Midtown’s Tiny Greenacre Park Fights For Light Among Sky-High Skyscrapers
May 23, 2017
By Devin Gannon
As a small oasis in the center of Manhattan, Greenacre Park is home to honey locust trees, azaleas, pansies and a 25-foot-high waterfall, all taking up just 6,360 square feet of space. However, the city’s plan to rezone Midtown East to allow for more commercial buildings worries some advocates who say it may deplete Greenacre Park from any sunlight, as the Times reported. But the Municipal Art Society, New Yorkers for Parks, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Daniel Garodnick, are backing a campaign called “Fight For Light” to protect the park’s right to sunlight.
Greenacre Park, a gift from the granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller Sr. in 1971, features knoll chairs and tables alongside flower beds, as well as a trellis with heat lamps. Known as a “vest pocket park,” the tiny space was pieced together by three lots that once held a store, a garage and a part of a synagogue. It received a daily average of about 700 visitors.
The city previously conducted a shadows study that showed no significant negative impact on Greenacre Park from the city’s rezoning plan. But the Greenacre Foundation, the group that runs the park, says the rezoning would let taller buildings block the sun, which would threaten its plant life and turn the green sanctuary into a dark and less inviting space. Therefore, they commissioned their own shadows study, conducted by the firm WXY, which found that development on six sites could cast a shadow over the whole park. To prevent this from happening, the park foundation has asked for height limits on those sites or at least a public review of each of their potential shadow impacts on Greenacre.
The city’s rezoning plan, meant to foster more growth in Midtown East’s commercial corridor, hopes to expand the city’s tax base, add more jobs and improve the area’s infrastructure for its subway, streets, and sidewalks. According to the city, the size of the buildings used in the Greenacre Foundation study is not expected to be the size in the actual rezoning.
The foundation’s executive director Lois Cremmins told the Times: “In a large park, if there’s a shadow cast by a tall, skinny building, people can just move to another part of the park. But in a vest pocket park of this size, the light is obliterated.”