211 East 70th Street
The most remarkable portion of this 35,860-square-foot parklike open space is a sea of green located west of the through-block building on East 70th and 71st Streets between Second and Third Avenues. Behind a sidewalk perimeter of tall black-metal fences and accessible down narrow gated pathways from East 70th or 71st Streets, the sheer expanse of ground cover is visually impressive, with waves of ivy and shrubs breaking eastward toward the building.
Unlike heavily landscaped “as-of-right” plazas that pose the question whether green hegemonies are consistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the zoning requirement that the space be open and accessible to the public at all times (see, for example, the Churchill plaza), the provision and design of this parklike open space was a condition of a variance granted by the City’s Board of Standards and Appeals and thus was not subject to the “as-of-right” rules whatsoever. However, a small part of the open space west of the building is legally classified as “as-of-right” plaza rather than park-like open space, a distinction shown on the site plan but virtually impossible to discern on site. The plaza area and a slice of the park-like open space furnish seven fixed, backless, wooden benches, distributed into three small seating areas on the southern half of the through-block space. When the sun is out and the light sparkles on the ivy leaves, the field positively comes alive.
More park-like open space is located east of the residential tower next to the variance arcade and its through-block driveway. The only access to the space is via the arcade and driveway, although signs at both ends announce that this is a private entrance and thoroughfare. Unlike its western counterpart, the style here is less natural and more formal. A square fountain with three bubbling jets and brown moss-covered stone base provides ledge seating. Two disk-shaped benches and two rectangular benches are nearby. At north and south ends are nooks with more disk-shaped and rectangular benches. Planters with pleasant landscaping border the space to the east. The rest of the space is landscaped area in front of the building’s street sides.