I missed this essay from Justin Davidson in the current issue of New York magazine.
And the architecture critic, who provides some history of the space, is on board with the redesign, which provides "a blackboard full of possibilities."
Now, after several years of construction on the knot of streets and plazas, the fences have been peeled away like bandages, leaving a broad and orderly plain designed by the New York architecture firm WXY. New curbs confine traffic to sensible channels rather than let it slosh across a delta of conflicting lanes. Sidewalks have been broadened into pedestrian boulevards. Astor Place in 2017 feels like fresh turf waiting to receive its next deposit of history.
Even as recently as a couple of decades ago, this area formed a junction of classes and lifestyles. Ukrainians wandered in from the borscht and pierogi joints on Second Avenue, squatters and punks from Tompkins Square Park and Alphabet City; addicts and alcoholics drifted up from the Bowery. At Astor Place, they met clean-cut newcomers, NYU professors, and aging hippies, along with the new wave of West Village bankers on their weekend slumming excursions.
The triangle no longer has that souklike vibe, and no amount of street design can bring it back, but, with a combination of modesty and flair, WXY has literally paved the way for the next iteration.