Posts about Upper West Side
What if Upper West Side streets devoted more space to pedestrians and less to cars? StreetFilms created a series of photo simulations re-imagining Amsterdam Avenue, 81st Street, and Broadway.
One of the travesties of 1950s-era urban planning was the "superblock", where cities disrupted the regular street grid to build large towers surrounded by windswept plazas. Most of these superblocks are now recognized as mistakes, such as Boston's City Hall Plaza, a huge barren space nearly empty all year round, and the World Trade Center superblock, where part of the old grid has already been restored including a little park.
But up at Park West Village, a residential superblock originally built by Robert Moses as an "urban renewal" project (replacing 4,212 apartments in lower height buildings with 2,662 apartments in large, impersonal towers), residents opposed to new development actually cite the superblock as an argument against change. The owner of the property wants to redevelop some retail space, and recently kicked out a C-Town, a low-cost supermarket, to build nicer, shinier retail spaces and a tall residential tower.
I certainly think this community group has many valid points. The zoning ought to require a significant amount of low- and middle-income housing on the site, and discourage replacing affordable supermarkets with smaller, upscale ones. I don't know enough about the plan to be able to judge the issue of cutting off access to Columbus, but a superblock is not something to be preserved, and the drawing here looks nice, from an architectural standpoint - it creates a continuous street wall with retail exposure, encouraging street activity.
Much of this construction will replace a parking lot, and parking lots neither build a sense of community, nor provide trees, nor generate more affordable housing. A tall tower could provide affordable housing, though the city needs to make sure it does. The residents surely have many valid concerns, and should be listened to in the planning process. I just wish that just because they live in an example of urban planning's least glorious ideas, that they wouldn't argue that everything that makes urban renewal projects awful is actually a great, important asset to the community that must be preserved.
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