If the Bloomberg administration wanted media attention and buzz, they got it when the mayor and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan decided to close several blocks of Broadway near Times Square and Herald Square and turn the space into public plazas, complete with a bunch of chairs, tables and benches strewn around for tired tourists looking for a place to smoke or New Yorkers looking for a place to sun-tan. What the “experiment” may have achieved in cuteness, it failed in smart urban policy.
Unfortunately, the city seems determined to continue this experiment through August, at which point this Truly Bad Idea may become permanent.
Traffic in midtown is bad enough without introducing gimmicks that create more gridlock. The city claims that traffic will actually flow more efficiently, by eliminating backups at the diagonal Broadway intersections. If so, we’ve yet to see evidence of it.
City Hall’s odd penchant for shutting down traffic arteries to supposedly help traffic move better is wearing a little thin: One is reminded of the harebrained idea to close the southbound Park Avenue tunnel.
If the city wants to improve pedestrian life, then City Hall should crack down on illegal peddlers who take up valuable sidewalk space and do not collect or pay sales tax. Simply speaking, Broadway is not a park; it is a street, and one whose route running the length of Manhattan island were determined by Native Americans. Trying to pretend that cabs and trucks don’t need to navigate midtown is like trying to pretend New York isn’t a world-class city whose economy depends on the bustle of commerce. New Yorkers need transportation to work smoothly more than they need a nice place to drink a smoothie. The city has wonderful parks for tourists and residents looking for a place to relax. Broadway is also not a boardwalk: We have one of those on Coney Island, one that could use some fixing up. Indeed, investing in sprucing up our parks, rather than in beach chairs and umbrellas, would be a better way to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.