Pedestrian plaza will star on Broadway beginning Memorial Day weekend
NEW YORK - The heart of Times Square, one of the most crowded spots on Earth, will become a pedestrian plaza aimed at making the nation's largest city greener, safer, and less congested.
The changes will be made in May along a swath of the famous Great White Way: Broadway in midtown Manhattan.
"You always say there's nothing you can do about traffic," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday. "Well, we're not just going to sit back - we're going to try to do something about it."
"All the computer modeling says this is going to work," the mayor said, speaking in a hotel space with a bird's-eye view of a sea of yellow cabs and cars he said often resembles "a parking lot," with pedestrians flooding sidewalks.
Last July, the city designated two Broadway lanes for bikes and a public esplanade - from 42d Street at Times Square to 35th Street by Macy's.
The concept will now be taken a step further, starting Memorial Day weekend: closing Broadway to vehicles between 42d and 47th streets in Times Square, and between 33d and 35th streets in Herald Square. Traffic still will be allowed on the cross streets running through the squares, and Seventh Avenue will be widened to accommodate extra traffic from the closed section of Broadway. The result, officials believe, will be simplified traffic patterns, longer green lights, and reduced travel times.
"By making targeted adjustments at Broadway's two main pinch points [Times and Herald squares], we believe we can ease traffic congestion throughout the midtown grid," said Bloomberg, who was joined by the city's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.
The traffic-free zones will provide 2.5 extra acres of urban ambiance for outdoorsy types, including cafe tables and benches, along with landscaping, by September.
In addition, officials believe there will be fewer pedestrian injuries or deaths because people will be less likely to sidestep overcrowded sidewalks, walking alongside vehicles.
Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group for bicycling, walking, and public transit, applauded the plan.