nyc35.jpg (54856 bytes) New York Architecture Images- Midtown

Bryant Park and Bryant Park Studios Landmark


Charles A. Rich


80 West 40th Street, at Sixth Ave. 








Apartment Building




The Beaux-Arts Bryant Park Studios Building, which opened in 1901, was built for a New York artist who had just returned from Paris,bringing with him the French emphasis on natural northern light.He commissioned lavish double-height workshop/residential studios with huge windows to capture the unobstructed light from Bryant Park


Bryant ParkBryant park, an 8 acre large green oasis at the intersection of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue is one of the most pleasant parks in Manhattan. Even though the park is bordered by heavily trafficked streets, it is a very relaxing park. It has a simple but effective design, with a large, central lawn surrounded by trees.
From the park you have a great view on some great architectural landmarks, including the former American Radiator Building. Similar to some Parisian parks like the Jardin du Luxembourg, you can take one of the 2,000 available chairs and sit wherever you prefer.

The history of the Bryant Park starts in the 19th century, when it was known as Reservoir square. It was named after the Croton reservoir that was constructed adjacent to the square in 1842. In 1853 the first American World Exposition was held here in the Crystal Palace, a magnificent glass construction. Five years later, the palace was destroyed by fire. In 1884 the square was renamed Bryant Park after Bryant ParkWilliam Cullen Bryant, a poet and lawyer. He was one of the most influential advocates for abolition of slavery in the United States and one of the forces behind the creation of Central Park.
In 1899 the Reservoir adjacent to Bryant Park was demolished replaced by the New York Public Library. As part of this construction which would last until 1911, terraces and kiosks were constructed at the park.

After several decades of neglect, the park was redesigned between 1933 and 1934 as part of the depression-era public works project. The competition winning design by Lusby Simpson was implemented by Robert Moses. It featured a great lawn and hedges which obscured the views from the surrounding streets. Two years later, an iron fence was constructed around the park. This design resulted in a public space virtually cut off from the surrounding city life. You could pass the park unaware of the activities within. This made it appealing for drug addicts and in the seventies and eighties, the park was shunned by most citizens and tourists.

In the 1970s the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation was founded by the Rockefeller Brothers. This led to a privately funded redesign and restoration 1988. The redesign by landscaper architect Hanna/Olin and garden designer Lynden B. Miller was aimed towards restoring activity in the park. The high hedges were replaced by shrubs opening the park up to the streets. In 1992, the new Bryant Park was officially opened and became an instant success. It is now one of New York's most popular parks. In 2002 the park became the city's first 'wireless park', which means you can connect to the internet with a 802.11b Ethernet card.

The park contains five statues plus the Josephine Shaw Lowell fountain. Built in 1912 and designed by Charles Adams Platt, this was the first monument American Radiator Buildingdedicated to a woman. Lowell (1843-1905) was a pioneering social reformer. In 2002 a carousel was added to the park.

Bryant Park is hemmed in by some great landmarks. On the east side of the park is the 1911 New York Public Library. The magnificent Beaux-Arts building was designed by Carrere & Hastings. The collection contains more than 7 million books. The library's entrance is at Fifth Avenue, from the Bryant Park you look onto the back side of the building.
Another building of interest is the former American Radiator building, a great 1924 skyscraper in neo-Gothic style with Art Deco ornaments. The 22 story W.R.. Grace Buildingtower was designed by André Fouilhoux and Raymond Hood; the latter is also known for the Tribune Tower in Chicago.
Another landmark near the Bryant Park is the 1901 Bryant Park Studios, a building on 40th street in Beaux-Arts style. On the other side of the park is the more modern and larger W.R. Grace building, a sleek 50 story building designed by SOM's Gordon Bunshaft. It was constructed in 1974 for the W.R. Grace chemical company.


Publication:The New York Sun; Date:Jan 21, 2004; Section:Editorial & Opinion; Page:8

The Fall and Rise of Bryant Park

By JULIA VITULLO-MARTIN Ms. Vitullo-Martin is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

    Shrewd developers often name their buildings for their neighborhood’s most attractive asset. In this tradition, the Durst Organization recently announced that it was conferring the address of One Bryant Park on its flashy new Midtown tower, whose major tenant will be the Bank of America. On an average day in good weather, lovely, crime-free Bryant Park is wildly popular, drawing some 5,300 visitors at midday, or 900 people an acre.It is almost surely the most used urban open space in the world, exceeding even St. Mark’s in Venice. The New York Times calls it “Manhattan’s town square.”

    Yet associating any new building with Bryant Park would have been unthinkable just 20 years ago — akin to naming a building One Needle Park, which would pretty well summarize the drug den that was then Bryant Park. I remember this well because the Citizens Housing and Planning Council,my former employer, had offices on West 40th Street, Bryant Park’s southern boundary. We had ringside seats for the sordid dealing and using that went on openly in the park, nestled behind the New York Public Library.

    Entrepreneur Michael Fuchs, who was the first chairman of HBO, which was headquartered across the park on West 42nd Street, also remembers those days well. “It was the Wild West down there,” he recalled recently. We had all come from uptown — Rockefeller Center, a good neighborhood.The Bryant Park area was so bad that people had no reason to go out.We developed a philosophy that we would make the HBO building self-sufficient,with a great cafeteria, gym, screenings, whatever people needed.”

