Astor Place

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Not to be confused with Astor Row.

Coordinates: 40°43′47″N 73°59′29″W / 40.729861°N 73.991434°W / 40.729861; -73.991434

Landmarks, in order:
1. Cooper Union Foundation Building
2. Alamo Cube
3. 445 Lafayette Street
4. Clinton Hall at the site of the Astor Opera House
5. 444 Lafayette Street
6. Astor Library at The Public Theater
7. Astor Place Theatre
8. Kmart
9. Hamilton Fish House

Astor Place is a short two-block street in NoHo/East Village, in the lower part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It runs from Broadway in the west, just below East 8th Street; through Lafayette Street, past Cooper Square and Fourth Avenue; and ends at Third Avenue, continuing as St. Mark's Place. It borders two plazas at the intersection with Cooper Square, Lafayette Street, Fourth Avenue, and Eighth Street – the Alamo Plaza and Astor Place Station Plaza. The name is also sometimes used for the neighborhood around the street.[1] It is named for John Jacob Astor, at one time the richest person in the United States, who died in 1848; the street was named for him soon after.[2] A $16 million reconstruction to implement a redesign of Astor Place[3] began in 2013.[4]

History[edit]

Astor Place was the site of the Astor Opera House at the intersection of Astor Place, East 8th Street, and Lafayette Street. Built to be the fashionable theater in 1847, it was the site of the Astor Place Riot of May 10, 1849. Anti-British feelings were running so high among New York's Irish at the height of the potato famine that they found an outlet in the rivalry between American actor Edwin Forrest and the English William Charles Macready, who were both presenting versions of Macbeth in nearby theatres. The protest in the streets against Macready became so violent that the police fired into the crowd. At least eighteen died and hundreds were injured. The theater itself never recovered from the association with the riot and was closed down shortly afterwards. The interior was demolished and the building was turned over to the use of the New York Mercantile Library.

In the mid- to late-19th century, the area was home to many of the wealthiest New Yorkers, including members of the Astor, Vanderbilt and Delano families. Editor and poet William Cullen Bryant and inventor and entrepreneur Isaac Singer lived in the neighborhood in the 1880s.[5] By the turn of the century, however, warehouses and manufacturing firms moved in, and the elite moved out. The neighborhood fell into disrepair, but was revitalized beginning in the late 1960s and 1970s.[1]

The New York City Department of Transportation's "Reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square" plan[3] calls for some changes to be made to Astor Place beginning in 2013. The street itself will end at Lafayette Street, and will not continue to Third Avenue, as it does currently. This will allow the expansion of the "Alamo Plaza", where the Alamo Cube is located, south to the southern sidewalk of Astor Place between Lafayette Street and Cooper Square, and the creation of an expanded sidewalk north of the Cooper Union Foundation Building. The Astor Place subway entrance plaza will also be redesigned, and Fourth Avenue south of East 9th Street and the western part of Cooper Square is scheduled to be converted to be used by buses only, with a new pedestrian plaza created on Cooper Square between East 5th and 6th Streets. The traffic pattern of the area will change significantly, with Astor Place from Lafayette Street to Third Avenue becoming East Eighth Street eastbound, and the current bidirectional Cooper Square bus lane becoming northbound-only.[3] The $16 million project[6] was first proposed in 2008, then abandoned and re-proposed in 2011. Construction started in September 2013.[4]

Points of interest[edit]

Alamo Cube from Astor Place, looking north

The current 299-seat Off-Broadway Astor Place Theatre, has been located in the landmark Colonnade Row on Lafayette Street, half a block south, since 1969. It was known for premiering works by downtown playwrights like Sam Shepard, but since 1991 has been the home of Blue Man Group, which now owns the theatre. The Joseph Papp Public Theater (home to the New York Shakespeare Festival) is located across the street in the former Astor Library building.

The trapezium-shaped traffic island in the center of Astor Place is a popular meeting place, hangout spot, and center of much skateboarding activity. The island is most notably home to Tony Rosenthal's sculpture "Alamo", known popularly as "The Cube", which consists of a large, black metal cube mounted on one corner. Installed in 1967 as part of the "Sculpture and the Environment" organized by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Alamo Cube has since become a popular meeting place in the East Village.[7][8][9][10] The sculpture can be spun on its vertical axis by one person with some effort, and two or more people without trouble. In 2003, the cube was the subject of a prank played by the ATF squad (All Too Flat) in which it was turned into a giant Rubik's Cube. The members of the organization were careful with the prank, as they didn't want to be destructive. The cube stayed up for about 24 hours before city maintenance removed the painted cardboard panels from the sculpture. On March 10, 2005, the Parks Department removed the Cube for maintenance. The original artist and crew replaced a missing bolt, and made a few other minor repairs. A makeshift replica of PVC tubes named the Jello Cube in honor of Peter Cooper was placed in its stead. As of November 2005, the Cube returned with a fresh coat of black paint, still able to spin.[7]

Other nearby points of interest include:

In popular culture[edit]

  • Astor Place is mentioned in the song New York City Don't Mean Nothing by Savatage.
  • It is also mentioned in Vampire Weekend's song "Step".

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Elsroad, Linda. "Astor Place" in Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (1995). The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300055366.  p.64
  2. ^ Moscow, Henry. The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan's Street Names and Their Origins. New York: Hagstrom, 1978. ISBN 0823212750
  3. ^ a b c "Reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square" New York City Department of Transportation (January 6, 2011)
  4. ^ a b "Major Astor Place Reconstruction Is Actually Starting", Curbed. September 16, 2013, by Jessica Dailey. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  5. ^ Federal Writers' Project. (1939) New York City Guide. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-403-02921-X (Reprinted by Scholarly Press, 1976; often referred to as WPA Guide to New York City), pp.121–122
  6. ^ "See Updated Designs For Long-Awaited Astor Place Revamp", Curbed. September 26, 2013, by Jessica Dailey. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Moynihan, Colin (November 19, 2005). "The Cube, Restored, Is Back and Turning at Astor Place". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  8. ^ Grimes, William (August 1, 2009). "Tony Rosenthal, 94, Sculptor of Public Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  9. ^ "Astor Place Cube Will Stay in Place". The New York Times. November 23, 1967. p. 33. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  10. ^ Bleyer, Jennifer (January 30, 2005). "A Famous Cube Puzzles Its Biggest Fans". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  11. ^ Nadine Brozan, POSTINGS: On a Triangular Site at 21 Astor Place; 50 Ultramodern Condominiums Behind an Exterior From 1890, The New York Times, April 6, 2003

External links[edit]