The Plaza is a special community programming initiative of the Grand Central Partnership, in cooperation with the Pershing Square Café and the City of New York, and sits in the heart of the Grand Central neighborhood at the front doorstep of Grand Central Terminal. The Plaza is nestled in the southbound lanes of Park Avenue between 42nd and 41st Streets, and is flanked by 120 Park Avenue and the landmark Pershing Square Viaduct.
Studded with trees, café tables, and chairs, the Plaza offers an alternative to the typical urban environment from May through October. Weather permitting, a public seating promenade is open weekdays from 11 am until 3 pm alongside the Altria Building. Pedestrians are welcome to stop by with bag lunches, or to simply sit in the sun as they absorb the picturesque glow of Mercury and the inspiring Beaux Arts south façade of Grand Central Terminal.
Just across from the public seating area is a Parisian-style outdoor café operated by the Pershing Square Café, weather permitting, weekdays from noon until 10:30 pm for lunch, drinks, and dinner. For more info, call 212-286-9600.
After operating as a seasonal street activity for the past decade, the New York CIty Department of Transportation selected Pershing Square Plaza for inclusion in the first round of the city’s innovative NYC Plaza Program in late 2009, and designated Grand Central Partnership as its maintenance partner in the project. Once completed, the project will transform the site into a permanent year-round plaza for the benefit of visitors, commuters, and residents of the Grand Central neighborhood.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF PERSHING SQUARE PLAZA
When Grand Central Terminal opened in 1913, ramps carrying traffic around the landmark were built to complete a vehicular link along Park Avenue. The elevated ramp approaching the south side of the Terminal interrupted a previously open space on the south side of Park Ave. and 42nd St., known as Pershing Square – named for noted World War I hero General John J. Pershing (1860-1948). Later, two arches beneath the bridge were walled in, leaving Park Ave. with two disconnected vestigial arms to the east and west.
Recognizing the value of this historically underused space, GCP first proposed the transformation of the structure into a restaurant and the construction of a permanent plaza at the site as a “gateway to the city” as an integral part of its Master Plan for the Grand Central District in September 1987. GCP accomplished the first phase of this initiative when it entered in a lease arrangement with the City of New York to develop a first class restaurant within the viaduct structure. GCP solicited proposals from noted restaurateurs to develop the site, and in September 1997, entered into a sublease with a firm headed by noted restaurateur Michael “Buzzy” O’Keeffe (Water Club, River Café) to develop the Pershing Square Café. After over $4.2 million in capital investments by GCP and PS Development, LLC, the Café opened its doors for business in fall 1999.
GCP’s dream to transform the site adjacent to the Café into an attractive permanent pedestrian park at the entrance of the Terminal met with opposition for more than two decades, resulting in the subsequent creation of a popular seasonal street activity at the site. But GCP’s vision for the pedestrian plaza was revived in 2009 when GCP was selected by the city to participate in the NYC Plaza Program, an innovative initiative to recapture and maximize the use of underutilized public space throughout the five boroughs. Pershing Square Plaza will be the first plaza project designated for Midtown Manhattan. The city selected GCP as its maintenance partner after it demonstrated widespread support in the application process from community stakeholders, including adjoining property owners and Community Board #5.
PERSHING SQUARE PLAZA PROJECT ENTERS DESIGN PHASE
The Pershing Square Plaza project moved into a year-long design phase in August 2010 with the selection of a consulting engineering and landscape architect. The lead city agency on the plaza construction project, the New York City Department of Design & Construction , selected URS as the project’s consulting engineering firm and also tapped noted landscape architectural firm Quennell Rothschild & Partners to design the plaza space. The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is also coordinating the selection of a pool of artists to participate in the project’s “Percent for Art” program to integrate an art element in the design and construction of the plaza.
For more information, contact Peter Lempin at 212-883-2420 or Colleen Chattergoon at 212-839-6216. For information regarding a public forum on the plaza project held back in March of 2011, click here.