Manhattan Plaza

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Manhattan Plaza performing artist residence and Film Center Cafe on Ninth Avenue

Manhattan Plaza is a large federally subsidized residential complex at 400 and 484 West 43rd Street in midtown Manhattan, New York City. It has 1,688 units and about 3,500 tenants. 70% of the tenants are from the performing arts, 15% are neighborhood residents, and 15% are elderly.

It occupies the city block bounded north by 43rd Street, east by 9th Avenue, south by 42nd Street, and west by 10th Avenue.

The complex was built with federal U.S. Housing and Urban Development Section 8 subsidies, and New York State Mitchell-Lama. Under Section 8, low-income tenants pay no more than 30% of their income for rent, and the Section 8 program pays the rest. Under Mitchell-Lama, rents are also subsidized but incomes are higher.[1][2][3][4] Manhattan Plaza was designed by architect David Todd.[5]

Constructed in the 1970s, the complex originally was intended to be luxury apartments before the developers declared bankruptcy and left the mostly completed structures vacant.[6] The all-electric heating became uneconomic after the oil crisis raised the costs of electricity, and prospective tenants found the neighborhood of the time, with its crime and sexually oriented book stores and movies, undesirable.

Shortly after Manhattan Plaza opened, the City was hit by the AIDS crisis, and many residents in the performing arts came down with AIDS. To respond to their needs, General Manager Rodney Kirk, an Episcopal minister by training, established social service programs with paid staff and volunteers, and the help of the Actors' Fund, to care for them and for non-residents.[7] According to health officials, a greater proportion of people have died of AIDS in that apartment complex compared to any other residence building in the country.[8] As HIV/AIDS came under control, the focus of the social services program shifted to the elderly, who are aging in place, and are sometimes unable to care for themselves.[7] Kirk retired in 1997 and died in 2001.[7] His work was continued by General Manager Richard Hunnings, his companion of 42 years.[7][9]

To compensate for the fact that the block is on a slightly tilted slope, the 10th Avenue building has 46 stories while the other has one fewer, thereby creating the illusion of equal height.

Aside from the McGraw-Hill Building, the complex was the tallest in the Hell's Kitchen area at the time it was completed, and is still highly visible from the north, south, and west sides. Between the two buildings are a multi-story garage, a fitness center (including a swimming pool), a basketball court, a playground, tennis courts, a wall-climbing center, and town houses.

Though the majority of occupants work in the performing arts, there are a number of long-time residents who were offered apartments because they were displaced from the old neighborhood.

Located within the 10th Avenue building is the 43rd St Kids Preschool, which was founded in 1981. It is a private, non-profit, parent cooperative school, and accepts children ages 19 months to 5 years. More than 1,500 one-act plays including more than 40 by Lewis Black have been staged at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in the West Bank Cafe (where Bruce Willis was a bartender) at the base of the building.[10]

Playground and Tiki Recreation[edit]

In the middle of March 2009, the original playground located on the 3rd floor rooftop was taken down in order to build a new playground built by Kompan and sponsored by former football player Tiki Barber. The company was known as Tiki Recreation. It is 1 of 3 rare and unique playgrounds. It has an electronic setting and virtual interactive games programed within the equipment. The park officially opened June 8, 2009.


The building is the subject of an upcoming documentary titled Miracle on 42nd Street. The film is intended to have a festival release and is expected to be aired on television. The filmmakers consist of current and former tenants.


Manhattan Plaza has a Summer Day Camp / Youth Program every year for kids ages 7 to 13 from July to August. The camp consists of Swimming, Baseball, Basketball, Dodgeball, Tennis, Wall Climbing, Tae-Kwon-Do, Cooking, and Four Square / Box Ball as well as Performing Arts. Campers also created a "4Square" type game called Nations. The camp has trips and sees movies once a week.

Notable residents[edit]

Larry David, co-creator of the sitcom Seinfeld lived in Manhattan Plaza across from comedian Kenny Kramer who provided inspiration for the character Cosmo Kramer.[11]

James Earl Jones has family members throughout the building. His brother provided the original voice heard when entering the "Park & Lock" Garage. Tiki Barber, who was involved with construction of the new playground, has occasionally visited the playground. Samuel L. Jackson worked there as a security officer in his first and only non-acting job.


  1. ^ How the Rent Numbers Add Up at Manhattan Plaza, By Nahma Sandrow, New York Times, June 9, 2002
  2. ^ Manhattan Plaza Near Rental Deal? By Roger Armbrust, BackStage, July 2, 2004
  3. ^ Manhattan Plaza 20-Year Pact 'Helps Actors' By Roger Armbrust, BackStage, September 24, 2004
  4. ^ Rent Subsidies Are Preserved for Manhattan Plaza Tenants By DAVID W. CHEN, New York Times, Published: September 14, 2004
  5. ^ Dunlap, David W (2008-04-02). "David Todd, Architect and Official, Dies at 93". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  6. ^ Fighting For Change: Fox built in the toughest of markets, BY BENDIX ANDERSON, AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE, July 2008
  7. ^ a b c d Rodney Kirk, 67, Director Of Manhattan Plaza, Is Dead By Wolfgang Saxon, New York Times, July 17, 2001
  8. ^ Horwitz, Simi (1991-07-29). "The Kindness of Strangers: Helping Theater People With AIDS at the Manhattan Plaza". TheaterWeek. 
  9. ^ Manhattan Plaza Project, New York Public Library, September 12, 2012
  10. ^ The West Bank Cafe - - July 2007
  11. ^ McSHANE, LARRY (November 24, 2006). "Model for Character Talks About 'Kramer'". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°45′31″N 73°59′34″W / 40.75866°N 73.992842°W / 40.75866; -73.992842