    In retrospect,it may be hard to grasp that city government actually permitted the ongoing, daily degradation of such a magnificent asset. After all,the city-owned Bryant Park wasn’t hidden in some obscure corner, far away from official eyes. It’s been right there since the mid-19th century. It sits squarely in the middle of Midtown, surrounded by world-renowned landmarks. For example, the gorgeous Beaux-Arts New York Public Library, which opened in 1911 and uses two acres of Bryant Park,was designed by Carrère & Hastings. Raymond Hood’s 1924 neo-Gothic American Radiator building, on West 40th Street, now the Bryant Park Hotel, is regarded by many architects as the finest building in New York.

    The Beaux-Arts Bryant Park Studios Building, which opened in 1901, was built for a New York artist who had just returned from Paris,bringing with him the French emphasis on natural northern light.He commissioned lavish double-height workshop/residential studios with huge windows to capture the unobstructed light from Bryant Park.Yet in 1979,things were such a mess that the eminent urbanist,William Whyte,wrote about Bryant Park, “If you went out and hired the dope dealers,you couldn’t get a more villainous crew to show the urgency of the situation.”

    Bryant Park had 150 reported robberies and 10 rapes annually, countless auto break-ins on the periphery, and a murder every other year. As a public park it was so mismanaged that it held down the property values of the surrounding neighborhood.

    Today Bryant Park pumps up property values. Bank of America Senior Vice President John Saclarides says about the new tower, “Because of Bryant Park, we anticipate great employee happiness with our site. We think our employees will use the park for visitation, for reading, and for a remote office at lunch time.” (The park now has free wireless fidelity Web access, known as “wi fi.”) What happened?

    In 1980 a group of civic-minded New Yorkers, property owners, and neighbors decided to rescue the park, and set up the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation. They spent seven years negotiating with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation before they succeeded in getting a 15-year lease, which began in 1988. (The lease was subsequently renewed for another five years.) The BPRC immediately closed the park for five years of rebuilding.

    The old design — a formal French garden — had dated from 1934, when Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, New York’s master of public works, decided to elevate and isolate the park above the sidewalk. Instead of making Bryant Park an elegant respite from the congestion of midtown as intended,the isolationist design deterred desirable users while attracting undesirable users.

    The new BPRC design aimed to re-people the park while raising revenues to pay for the expensive planned maintenance of several million dollars annually — far more than the city spent. The designers cut new entrances, tore down the iron fencing, ripped out high hedges, restored the fixtures, and added neoclassical kiosks for concessions.

    Fixed benches were replaced with some 3,200 movable, pretty French chairs and 500 tables, providing what Mr. Biederman calls “freemarket seating.” The park’s Upper Terrace, which had been its most active drug market, was leased to the trendy Bryant Park Grill, which became an instant hot spot.

    High standards of behavior are enforced by the security officers,whom Mr.Biederman calls “friendly but firm.”They deter “little pieces of disorder,” as Mr. Biederman calls misdemeanors. The old laissez-faire attitude toward disruptive behavior is gone. Neighboring business people and property owners are overjoyed.

    The chairman of Mountain Development Corporation, which owns the now-landmarked Bryant Park Studios, Robert Lieb, recalled that crime was so bad in 1980 that his building could only be marketed by promising strong private security.“The park should have been a positive for us, but the drug dealing and crime made it a negative,” he said.

    Today,he says,his company doesn’t even have to work to rent space.“Our tenants,boutique designers, and manufacturers who specialize in sales to stores like Barney’s and Nordstrom’s, want to be on the park.”Tenants include hip designers like Theory and Angel Zimick.

    “Bryant Park proves that if you build something beautiful that people can enjoy,”Mr.Lieb said. “They will pay a premium price to be there.”And,indeed,rents soared to the mid-50s today from $14 a square foot in 1980.

    Perhaps best of all, taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for the park’s $4 million annual budget, which is all privately raised.While $5 million of the $18 million spent on capital improvements came from public funds, no public money has been spent on the park since 1996. It may well be the only urban park in the world supported by neither government nor charitable funds.

    “Because this park is integral to the functioning of Midtown, we ask commercial interests and users to pay for it,” Mr. Biederman said.

    Bryant Park’s successful privatization is a tribute to a selfless innovation by the public sector — permitting the private sector to step in with resources and operational skills to restore and manage a splendid public space.Most public officials wouldn’t have had the courage to let the private sector take over.

    New York taxpayers owe heartfelt thanks to the four mayors, beginning with Edward Koch, and the four parks commissioners, finishing with Adrian Benepe, who made this happen.


Bryant Park

This area was set aside as early as 1686 for public use; from 1823 to 1840, like many of Manhattan's parks, it was used as a pauper's graveyard. In 1842, the Croton Reservoir was built on the east side of the space, where the New York Public Library is now, and the remaining land became known as Reservoir Square.

The Crystal Palace was built on the site in 1853, a marvelous seven-story exhibition space made of glass and cast iron that housed America's first world's fair before burning down spectacularly on October 5, 1858.

After serving as a parade ground for Union troops during the Civil War, Reservoir Square was designated a park in 1871, and was renamed in 1884 for William Cullen Bryant, poet, lawyer, New York Post editor, abolitionist and park advocate. It was not much of a park, though, until it was landscaped in French garden style in the 1930s, the object of a contest for unemployed architects.

By the 1970s, the park had become chiefly known as a drug market, but since a re-landscaping in 1992 occasioned by the creation of underground stacks for the library, it's become a highly valued urban space. It's the venue for popular outdoor movies in the summer.

Sculptures in the park include an imposing Bryant, Goethe, Gertrude Stein, copper maganate and YMCA founder William Dodge (by John Quincy Adams Ward; (originally in Herald Square) and Brazilian liberator Jose de Andrada --not to mention Big Crinkly by Alexander Calder.