New York Mayor considers ripping up Times Square pedestrian plaza

Times square
© Peter Keegan/Keystone/Getty Images

I remember being a tourist in Times Square before it was turned into a pedestrian plaza. It was a safe and wonderful family friendly place where nobody bothered you or tried to display their body parts. And now it appears that the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, is considering returning it to its former glory when it was full of cars instead of people having a good time. All because of complaints about topless women or Cookie Monsters. According to the New York Times, he thinks it's time for a "fresh look" at the situation.

“That’s a very big endeavor, and like every other option comes with pros and cons,” Mr. de Blasio said of removing the plazas. “So we’re going to look at what those pros and cons would be. You could argue that those plazas have had some very positive impacts. You could also argue they come with a lot of problems.”

Police commissioner Bratton is more to the point:

“I’d prefer to just dig the whole damn thing up and put it back the way it was.”

Urbanists are still in shock; the pedestrianizing of Times Square is seen as one of the great legacies of the Bloomberg era, one of the hallmark moves of his Transportation comissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

They are even more shocked that it is all in reaction to a few panhandlers and half-naked women. In the Wall Street Journal:

“Sure, let’s tear up Broadway. We can’t govern, manage or police our public spaces, so we should just tear them up,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, which runs the area. “That’s not a solution. It’s a surrender.”

On Streetsblog, Stephen Miller points out that tearing up the plazas would contradict the Vision Zero plans.

Tearing out the plazas would, among other things, run directly counter to de Blasio’s Vision Zero street safety goals. After the plazas were installed, pedestrian injuries fell 40 percent at Times Square, and injuries to car drivers and passengers dropped 63 percent along Broadway in Midtown, according to a 2010 DOT report.

In New York Magazine, Justin Davidson calls the idea "The opposite of progressive."

His plan — one of several being considered by a new Times Square livability task force — would clear out the undesirables by also evicting everyone who happens to be lounging or strolling or snapping photos. Instead, it would return the bow tie to its old denizens: cars. Because what could be more wholesome, more progressive, indeed more transcendent, to use the mayor’s favorite form of self-praise, than to favor carbon monoxide over irritating hucksters? The strategy has the added benefit of tossing a spadeful of dirt on the legacy of his predecessor Michael Bloomberg.

It's really hard to believe that Mr. Vision Zero has such zero vision.

Tags: New York City


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