|In this issue:
Big Plans For Bryant Park Neighborhood in 2012
As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the reopening of Bryant Park, it’s a bit breathtaking to consider the transformation of the neighborhood surrounding the park. Real estate values have soared, office occupancy is up, and street-level businesses and restaurants are thriving. In the past decade, we’ve seen major architectural projects that have upgraded the park’s surroundings, including the re-cladding of 1095 Sixth Avenue (the MetLife Building) and the construction of the instantly-iconic Bank of America Tower at 1 Bryant Park. We’ve also learned of plans by Houston developer Hines to build an office tower on the SW corner of 40th Street and Sixth Avenue that will be named 7 Bryant Park. Moving into 2012, we’re poised for more improvements, a prestigious new tenant, and some exciting new dining choices.
According to Steve Cuozzo, real estate reporter for the NY Post, plans are afoot for a long-awaited upgrade of the southern side of 42nd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. These include a re-fitting of the old Knickerbocker Hotel at Broadway, building a new 37-story hotel at 136 W. 42nd Street, and replacing the low-rise buildings just west of the MetLife Building with a retail glass box that will extend to 41st Street. These projects will nearly complete the decade-long transformation of the stretch of 42nd Street between Bryant Park and Times Square from one of the most rundown blocks in the city to one befitting its revitalized bookends.
Meanwhile, City Biz Real Estate reports that fashion giant Oscar de la Renta will soon relocate its NYC offices from Seventh Avenue to 11 W. 42 Street, just across from Bryant Park. The company will occupy 37,000 sq. ft. on the 25th floor of the historic edifice, once known as the Salmon Building. (Click here for a description of the tower from the BPC website). The offices will include a 4,800 sq. ft. design showroom and full-scale runways for shows.
Foodies, read on. Two acclaimed restaurateurs are poised to occupy spaces just across 40th Street from the park. Last October, New York Magazine’s Grub Street blog noted that Laurent Tourondel, co-founder of BLT Steak, will open the first NYC-based LT Burger at 8 West 40th Street. The new spot will offer high-quality burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Moving west on 40th Street, the French-language website French Morning NY reports that Petite Abeille, a successful Belgian restaurant with four locations downtown, may take over three floors at 54 W. 40th Street. Besides a restaurant and bar serving up burgers and Belgian specialties such as moules frites, waffles and ales, there are also plans for a chocolate tasting room, an event space, and perhaps even a “Tintin Café.”
And our friends at DNA Info filed this report about Seamless, a website offering one-stop online food ordering for hungry New Yorkers. The company, which just opened a new office at 1065 Sixth Avenue – the same building in which our offices are located - features menus from over 3,000 restaurants offering takeout and delivery. Just place your order and Seamless does the rest. Mayor Bloomberg helped the company launch its new location by ordering popcorn and chicken soup.
All of this speaks volumes about the confidence that property owners, business owners and restaurateurs have in the future of our neighborhood.
Argentinian Magazine Salutes Chelsea Bench (aka ‘CityBench’)
More international press for the famous Chelsea Bench designed and developed by the Chelsea Improvement Company’s Ignacio Ciocchini. You may remember that the Argentinian architectural magazine ARQ, which is published by Clarín, Argentina’s largest-circulation newspaper, ran an article on the benches late last year. This month, we see that the Argentinian design magazine 90+10 published an article by Fernanda Cohen about the bench, how it was adopted by the city and rechristened ‘CityBench’, and how it will be placed at 1,000 locations in all five boroughs.
Ms. Cohen proudly mentions that her fellow Argentinian Ciocchini “makes history as the creator of the first bench designed especially for sidewalks throughout the city,” noting that to date, the city has chosen pre-designed benches and always used different benches for different neighborhoods. She also explains that the city adopted the benches to make it easier for people to use public transportation and to provide comfort for pedestrians, especially those who are elderly or have special needs.
