Huge light installation coming to site of proposed Midtown East casino near the U.N.

May 11, 2023

Longwood Gardens, P.A USA – Copyright © 2022 Bruce Munro. All rights reserved. Image courtesy of Serena Munro

An impressive light installation will debut this fall at the storied 7-acre vacant site near the United Nations in Midtown East. Stretching from 38th to 41st Streets on First Avenue, and designed by world-renowned artist Bruce Munro, “Field of Light” will include an array of 17,000 flower-like lights that will serve as a “beacon of freedom and hope around the world.” Opening in September, the free and public installation is being paid for by the Soloviev Group, the firm which has proposed constructing a mixed-use development dubbed Freedom Plaza on the undeveloped property, anchored by one of three casinos planned for the New York City area.

Sensorio, C.A. USA – Copyright © 2019 Bruce Munro. All rights reserved. Image courtesy of Serena Munro

Earlier this year, Soloviev Group unveiled its proposal for Freedom Plaza as part of its bid to secure a gaming license. The proposal for the 6.7-acre site along the East River includes a 1,200-room hotel, two residential towers with condo and rental units (some of which would be affordable), over four acres of public green space, and a human rights museum that will display slabs from the Berlin Wall, according to a press release.

At the center of the development is a partially subterranean casino operated by Mohegan. Previous plans to build a giant Ferris wheel on the site proved unpopular and have been scrapped, as the New York Times reported.

The Soloviev Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Soloviev Group, will pay $1.5 million to cover the costs of installing and maintaining the art piece, according to the New York Times. Michael Hershman, the CEO of Soloviev Group, told the Times the art installation is “a gift to New York.”

Made up of thousands of “lowlight, fiber-optic stemmed spheres,” the Field of Light installation will be powered by solar energy and will subtly change hues to create a dreamlike landscape.

“Light has always played a major part in my life and work, and for me, is a natural medium to use. With the light installation at Freedom Plaza in Manhattan, I intend to stimulate the imagination and senses of any viewer by creating a breathtaking immersive experience that utilizes every hue of light to create a visual Eden,” Munro said.

CEO of the Soloviev Group Michael Hershman at the vacant site proposed for Freedom Plaza. Photo courtesy of the Soloviev Group

Freedom Plaza is just one of the many casino proposals made since the state legislature approved three new casino licenses for the NYC area last April. Other proposals include a Caesars Entertainment-run Times Square casino backed by Jay-Z and an upscale casino located atop Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store in Midtown.

At the moment, at least 10 firms are vying to secure a casino license, with plans to build them at locations across the city, in Westchester County, and on Long Island. A final decision on which proposal will be awarded a license is months away, and it could be years until the ground actually breaks on a project.

“New York City has always been and continues to be a global epicenter of freedom and the creative spirit,” Hershman said in a statement. “The unique six-acre site at Freedom Plaza provides a rare opportunity to showcase Bruce’s inspirational and bold vision to New York City. We are thrilled to share the Field of Light exhibit with our community this fall.”


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