Hidden behind rows of trees that are parallel to the sidewalk, the Sovereign’s plaza on the north side of East 58th Street between Sutton Place South and First Avenue surprises the user with its large size and variety. The space is divided into two areas by the through-block driveway. The area to the east is entered through a small opening, squeezed between a black column supporting a canopy and a low brick ledge. A tiny wooden planter is oddly situated immediately inside, as if motor vehicles needed to be blocked from gaining entry. A large planter filled with trees and ground cover dominates the middle of the brick-surfaced plaza. Further east is wooden bench seating attached to several smaller planters, as well as ledge seating.
The plaza area west of the driveway is more naturalistic. A forest of trees covers most of its surface and seating is available on ledges. This space functions as a transitional zone for the ultimate surprise: a secluded park, reached by angled pathway northward, that was closed and under apparent construction at a recent site visit. Fashioned as a condition of a variance granted by the City’s Board of Standards and Appeals, the park at one time displayed a sign announcing that it was off-limits to all but residents of the Sovereign. That sign has now been removed, and this interesting space deserves greater public use. The gravel entrance extends to a marvelous verdant lawn, unusual for public spaces. Grass is always a difficult ground cover to maintain, in cities as in suburbs, especially in contrast to concrete, brick, terrazzo, granite, and even in comparison with hardier natural ground covers. Here, management’s stewardship is apparent not only in the quality of the lawn, but in the highly manicured landscaping, including trees, within and surrounding it. In addition to the lawn itself, three dark wooden benches provide seating. The difficult question always presented by such spaces is how much public use it would take to undermine the park’s carefully designed tranquility. On East 59th Street is a sliver of slightly elevated plaza in front of a restaurant.