By: Hadassa Kalatizadeh
Madison Avenue’s posh store owners are standing up against plans to add bus shelters on their high end uptown streets. The city has plans to install nine bus shelters at stops along the eastern side of the fancy avenue between East 57th and East 77th streets. As reported by the NY Post, civic leaders are concerned that the bus shelters will alter the look of their streets, block the store’s window displays, and cost them business. Madison Avenue Business Improvement District President Matt Bauer said the planned stops “would ruin the character of the historic district.”
The neighborhood, known as the Upper East Side Historic District, has strict Landmarks Preservation laws to protect the streets against significant changes. A very exacting approval process is in place, in which the Landmark panel needs to approve any storefront changes. “These bus-shelter structures, permanently bolted to the sidewalk, should go through the same landmarks approval process” says Bauer. Bauer added that the Landmarks Preservation Commission and zoning rules both prohibit “internally illuminated box signs with glass or plastic covers” at stores in the historic district. “That’s exactly what the DOT would be doing with shelter signs,” Bauer said. The Department of Transportation should “look for alternative locations” for the new bus shelters, said Community Board 8 chair, Alida Camp.
The wealthiest people from around the world come to uptown Madison Avenue for the designer restaurants and boutiques such as Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Asprey and Giorgio Armani. Merchants pay a sizable price for a storefront on the coveted street, investing heavily to update their windows even a few times a month to maximize their visibility. However, the 20-block stretch is already struggling with vacancies, and shelter opponents feel the gilded streets may suffer if the 14-foot-long shelters and the ultra-bright digital ads are installed.
A DOT spokesman said the agency plans to “consult” with the Landmarks Preservation Commission regarding the stop designs. But the DOT has already said the shelters would “provide benches and weather relief for all riders. Major bus corridors around the city have bus shelters, which are regularly requested by bus riders.” A date has not yet been announced, but the DOT plans to send the bus shelter plan to the Franchise and Concession Review Committee for a hearing. As per the Post, the bus stops would raise funds for the city, raking in more than $57 million in franchise fees from JCDecaux, and a total of $100 million including a share of the ad revenue.