Thursday, February 26

Big changes for Broadway

Big news from Streetsblog New York. Mayor Bloomberg has unveiled plans to turn large swathes of Broadway into car-free pedestrian space. Broadway will be entirely closed to vehicles from 42nd to 47th street, and generous public space will be intertwined throughout the span of the road. According to Aaron Naparstek,

"Mayor Bloomberg's plan for Broadway is, arguably, the boldest and most transformative street reclamation project since Portland, Oregon decided to tear down the Mt. Hood Freeway in 1974."
The New York Times took a bit a of different angle in their coverage, headlining the article "Mayor Plans to Close Parts of Broadway to Traffic," which is a funny choice of a catchphrase because engineers estimate that these changes will actually enhance traffic flow. Anyway ...

When plans were being drawn up for pedestrianizing Broadway last year, I wrote about how much of a model the original urban layout of New York was for town after town across the American frontier. Almost every town has their own Broadway, and the trademark grid-iron street matrix was the plat for almost all downtowns. New York was the model American city.

Of course, that ended decades ago, and urban growth patterns began modeling themselves after Los Angeles or any number of metroplex regions dotting the landscape. I wonder if the new Broadway indicates a renaissance for the New York model, updated to meet the wishes and constraints of the contemporary American reality. Is this new Broadway a harbinger for a coming transformation of its progeny, all of the other Broadways running through downtowns across the country?


CarFree Stupidity said...

If New York is getting behind this type of movement, I think we might be reaching a tipping point.

Eric Orozco said...

A new era is upon us. All thanks to Janette Sadik-Khan. :)

One thing that struck me about every single European / Mediterranean city and town I visited was that they always had at least one "broadway" dedicated solely to pedestrian use. Often along these streets, you will find cafes lining rows of seating facing the street...sometimes up to four rows of seating! They create vivid concourses for people watching. For the folks walking along, the experience is like running the catwalk. These areas truly create convivial urbanism. Just watch what Broadway is about to do for the culture of NYC. The opera has hit the street.

LH said...

Funny story: earlier this decade, I had a consulting gig in the Northern Marianas Islands. One of the islands, Tinian, has 3,000 people on it. No zoning, no street names, no semblance of order . . . and yet, cutting right through the Manhattan-shaped island is a wide road called Broadway. Apparently, one of the mainlanders that helped lay the island's original infrastructure was from New York City!