Although step-streets—pedestrian corridors that replace auto-centric streets in hilly neighborhoods—are more often associated with San Francisco, New York City has 94 step-streets of its own. WXY Architecture + Urban Design partnered with AECOM to revamp a full-block step-street in Inwood, Manhattan’s northernmost neighborhood.
View of the step-stairs from Broadway in January 2013. (Google Maps)
The 215th Street step-stairs. (Courtesy WXY)
The so-called “step-stair” connects busy Broadway with a residential complex, Park Terrace East. The New York City Department of Design & Construction (DDC) chose Brooklyn–based WXY to rehabilitate the 215th Street right-of-way’s crumbling surfaces and worn planted areas.
The passage, which officially opens to the public on February 3rd, hews closely to the original design.
The step-stair is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare that connects Broadway with Park Terrace East. (Google Earth)
In addition to improving the stair condition, WXY encircled newly planted trees between the two staircases with cobblestone pavers. Historic lampposts that flank the landings remain intact, though the fixtures are swapped out for more original-looking globes, as in the 1915 photograph below. A bike channel on both sides eases the schlep up and down the 50 foot incline.
The step-stairs circa 1915: “If you are seeking an Italian Terrace, go to Broadway and 215th Street.”(Courtesy My Inwood)
“The Inwood community deserves a safe stair path,” said Claire Weisz, founding principal at WXY, in a statement. “But they also deserve a beautiful public space they can feel proud of, where neighbors can greet one another as they pass on their daily commute.”
(Courtesy NYC DDC)
The step-street was on the city’s repair radar for years. In April 2012, The Daily News reported that Inwood residents had been petitioning for spruced-up stairs since 1999. The rendering in that piece is identical to the one re-released today, though there’s no word on what’s held up the project for almost four years.
(Courtesy NYC DDC)