Interviewed for the article, Ciocchini tells Ms. Cohen that to prepare for the design, he went out onto the streets to observe just how people use public benches. That explains the 67 centimeter width for each seat, and the six centimeter space between them. As for the bench’s form, it was inspired by the constant motion of the city that never sleeps. He added how the laser-cut perforations allow heat to dissipate in summer; snow to fall through in winter; and rain to seep through so as not to form puddles.
Ms. Cohen also mentions that the city is asking for suggestions by citizens as to where to place the benches. (If you have your own idea on where to place a CityBench, just download this form, fill it out, and mail it to DOT, or you can apply online at www.nyc.gov/citybench.) To close out the article, Ms. Cohen made her own intriguing suggestions for bench placement: Union Square (in NYC) and Plaza Francia, a square in Buenos Aires famous for its street fair featuring the work of only the best artisans. That would be okay with us. In fact, given the widespread praise these benches have received, we wouldn’t be surprised to get a call from Buenos Aires’ Gobernador in the very near future!
Midtown Crime Rate Continues to Plummet
One of New York’s longest winning streaks continues. NYPD’s Midtown South Precinct, which is responsible for the 34th Street District and the neighborhood around Bryant Park, has reported a decrease in crime for the 21st consecutive year. This is a great feat, one in which all New Yorkers can take pride. Just as impressive is the scale of the decrease. In 1990, the precinct counted 22,834 crimes, which include reported instances of grand larceny (defined as theft of property valued at $1,000 or more), burglary, robbery, murder, and rape. After 21 years of decreases, the figure for 2011 was 2,896, an overall drop of 87.32%. You can download the NYPD’s weekly CompStat report, which includes a Historical Perspective, here.
These figures also demonstrate one of the main benefits that well-run Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), such as 34SP and BPC, bring to urban neighborhoods. Members of our security teams patrol our Districts and report all suspicious activity to the NYPD; the sheer popularity of our public spaces deters criminals (who don’t like eyes on them); and the meticulous upkeep we bring to our neighborhoods, including sanitation services and capital maintenance, discourages crime by sending a signal that these places are being looked after. Our stewardship of the Grand Central Partnership brought the same benefits to the area surrounding Grand Central Terminal. In a span of just five years, GCP helped reduce crime in that neighborhood by 90%.
We’re still waiting for information on two more statistics: the number of crimes that occurred with the 34th Street District and around Bryant Park; and the number occurring in the areas patrolled by our security teams. We’ll report on them as soon as we get them.
Join the Bryant Park Krewe at Le Carrousel This Mardi Gras
This Mardi Gras, the coolest party north of New Orleans will be at Le Carrousel in Bryant Park. This bash promises masks, music, and mayhem for kids of all ages. There’ll be a parade of all the dressed up revelers (remember: purple, gold, and green are the traditional Mardi Gras colors), beads galore, warm apple cider, and chocolate coins. Everyone’s invited and, of course, it’s all free. Magician R.J. Lewis, an old hand at Le Carrousel, will host and perform magic tricks, and music will be supplied by Dr. Zsa’s Powdered Zydeco Band.
The Mardi Gras Party at Le Carrousel takes place at 1:00-2:00pm, Saturday, February 18 (with February 19 as the rain date). While you’re here, be sure and take a spin on Manhattan’s most charming merry-go-round. Rides are only $2, and a Frequent Rider card gets you 10 rides for $15.
The Bottom Line
Attendance at Citi Pond has been excellent this season. As of January 24, Manhattan’s busiest skating rink had recorded 153,915 skate rentals, far ahead of last year’s pace and 8% higher than the record year of 2007/2008. Total attendance so far is 180,083, 2% ahead of last year, but trailing the record year of 2007/2008.
Le Carrousel Holiday Hours
The Southwest Porch
Citi Pond at Bryant Park
Music Night at Citi Pond – Hip Hop/R&B
Wednesday: February 1, 7:00-9:00pm
Citi Pond Winter Film Festival – Edward Scissorhands
Monday: February 6, 7:00 – 9:00pm