By Janet Allon When Baruch College students return to classes toward the end of this month, they won't have to look both ways when they cross 25th Street anymore. That's because the college received the necessary approvals to close 25th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues to traffic at the end of December, and has created an interim pedestrian plaza. In about a year, it will be permanent. Even in chilly early January, a few parka-clad pedestrians paused to sit at the colorful bistro tables and chairs recently set out for passersby, shielded in part from the wind by large potted and holiday-decorated trees. The closed portion of the street, which lies between Baruch's two main buildings, the Newman Vertical Campus on the south side and the Library and Technology Building on the north, is paved with sand-colored gravel, many shades lighter than the surrounding streets, giving it a bit of a beachy look. Diane Livoti, who works in the college's registrar's office, recently enjoyed part of her lunch break in the new plaza. "It will give Baruch much more of a campus feeling," she says. "And everyone is on board with it: the pizza place, the bagel place, the students, everyone." The plaza will also be smoke-free and Wi-Fi accessible to the college community, and open 24/7 not just to students but to the public and surrounding community. When Baruch first floated the idea of the plaza, the college argued that such a space would provide a much needed oasis in a district-Community District 6, encompassing Turtle Bay, East Midtown, Murray Hill, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village-that is the most open-space deprived in the city. When school is in session, there are an estimated 10,000 crossings per day, many of which are performed by harried students not necessarily taking the time to look before they cross. A traffic light installed midblock mitigated, but did not completely eliminate, the danger. It still hangs, despite there now being no vehicular traffic for it to signal. Community Board 6 approved the plan last June, and it received the support of the DOT's Plaza Program, the brainchild of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "The creation of the 25th Street Plaza will be a transformative event that will forever enhance the campus experience for our students, faculty and staff," said Baruch College President Mitchel B. Wallerstein, "as well as for the local community." As a signal of how important the plaza is to the college community, the Baruch College Association voted to fund the entire cost of the 25th Street Interim Plaza beautification. The Interim Plaza is expected to be in place for a year or more as the college and community work together on the design and construction of a permanent one, which may host events for the whole community, like a book fair, farmer's market and productions from Baruch's Performing Arts Center.