At last. The construction fences have finally come down and the Metropolitan Museum’s new David H. Koch Plaza has been unveiled for all the world to see. Except not really. Why? Because a horde of towering, mishmash food carts (I counted 24 yesterday) now forms a barrier along Fifth Avenue that blocks plaza views from visitors and neighbors alike. Festooned with hotdog placards, fast food displays, neon LED signs and even twinkling Christmas lights, topped by a rainbow of umbrellas, the individually owned food carts clog the Met sidewalk, restrict visitor movement to and from the museum, prevent free passage across the Avenue and blow food smells and grill smoke into passing faces.
How did this happen? How did the plaza in front of our beloved museum turn into a Tackysville food court? Yes, the neighborhood contains few places for visitors to eat. And yes, food vendors and veterans are entitled to make a living with their carts. But why is this the only museum in New York to be invaded by a battalion of food vendors? How did the simple idea of having a few official food carts out front snowball into a situation where a barricade of fast food carts now takes precedence over aesthetics? Doesn’t the museum’s impressive new plaza (more photos) with its intricately programmed fountains, expansive staircase, shade-providing trees and red parasols with increased seating deserve to be seen, savored and fully enjoyed by all. Which is not happening now because the ever increasing number of food carts and adjoining metal police barriers prevent unobstructed movement and views of the plaza and related surrounding space.
If you’re sitting on the museum’s grand staircase relaxing and watching the world pass by — forget it. The long jumble of food carts can’t help but take over your line of vision. Just imagine similar carts hijacking space and views around the Louvre. No way — Sacred Bleu and off with their heads.
The solution? Beyond dispensing these carts to neighborhoods where they would better fit in, who knows? Perhaps More indoor cafeterias to feed more visitors. Or maybe a few outdoor kiosks compatible with the museum’s design and neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine decreasing the current number of food carts to a far less obtrusive number would work at this point since the next question would be WHICH carts to weed out, a process bound to make for a lot of unhappy food vendors. Whatever the solution, it’s time for the museum and city to put their heads together and figure out a way to restore and preserve our museum’s exterior beauty.
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