3. Asphalt Green

The arch of Asphalt Green seen through the trees, June 2022. A windowless building.
The arch of Asphalt Green seen through the trees.

Sitting next to FDR Drive between 90th and 91st street on the Upper East Side is a hulking, arched concrete building. Called Asphalt Green, the striking building is actually an athletic facility with basketball courts and a gym, among other amenities. The recreation center’s name is indicative of what it used to be: an asphalt mixing plant. Architects Ely Jacques Kahn and Robert Allen Jacobs designed the almost windowless building in the 1940s but the need for the mixing plant waned and other uses for the building were proposed. After a proposal for a public recreation center won general opinion, the industrial site was retrofitted with hoops and locker rooms.

Asphalt Green received plenty of criticism: Robert Moses coined the name the “Cathedral of Asphalt” and called it “the most hideous waterfront structure ever inflicted on a city by a combination of architectural conceit and official bad taste.” But the building’s dramatic arches have made it a landmark, and the facility’s popularity is undeniable with thousands of children utilizing the facility for youth sports programs.