Photos: Great ideas to keep Midtown East from sucking so hard

Give Grand Central a halo, pedestrianize parts of Park Avenue and other intriguing suggestions to prevent midtown from being a place to avoid.

  • Rendering: courtesy SOM and MAS

    Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

    Skidmore, Owings & Merrill design for two buildings linked by an oval walkway.

  • Rendering: courtesy SOM and MAS

    Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

    The design includes pedestranizing much of the space around Grand Central. Pictured: Vanderbilt Avenue with new buildings and transit connections

  • Rendering: courtesy SOM and MAS

    Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

    A view from one of the skyscrapers. Vertigo not pictured.

  • Rendering: courtesy Foster + Partners and MAS

    Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

    This looked nice until we noticed cyclists riding among pedestrians. Pictured: Foster + Partners reimagining of 42nd St by Grand Central.

  • Rendering: courtesy WXY and MAS

    Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

    Part of WXY's proposal is pedestrianizing the west portion of the Park Avenue viaduct that currently funnels traffic around Grand Central.

  • Rendering: courtesy WXY and MAS

    Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

    Pictured: Rendering imagining future green buildings in Midtown courtesy of WXY Architecture + Urban Design.

  • Rendering: courtesy WXY and MAS

    Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

    Pictured: WXY rendering of a new Vanderbilt Avenue connected to transit below ground.

  • Photograph: courtesy MAS

    Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

    We love this shot, Park Avenue today, overlayed with a photograph of the same area in 1920s with a public median.

  • Rendering: courtesy SHoP and MAS

    Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

    Pictured: The expanded Park Avenue median as envisioned by SHoP

Rendering: courtesy SOM and MAS

Ideas for Grand Central and Midtown proposed as part of MAS's The Next 100

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill design for two buildings linked by an oval walkway.

Midtown—it's like the Staten Island of Mahattan neighborhoods; everyone likes to pile on (unfairly, in our opinion). But while midtown could become a bit more pleasant, it's certainly going to change. A planned renovation of around 70 blocks in Midtown East (roughly encompassing 40th to 57th Streets and Third to Fifth Avenues) was announced last summer by the Department of City Planning (nyc.gov/dcp). Reacting to this, the Municipal Art Society released a report, “A Bold Vision for the Future in East Midtown,” on February 27, calling for a reimagined neighborhood that's both a bustling, successful business district (the desired affect of the DCP's initiative) and a legitmately attractive place.


We're certainly well disposed to listen to MAS (disclosure: The writer's spouse is a volunteer MAS docent). The nonprofit played a pivotal role in the campaign for Grand Central Terminal to retain its landmark status. Without that designation, the owners of the GCT at Penn Central Railroad may have carried out plans to erect a building (similar to the MetLife Building, formerly the Pan Am) that would have completely obscured the glorious southern facade (check out page 14 of the report, linked below, for what that would have looked like). 


To help move the needle, MAS released concepts in October 2012 by three top architectural firms—Foster + Partners (as in Norman Foster, see the Hearst Tower), Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and WXY—to make midtown a more livable neighborhood by improving the public areas. Ideas include constructing two office towers flanking Grand Central with a halo-shaped walkway in-between, and pedestrianizing the area around Grand Central and the viaduct. There's also a suggestion to revive a walkable median in the middle.


Check out renderings of ideas above, and tell us what you think in the comments.


Open a PDF version of the full report: “A Bold Vision for the Future in East Midtown”