In the late ’90s, the Grand Central Partnership transformed East 41st Street between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue into a dramatic promenade to the New York Public Library’s majestic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the length of which is regularly studded with bronze sidewalk plaques featuring quotes from literature and poetry and the whole of which is now known as “Library Way.” The Library Way project was completed by GCP with the assistance of the New York Public Library, the property owners and commercial tenants along 41st Street, library organizations, and the New York City Department of Transportation.
When the Library Way project was first initiated by GCP, 41st Street from Fifth Avenue to the Park Avenue/Pershing Square Viaduct was a shadowy street that served as a delivery-entrance “backstage” to nearby 42nd Street. But new development along this thoroughfare, including some of the city’s hottest hotels and coolest restaurants, has made 41st Street one of the Grand Central neighborhood’s more exciting and active streets.
With lions “Patience” and “Fortitude” guarding its doors, the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building presides majestically over the head of the street. Once the former site of a city reservoir, the Schwarzman Building is known throughout the world for the extraordinary comprehensiveness of its collections, as well as for its commitment to providing free and equal access to its resources and facilities. It houses some 15 million items, among them priceless medieval manuscripts, ancient Japanese scrolls, contemporary novels and poetry, as well as baseball cards, dime novels, and comic books.
In 1996, GCP, along with the New York Public Library and The New Yorker, convened a distinguished panel of literary experts and librarians to select quotations regarding the importance and impact of literature from some of literature’s most prominent works.
These quotes have been brought to life by urban sculptural artist Gregg LeFevre in beautiful bronze plaques installed at regular intervals in the sidewalks along 41st Street leading to and from the Schwarzman Building. The Library Way bronze plaque initiative was honored with an “Excellence in Design” award by the New York City Arts Commission in 1998.
In honor of the project, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed legislation sponsored by Councilmembers Christine Quinn and Eva Moskowitz, and Council Speaker A. Gifford Miller into local law in 2003 that officially designates this two-block stretch of East 41st Street as “Library Way.” The legislation was overwhelmingly supported by Community Board #5.