C.B. 3 O.K.’s Astor/Cooper plan

By Lesley Sussman

In addition to unanimously approving redevelopment guidelines for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area at its Tues., Jan. 25, full board meeting, Community Board 3 also voted on the Astor Place/Cooper Square reconstruction design, as well as a plan to convert a lot for use by the Guggenheim Museum.

C.B. 3 gave its approval to the proposed reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square, on the condition that public seating in new open plaza spaces to be created between E. Seventh and E. Fifth Sts. on Cooper Square’s west side be eliminated where it would be accessible to the public 24 hours a day.

The board said seating in “Village Square,” a new plaza to be created south of Peter Cooper Park, should be locked or removed at night, so as not to disturb seniors in the nearby JASA/Green Residence on Cooper Square’s east side.

“Village Square” is planned as part of the larger reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square, to be done by the city’s Department of Design and Construction, with assistance from the Department of Transportation and Parks Department.

The city’s plan calls for almost 8,000 square feet of new planting area, which would include 64 new trees, in addition to the creation or expansion of several plazas. “Village Plaza” would be used primarily for daytime events and provide opportunities for programming by local artists. The plan was endorsed by Community Board 2 the previous week.

Also approved at the C.B. 3 meeting was the temporary use of an empty lot at 33 E. First St. by the Guggenheim Museum for various cultural programs. Work on the site would begin in April and is expected to be completed by August.

The project drew praise from Robert Graf, president of the First St. Block Association, who said the empty lot was a haven for rodents after dark.

“It’s a rat warren and a plague to this block,” he said. “We’re delighted the Guggenheim will excavate the lot and leave a paved surface that will be used for future cultural events.”

The Guggenheim project would operate free of charge from early August 2011 until November 2011, and will then be operated by the next-door First Street Green Co-Op, which will sponsor subsequent cultural events there.

Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3 district manager, also praised the lot’s cleanup by the Guggenheim.

“I’ve been working on the rat problem there a long time,” she said. “After the Guggenheim leaves, the lot will be rat-proofed.”

On another matter, Stetzer said there recently had been an increase of fires in the East Village, and she wanted more details about why.

“I’ve asked the Fire Department to give us a list — what were the causes,” she said. “A lot of these fires might have been preventable, and I want to see if there’s been a common thread so we can launch an educational program.”