The main part of this plaza is located at the back of the building, on the north side of East 40th Street west of Second Avenue. A six-foot retaining wall along the public sidewalk signals the existence of the small elevated area, up a narrow ramp and past a gate. The initial view is of dumpsters, arrayed near the building’s service entrance behind a planter, and representing the only association between the building and the space. Near the East 40th Street perimeter is a planter with tree and sculptural stone objects arising out of a gravel-and-stone floor. A bicycle rack is the only other notable attribute here. The remaining plaza area wraps around the building at the northwest corner of East 40th Street and Second Avenue. A row of birch trees grows out of a long planter with spiked interior ledge on East 40th Street. The avenue side features a small semicircular drop-off driveway, the arcade at the front door, and several additional planters with spikes.
Because this plaza is directly across East 40th Street from the Highpoint’s residential plaza, and the Vanderbilt’s residential plaza is immediately west of the space, comparisons are all but unavoidable. This space and the Highpoint, for example, are roughly the same size, but they differ dramatically in appeal, functionality, and integration with their host building. The explanation is not hard to uncover. Completed in 1973, the Marlborough produced its space under the lenient “as-of-right” plaza standards set forth in the original 1961 Zoning Resolution, while the Highpoint completed its space 15 years later under the residential plaza zoning standards enacted in 1977. Such history and propinquity all but guarantee that this space will not be used in its present condition.