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Curbed Cuts: Central Park renovation controversy, commuters sue LIRR, and more

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Four things you need to know today

Belvedere Castle, courtesy mattdwen/Flickr 

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

Preservationist concern over a new pathway in Central Park

The Central Park Conservancy has proposed a new way to access Belvedere Castle—but not everyone is happy about it. The castle, a popular park attraction, is situated atop Vista Rock, a huge outcropping of bedrock. It’s accessed by a meandering path about 150 feet long, and the closer it gets to the castle, the steeper it becomes. A report in the New York Times says the Conservancy wants to replace the path with a new, gentler walkway with a plain, light-colored wall that will satisfy federal requirements for access for disabled people. Computer-generated renderings, like the one below, have already been shown to community boards and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Preservationist Theodore Grunewald has plenty of criticisms for the pathway design: He compared its size and scale to “the Titanic poking up” from the pond or “a 40-story building emerging sideways.” The straight walkway, as opposed to the original curvy one, would be “jarring and discordant.” He believes the design goes against the original “Olmstedian path.”

Other preservationist groups have expressed concern, like the Historic Districts Council and Landmark West!. But the conservancy plans to stick with the design, as well as repoint the stone walls and do some much-needed waterproofing for the castle. A Public Design Commission hearing on plans for the new path is scheduled for next week.

Christie’s spearheads luxury NYC brokerage

Luxury auction house Christie’s cut its 20-year affiliation with Brown Harris Stevens and announced plans to open its own New York real estate office later this year, according to The Real Deal. It’ll operate out of the Christie’s flagship at 20 Rockefeller Plaza.

Through the BHS and Christie’s relationship, both firms took part in a referral network and Christie’s took a cut of real estate deals—a partnership met with some skepticism in the industry. Ultimately, Christie’s wanted to take advantage of the “unique opportunity” to expand its New York footprint independently, as the city represents the firm’s largest market.

“This decision to open an office in New York City was made after lengthy deliberation and was not an easy one to make,” Christie’s CEO said in a letter circulated Friday.

Commuters launch class-action lawsuit against MTA, LIRR and NYC Transit

It’s not news that New York’s public transit infrastructure is falling apart. But frustrated commuters went ahead and launched a class-action lawsuit against the MTA, Long Island Rail Road, and NYC Transit this weekend regarding Long Island Railroad service. “We want the word out,” Meredith Jacobs, one of two plaintiffs in the suit and a LIRR rider, told the New York Post. She’s speaking for most New Yorkers when she stated: “We want change, accountability, visibility and, quite frankly, we want what we pay for—and if we don’t get it, we want our money back!”

The suit charges the transit agencies of infliction of emotional distress, negligence and breach of “contract of carriage.” It is being brought on “behalf of . . . all other individuals who regularly ride the Long Island Rail Road,” according to papers filed Saturday in Nassau County Supreme Court.

Amtrak is trying to address the concerns at Penn Station and will spend the summer overhauling the dilapidated rails. The MTA, which operates the LIRR and NYC Transit, has yet to offer any concrete solutions. Plans for the summer overhaul came after two slow-speed derailments on Penn Station tracks in late March and early April.

New York’s new area code

New York’s newest area code, 332, is now in effect, joining 212 and 646. The New York Times explains that 212 and 646 have used up, or are about to use up, all of their prefixes—which are the first three numbers that appear after the area code. 332 was selected because “it’s different enough from the other area codes and prefixes in our region so that it won’t confuse customers,” according to John Manning, senior director at the North American Numbering Plan Administration. With 212, 646 and 332 all in place, New York should be set with area codes for at least another 30 years.