400 East 70th Street

A lush landscape of overhanging trees, shrubs, and flowers covers much of this north-facing residential plaza, on the south side of East 70th Street east of First Avenue, and contrasts vividly with the extensive use of brick on the plaza floor, planter walls, and the crenellated perimeter wall along East 70th Street. Entered from the southeast corner of First Avenue and East 70th Street up several curving steps, or further east from East 70th Street up more steps or a ramp, the space creates a pleasant interior with abundant ledge seating and two benches adjacent to the grade-level garden at the eastern edge, usable so long as passersby are made aware that the interior, indeed, exists. Usable residual space lines the First Avenue commercial frontage, providing several benches for seating.

This residential plaza offers a particularly instructive lesson on the benefits wrought by 1977 reforms to the Zoning Resolution. In the pre-1977 era of “as-of-right” plazas constructed at the bases of residential towers, it is easy to imagine that this space would have been a semicircular drop-off driveway and porte cochere in front of the lobby entrance. Now, this space satisfies a meaningful definition of public use based on functional and visual quality. Whatever specific critique one might level at the design of this or other residential plazas, it is worth visualizing a driveway or empty strip to appreciate the improvements rendered by the 1977 reforms.

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  1. submitted by: David Salter

    The entrance from 70th Street is currently blocked by scaffolding. The POPS remains accessible from First Ave.