Friday, February 12

An historic day for Broadway

New York City mayor Bloomberg has announced yesterday that the Broadway public space experiment through Times Square and Herald Square will, after an eight month trial period, be made permanent. From the press conference:

"I think the issue is, are the roads for multiple uses – everybody, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists – or are they just for motorists? And in this day and age, if you go around the world, all the other great cities have already tried to reduce the number of cars on their streets and convert some of the open spaces into space for other people."
Janette Sadik-khan, the city DOT commissioner, expressed the intent to "transform the plazas into iconic spaces worthy of their iconic setting."

To show how historic this decision is, I've dug up a couple of Times Square illustrations from previous decades. The first drawing of Times Square is from the the 1974 book Pedestrian Revolution. The source is not cited, so I assume it is the vision of authors:

This 1981 drawing of Times Square is from NY Office of Midtown Planning:

Finally, the illustration released by NY DOT last year:


Josh Grigsby said...

A crucial statement here is, "...all the other great cities have already tried to reduce the number of cars on their streets and convert some of the open spaces into space for other people."

I don't necessarily mean this as a putdown, but it's amazing to see how high up the food chain the sheep mentality extends. It is so difficult for decision makers to effect a change because it is right; rightness must also be accompanied by momentum. It's as if the inertia of the status quo can only be overcome by the cumulative snowballing of an unofficial city collective.

I was just reading about Copenhagen, about how fifty years ago it was as auto-dependent as anywhere else, about how the Danes bristled at the notion of giving up cars for bikes, about how they argued that they were the Danes, not the Italians, and cars were what Danes preferred.

NYC is hardly auto-dependent, but as the most significant American city it's actions carry weight. I'm glad to see it following the lead of international cities such as Copenhagen while taking the lead domestically.

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