Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Times Square Pedestrian Mall

The corner of Broadway and 47th Street today.
In this 2009 photo taken shortly after the plaza opened is the corner of
Broadway and 46th Street.
The stretch of the plaza between 47th and 48th
streets had lawn chairs in this 2009 photo.
The city removed the lawn chairs which
 were being stolen by the homeless population.
Walking in the middle of the road is one thing, walking in the middle of the road in New York City is a death wish. But in 2009 this became possible in Times Square when vehicles were banned on Broadway to fight street congestion and to create a pedestrian plaza.

The plaza is now a fascination for tourists and New Yorkers alike, drawn to the unusual sight of a pedestrian mall, complete with picnic tables and chairs under the blinking billboards of Broadway. Back in June 2009, I found myself walking on the sidewalks at first before taking shortcuts through the plazas. As a side note I have to admit that I often found myself walking on the road along sidewalks during the most congested periods of pedestrian traffic in Times Square. This is less so now as I cut across sections pedestrian plazas which saves some time and frustration going to and from a theatre.

This piano in the pedestrian plaza was one of
60 placed around the city in 2010 as part of the
city's "Play Me, I'm Yours" public art project.
The project was originally as an experiment two years ago but became permanent a year later even if the plan did not achieve its chief objective of improving traffic flow. In news reports, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that a reduction in injuries to pedestrians and motorists along with a warm response from merchants and tourists had persuaded him to retain the pedestrian plaza.

When the transformation formerly known as “Green Light for Midtown” was put into place after Memorial Day weekend in 2009 at a cost of $1.5 million there was strong vocal opposition. Cabdrivers complained about dealing with additional obstacles to the outdoor sign industry which expressed concerns that sun umbrellas blocked the views of their signs to the theater industry which worried about problems for buses to drop off theater groups. Some even expressed that the plaza furniture made the area look like a cheap dirty street rather than an attractive plaza.

The project actually closed two sections of Broadway to vehicles, five blocks from 42nd to 47th Streets in Times Square and 33rd to 35th Streets in Herald Square home to department store Macy’s.

The main venue for cars through Times Square is 7th Avenue. Along with the closures seven bus lines had to be rerouted. Cross-town streets remain open, which cuts the pedestrian plaza into sections.

The intersection of Broadway and 47th Street before the creation
of the pedestrian plaza.


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