Manhattan Plaza

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Manhattan Plaza, seen from Ninth Avenue/43rd Street, 2016

Manhattan Plaza is a large federally subsidized residential complex of 46 floors and 428 feet (130 m)[1] at 400 and 484 West 43rd Street in midtown Manhattan, New York City. Opened in 1977,[2] it has 1,689 units[3] 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 Ninth Avenue, south by 42nd Street, and west by Tenth Avenue. Developed by HRH Construction, since January 2004 it has been owned by The Related Companies.[4] Manhattan Plaza is the subject of a documentary titled Miracle on 42nd Street, released in 2017.


Construction on this "superblock" development west of Manhattan's Theater District was begun in 1974 by HRH Construction, a real estate construction and development firm led at the time by Richard Ravitch. The project consisted of two 45-story residential towers at opposite ends of the block designed for middle- and upper-middle class rental tenants, with townhouses, shops, a health club and parking facility in the mid-block, financed with a $95 million mortgage by the City of New York under the New York State Mitchell-Lama Housing Program for middle-income housing. However, during construction, New York City went into a steep recession, and faced with mounting financial difficulties, the city was able to fund only $65 million of its commitment. The financial crisis also affected the city's housing market, and it became apparent that there would be little to no market for the apartments as originally been planned.

This was in part due to the location of the development in the heart of New York's then rough-and-tumble Clinton neighborhood—historically known as "Hell's Kitchen"—and the rapidly declining environment of the Times Square area, at that point the epicenter of New York's 'adult' and pornographic activities.[5] Manhattan Plaza cleared out the adult businesses on the north side of 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. At the same time the 42nd Street Development Corporation under the leadership of Fred Papert and with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on its board was working on converting the adult stores on the south of 42nd Street between 9th and 10th into Off Broadway theatres now known as Theatre Row.[6]

With no other options available, New York City applied for Federal funds under the Section 8 program to re-purpose the project as deeply subsidized housing for poor and moderate-income families. Under Section 8, tenants would pay no more than 30% of their income for rent.[7][8][9][10] The plan aroused widespread, intractable opposition from the surrounding working class community, concerned about a potential influx of thousands of dysfunctional, poor neighbors. At that point, an innovative solution was conceived by Daniel Rose, the real estate developer whose company had been retained to manage the project.[5] Rose had been searching for a tenant population that would meet the income requirements for deeply subsidized public housing, assuage the community's fears about dysfunctional neighbors, and contribute to the revitalization of the Times Square neighborhood. Quoting Mike Todd, who once said that while growing up, his "family had been often broke, but never poor",[11] Rose proposed limiting occupancy in the new project solely to residents who were, or had been, engaged in the performing arts. By seeding the 1,600 apartments with families of actors, musicians, directors, stagehands and others in the entertainment industry, the idea was to fill the project, stabilize the neighborhood, and support the regrowth of legitimate theater in Times Square.

Met at first with skepticism to derision[12] (as no other subsidized housing project had previously been limited by occupation), the idea soon garnered enthusiastic support from the performing arts unions and the City. Peter Joseph, a deputy commissioner of the NYC Housing and Development Administration, said the agency strongly supported the performing arts idea: “It takes what had been an uncomfortable situation and makes it something vibrant and exciting. We think it's innovative and frankly, we're ecstatic about it. We're committed to pulling it off.”[5] There continued to be concern from neighborhood residents, but they were allayed to a large extent when a study was published by the Settlement Housing Fund estimating that 100,000 households in New York had members engaged in the performing arts, and about two-thirds of them would be eligible to move into the project under Federal income guidelines:

New York is the nation's incubator city for the theater, since it is where young performing artists from all over the country come to start their careers. By using Federal funds to subsidize housing for the performing arts we are helping the entire country, and we are also solving the economic problems of the Manhattan Plaza project, of the New York theater and of the Clinton neighborhood. We think it can relate closely to the Clinton area's efforts to upgrade itself. We see the idea as part of the neighborhood preservation effort as well as part of the effort to upgrade Times Square and the theater district.[5]

Rose's plan for "Manhattan Plaza for the Performing Arts" was eventually approved[13] with support from the City, the performing arts unions, and the surrounding community, and opened with a Mayoral ribbon-cutting in 1977. 70% of the 1,689 units were reserved for performing arts workers, 15% for elderly and handicapped residents of the surrounding neighborhood, and 15% for existing residents of the neighborhood living in substandard housing. The project quickly filled up, with the waiting list for apartments topping 3,000 names within the first year.[12]

An important factor in the early success of Manhattan Plaza was Rose's recruitment of The Rev. Rodney Kirk as the first Director of the Development.[14] Kirk had been on the staff of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine until 1976, when he was given leave to help with the city's bicentennial celebrations. Tapped to supervise the opening of Manhattan Plaza, Kirk helped set the tone for the development, and organized community support that permitted hundreds of aging neighborhood residents to keep their apartments with their dignity intact. Shortly after Manhattan Plaza opened, the City was hit by the AIDS crisis, and many residents in the performing arts contracted AIDS. To respond to their needs, Kirk established social service programs with paid staff and volunteers, and the help of the Actors' Fund, to care for them and for non-residents.[14] 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.[2][15] The Manhattan Plaza AIDS Project Foundation's benefit concert in May 1997 at the Westside Theatre on 43rd Street featured Joseph Bologna and Renée Taylor, Jenny Burton, Vivian Reed;[16] artists in other years included Jeanne MacDonald, Audra McDonald, and Robert Cuccioli.[17]

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.[14] Kirk retired in 1997 and died in 2001.[14] His work was continued by General Manager Richard Hunnings, his companion of 42 years.[3][14] The Rodney Kirk Theatre is now one of the theatres across 42nd Street in the Theatre Row Building.


