City Adds to ‘Pedestrian-Friendly’ Areas of Broadway – Streetsblog New York City

Not only Broadway’s theaters are getting their groove back.

A year and nine months after introducing a “toolkit” for further pedestrian improvements on Broadway, and scant weeks before the end of the de Blasio administration, the city on Monday unveiled six pedestrian-friendly blocks along New York’s iconic, but still mostly car-welcoming, boulevard.

The new zones — including one car-free block between 39th and 40th streets, and five slow-street or shared-street blocks between 21st and 23rd streets, 38th and 39th streets, 48th and 50th streets — comprise half of the Department of Transportation’s 12-block “Broadway Vision” project for the 2.5-mile stretch between Columbus Circle and Union Square. At a presser on Monday on the new slow-street segment in the Flatiron District, Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman said another six blocks were on schedule for completion next year.

The shared streets feature pedestrian seating, bike lane, and s-shaped “chicanes” that are supposed to slow car traffic to 5 mph. The pedestrianized plaza does not allow drivers access at all.

The six blocks — which add to pedestrian-friendly areas of Times, Herald, Madison and Union squares installed during the Bloomberg administration — are a far cry from the vision of safe-streets activists, who have advocated for a car-free Broadway from Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side to Houston Street on the Lower East Side. They are also a long time in coming — delayed by the pandemic, but also seven years and nearly 10 months from the start of the administration that said it was keen on building on the legacy of its predecessor. Activists nonetheless hailed the expansion as they pressed for more.

“The expansion of pedestrian space on Broadway is very exciting and works to realize the full potential of transforming Manhattan’s core corridor into a people-focused place,” said Katherine Nessel, co-lead of Transportation Alternatives’s Car-Free Broadway campaign. “I hope the next administration builds on this progress toward a car-free Broadway and also pursues a true linear park along the avenue.”

The new plaza block on Broadway between 39th and 40th streets. Photo: Eve Kessler
The new plaza block on Broadway between 39th and 40th streets. Photo: Eve Kessler

For Gutman, however, the shared space represents a culmination. “This is a genuine sharing of the streets responsibly and safely for all New Yorkers,” he said. “It’s a complete re-imagining of how New Yorkers enters interact with our streetscapes.”

Gutman and Mayor de Blasio, who arrived to cut a ribbon with other elected officials, credited the open-streets movement with spurring the change.

“A shared street means we focus on each other, we focus on life. Not just making everything about the vehicles around us, but more about the people around us” the mayor said. “We learned in this pandemic things that we didn’t know before. And we wish we had never heard of the coronavirus, but we did learn together some ways to do things different and better.”

Council Member Carlina Rivera, who wrote the legislation making open streets a permanent part of the DOT’s mandate, said she hoped that the department would do better. “I…

Read More: City Adds to ‘Pedestrian-Friendly’ Areas of Broadway – Streetsblog New York City

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