other two levels. The concourse level, reached by escalator near the Third Avenue entrance, by freestanding elevator at the midpoint of the street-level corridor, or down 18 steps from the East 50th Street portal, supplies the most usable floor area, the majority of amenities, and the best vantage point for appreciating the space’s volume and design. The mezzanine level may be reached by elevator or via dramatic escalator into the sky seen through the glass wall and ceiling to the east.

When shafts of sunlight pass through the glass and reach the deepest levels, the interior does indeed come alive. Mostly, however, the job of illumination is assumed by a theatrical panoply of single spots and snaking fluorescent tubes hugging the underbellies of escalators and upper levels. Lightbulbs go on as the elevator cab rises, suggesting the carnival diversion in which individuals test their strength by slamming an oversized hammer onto a platform in order to propel an object to ring the bell. Stainless steel-colored columns rise past bands of horizontal corridor railings. Polished granite walls add more reflective surfaces.

The concourse level of the covered pedestrian space is organized into three “neighborhoods” of movable tables and chairs that are well utilized during lunch hour. One area is set up under the full-height ceiling at center, between the elevator and a small stage to the west that accommodates a piano. Several planters with palm fronds and sittable ledges are nearby, as are a waterfall and meandering riverlike pool. More clusters of tables and chairs are laid out along a corridor beneath the street-level corridor, in front of three cafés along the southern edge. A third collection of tables and chairs with adjacent café is hidden east of the elevator, within an intimate atrium of richly patterned marble floor and glass ceiling three stories above. It is here, next to another waterfall, that the aspiration of a crystal pavilion comes closest to realization. At a recent site visit, however, none of the water features was operational, although they are required to function while the space is open. Public restrooms are located under the stairs at the northeast portion of the concourse level. The mezzanine level rings the space, with several granite benches at its southern end. Here are additional points of observation for taking in the space below.

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


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1 User Submission

  1. submitted by: Nathaniel Jacobson

    To whom it may concern:

    I am Nathaniel Jacobson, and I am the volunteer coordinator for A Free Bird. We are an all volunteer group that does arts with pediatric cancer patients in hospitals and homes throughout the city. A Free Bird is looking for a donation of space in order to raise money for our organization. Attached you will find a picture of a former South-Street Seaport (weatherproof:)) Ticket Booth. We would like to start a cafe.

    Our structure was donated to us in a contest and is weather proof and was custom made to be outside. We are looking specifically to introduce healthy organic options to children and their families. We will fundraise money on a daily basis so we will maintain our work helping children with cancer around the country. The structure will maintain itself with solar panels if necessary.

    We would feature a couple of simple vegan products as well as free-trade coffee. for We already have the donated equipment. We would maintain the booth ourselves. We have developed relationships with farms such as Battery Urban Farms which donates vegetables for our products. It will be run by two volunteers at any given time and a manager with a key on call. It will be entirely self sustaining in terms of resources, insurance and any maintenance, etc. Occasionally young artists who we work with will paint it as an artistic experience (also good PR!).

    A Free Bird Organization is a 501 (c) 3 non profit dedicated to inspiring and nourishing children with cancer through the therapeutic form of the arts. As stated A Free Bird is currently in the process of opening a Food Cart! A Free Bird Café is committed to funding art supplies and musical instruments for children affected by cancer through selling high quality beverages and meals at an affordable price, while also encouraging diversity within the community. Every month, A Free Bird Cafe will also feature one of our program’s children with their progress and work.

    The cafe is a donated 10x10x8 foot structure, and will stand out from other coffee shops in its neighborhood. We would be the first self-sustaining non-profit organization to have our own café with dual missions. Our cafe is an alternative to neighborhood commercial coffee shops that may not necessarily offer all non-GMO vegan food, organic coffee and vegan juices. Our sponsors such as Equal Exchange Coffee, Battery Urban Farm, and more allow us to achieve these missions while maintaining independent agency for the cause of arts and pediatric cancer.

    We request a 12 month donated lease of space to utilize for our cafe; partnering between organizations which come from different spectrums who each believe in quality and progress. In gratitude for your help, if you wish, we will post your logo, clickable to your website, under our Sponsors Section, as well as acknowledge the company in our monthly newsletter, annual magazine and social media outlets.

    As mentioned we have both a literal structure and the planning and personnel support needed to get the project off of the ground. At this point we need cooperation with parts of the community which might be in a position to accommodate such a request.

    Several key members of our organization have recently been honored by Mayor Bill DeBlasio for the second year in a row for NYC Volunteer Service and we are officially recognized by the Department of Education and Department of Cultural Affairs!

    We are lovingly supported by the New York Mets, New York Giants, New York Jets, New York Rangers, Kipling, Chelsea Piers, Children’s Museum of the Arts, Talbot’s, Bloomingdale’s, and many more great organizations. We have also created partnerships with Madison Square Garden, Sony, and Takasago for various projects that benefit the children of A Free Bird Organization.

    You can find more information about our organization at afreebird.org

    Thanks for your attention!