Manhattan Plaza was designed by architect David Todd.[18]

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 a number of shops (including Arnold Wilkerson's Little Pie Company), restaurants, and a bank branch.

Located within the Tenth Avenue building is the 43rd St Kids Preschool, which was founded in 1981. It is a private, non-profit, parent cooperative school.[19] 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 9th Avenue building.[20]

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 one of three rare and unique playgrounds. It has an electronic setting and virtual interactive games programmed within the equipment. The park officially opened June 8, 2009.

Manhattan Plaza had a Summer Day Camp / Youth Program every year for kids ages 7 to 13 from July to August. The camp consisted of swimming, baseball, basketball, dodgeball, tennis, wall climbing, taekwondo, cooking, and Four Square / Box Ball as well as performing arts. Campers also created a "4Square" type game called Nations. The camp had trips and sees movies once a week. The camp shut down a couple years ago.[when?][citation needed]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ Manhattan Plaza I[dead link] and II, technical data, Emporis
  2. ^ a b Federici-LaFargue, Marietta (1997). "AIDS – A Community Answers the Call". In Davidson Chukwuma Umeh (ed.). Confronting the AIDS Epidemic: Cross-cultural Perspectives on HIV/AIDS Education. Africa World Press. p. 154. ISBN 9780865435261.
  3. ^ a b Manhattan Plaza Project, New York Public Library, September 12, 2012
  4. ^ "The Related Companies Under Contract to Acquire Manhattan Plaza", press release, The Related Companies, January 20, 2004
  5. ^ a b c d "Performers May Get W. 42nd St. Housing" by Paul Goldberger, The New York Times, August 2, 1976. Retrieved September 29, 2016
  6. ^ "Our History – 42nd Street development Corporation". Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  7. ^ "How the Rent Numbers Add Up at Manhattan Plaza", by Nahma Sandrow, The New York Times, June 9, 2002
  8. ^ "Manhattan Plaza Near Rental Deal?" by Roger Armbrust, BackStage, July 2, 2004
  9. ^ "Manhattan Plaza 20-Year Pact 'Helps Actors'" by Roger Armbrust, BackStage, September 24, 2004
  10. ^ "Rent Subsidies Are Preserved for Manhattan Plaza Tenants" by David W. Chen, The New York Times, September 14, 2004
  11. ^ Lakeland Ledger: "'Often Broke' 'Never Poor' Credo of Todd's Career" March 24, 1958 retrieved September 29, 2016
  12. ^ a b Murray Schumach (February 2, 1978). "Manhattan Plaza: Small-Town Neighbors in a Blase City". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  13. ^ "Manhattan Plaza Wins Approval As Housing for Performing Artists" by Joseph P. Fried, The New York Times, February 4, 1977. Retrieved September 29, 2016
  14. ^ a b c d e "Rodney Kirk, 67, Director of Manhattan Plaza, Is Dead" by Wolfgang Saxon, The New York Times, July 17, 2001. Retrieved September 29, 2016
  15. ^ Horwitz, Simi (July 29, 1991). "The Kindness of Strangers: Helping Theater People With AIDS at the Manhattan Plaza". TheaterWeek.
  16. ^ "Manhattan Plaza AIDS Project Benefit Earns $39G" by Harry Haun, Playbill, May 19, 1997
  17. ^ Company by Jeanne MacDonald, CD Baby
  18. ^ Dunlap, David W. (April 2, 2008). "David Todd, Architect and Official, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2008.
  19. ^ 43rd St Kids Preschool
  20. ^ The West Bank Cafe Archived 2011-07-14 at the Wayback Machine,, July 2007]
  21. ^ "Broadway Actress Dies in Apartment Fire After Good Wife Star's Attempted Rescue" by Maane Khatchatourian, Variety, September 4, 2015
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Manhattan Plaza: At Home" by Mitchell Seidel, JazzTimes, September 1, 2006
  23. ^ "Manhattan Street Corner Renamed 'Stan Brooks Way' In Honor Of Late 1010 WINS Reporter", CBS New York, September 12, 2014
  24. ^ "How Melbourne apartment planning could learn a life lesson from Manhattan's high-rise kids" by Aisha Dow, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 1, 2015
  25. ^ a b c "Marlon Craft's Halal-Cart Listening Party" by Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, July 29, 2019
  26. ^ a b c d e f Michael Riedel (November 9, 2017). "How a Hell's Kitchen Artists' Haven Transformed the Neighborhood". New York Post. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Inside Manhattan Plaza, Where Alicia Keys Was Born and Samuel L. Jackson Worked Security" by Chris Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, February 9, 2018
  28. ^ a b c d e f "Inside Manhattan Plaza: Miracle on 42nd Street documentary rides the elevator of the Hell's Kitchen artist haven" by Kate Feldman, New York Daily News, April 3, 2020
  29. ^ "Classic Hollywood: Remembering Gloria Grahame before Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" by Susan King, Los Angeles Times, December 23, 2017
  30. ^ Playbill. Vol. 7. American Theatre Press. 1988. p. 334
  31. ^ "History of Manhattan Plaza", "Manhattan Plaza Building History"
  32. ^ "Miracle on 42nd Street — A Plaza to Call Home" by Ruth Walker, W42st, no. 7, June 1, 2015

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°45′33″N 73°59′34″W / 40.759299°N 73.992685°W / 40.759299; -73.992685