The ESP with a lot more green?

empire state plaza lawn illustration

What if the Empire State Plaza was a bit... greener?

Rob passed along this 1997 article about Albany from the Baltimore Sun today. The headline: "Rockefeller's big dream realized Empire State Plaza: Locals who once scorned Albany's enormous government complex are grudgingly giving it some of the credit for the city's upscale renaissance."

It's kind of interesting to read because as much as things change -- they don't really seem to change all that much. You'll recognize a lot of themes from any recent discussion about downtown Albany.

But this part caught Rob's attention -- and we thought it was an interesting bit, too (emphasis added):

City officials complain that the plaza, while bringing tourists to downtown, has been less of a draw for residents of Albany and surrounding towns, such as Colonie, Troy and Rensselaer. The officials are proposing to replace one of the plaza's reflecting pools with a massive grass lawn, to encourage family picnics.
"We'd like to humanize the plaza so people feel like they can approach," says Leveille. "We need to do the same thing with the river."

The ESP with a giant, green lawn instead of one of the reflecting pools? What would that look like? The above (bad) photo illustration gives some sort of general sense.

We're not sure what to think about that -- but it's an interesting thing to tumble for a minute or two.

(Thanks, Rob.)


I think they should rent kayaks for the ESP reflection pools. Back when I had an office in Albany, I was seriously considering plopping my kayak in pools for a lunchtime paddle. There are signs that list a bunch of prohibited activities, like: no wading, fishing, swimming, diving, etc. But nowhere does it prohibit kayaking. I think it'd be a blast to paddle around the Alexander Calder sculpture in the southern pool. And it would be very lively and colorful to see all the kayaks out there. And hey, if the lifeguard gets to row a boat in the Lincoln Park Pool, we should be able to kayak at ESP.

Cool! Even cooler would be to put down some field turf, fences, and lights and open it up for pick-up (and league) soccer a la Pier 40 in Manhattan. Couldn't help but imagine that when I saw your rendering.

That and the soccer pitch ideas are interesting, but I feel like so much of the character of the area is tied up in those reflecting pools...

Or perhaps sacrifice the end nearer the capitol as a seasonal sport area/grassy picnic area..I don't think we need ALL that flat expanse of stone, brick, and/or concrete... I could be wrong though... :)

I'd picnic that. Bring a kite.


Fireworks don't reflect well off grass.

Replacing the reflecting pools with a grass lawn? Wow. What a horrible idea. The pool is somewhat unique. It blends in with all the marble and buildings on the plaza, catches your eye, and in the dog days of summer even provides a nice breeze/spritz. A random grassy lawn would have none of those attributes. Also it's not like there's a lack of lawns to picnic in around there. As soon as the trucks come back the Capitol Park facing the Smith Building (and to a much quieter extent on the side facing down State Street) is packed with people enjoying a lunch on lawns, benches and steps. Although the beating those lawns take suggests OGS would have their hands full keeping an ESP lawn presentable.

One plot of grass does not a mall make. I don't think the small area would be able to handle the foot traffic, especially at events like fireworks and concerts. Without special attention, this could fast become a mud bowl. Further, the present design supports the buildings and hardscape aesthetic. If Albany wants soft and fuzzy, look at areas adjacent to the ESP to create that vibe. Don't mess with the present design.

I've always found those reflective pools to be a little creepy.

The could fill it with sand like Paris Plages.

Two words: BALL PIT.

Unhygienic? Sure.
More fun than you can handle? Possibly.

I agree with ace, a large grassy area would not look great next to the surrounding hardscape and overall modernist look of the plaza. And it would absolutely become a muddy wreck after large events.

How about encouraging family picnics in the giant, awesome park with acres and acres of grassy fields a few blocks up the hill by holding a larger variety of events, allowing food trucks on weekends, making better use of the lake and lakehouse, etc etc etc...

Interesting that most people here are against this idea. I think that the juxtaposition of green grass would be beautiful there. Or anything that would be interactive, rather than a large pool of water. In my opinion it makes the plaza more of a place to walk through rather than stay in and enjoy.

As a soccer & ultimate player living on lower Madison, I love the idea of some green space at the plaza. But as others have said, it would get so much use and traffic it would be extremely difficult to maintain it. Field turf would make more sense. Though I hate turf, I would still begrudgingly use it. A lot.

Maybe having a block for relaxing & picnicking, and fencing in another area for recreation would reduce "shortcut" foot traffic and make it more sustainable with grass.

The pools are cool in an art/architecture way but don't really serve any other purpose, just there for looking at. Recapturing that much space for recreation would be neat and bring some life to a cold stone complex.

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