Plaza 33




New York, NY





Site Area

17,700 sf

MNLA has re-imagined the public realm of Vornado Realty Trust’s $65 million effort to improve and expand the public space outside of Penn Station. Vornado, one of New York City’s leading owners of commercial real estate with a portfolio of office buildings concentrated in midtown Manhattan, collaborated with MNLA on multiple projects including the design of Plaza 33, over four acres of distinctive streetscape, and publicly accessible plazas as part of the repositioning of the Penn 1 and Penn 2 buildings.

Plaza 33 is a new, 17,700 sf pedestrian plaza on 33rd Street, just outside the MTA’s new East End Gateway canopy leading into and out of the LIRR's subterranean concourse. The plaza design elevates the existing roadway to create a seamless public space with trees, plantings, distinctive stone paving, new lighting, and public seating.

Constraints due to emergency vehicle access, subgrade utilities, and depth restrictions on the Penn Station roof below significantly limited the amount of plaza space available for amenities, requiring a simple, yet impactful design. MNLA prioritized pedestrian flow and connectivity, creating a campus-like connection between the adjacent buildings.

Anchored by a staggered bosque of five October Glory red maples surrounded by marble planter benches, the trees orient people and invite them to linger.  The raised circular tree planters provide both additional soil volume to support tree health, as well as an opportunity for fixed seating. Although formal in their overall circular geometry, the inner planted area is offset, forming a small seating area on one side and imbuing a subtle sense of playfulness and dynamism.

The paving design and stone selection creates continuity across the district by using the same Petit Granit stone and paving pattern that was established for the larger Penn District. To celebrate this unique space, six inch square cobble pavers radiate outwards from the planters in a concentric “cloud” pattern, highlighting the special, more intimate nature of this area and subtly extending the visual reach of the space.

Together, the trees and their planters define a “slow” space for people to meander among the trees that is in contrast to the “fast lane” that runs along the northern edge of the plaza. Finally, a low rectilinear planter frames the southern edge of the plaza, running along the raised 2 Penn Plaza and aligning with the apex of the East End Gateway to create a vibrant backdrop for the space.

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