Later this week, the Bloomberg administration will unveil the parameters of its big plans for rezoning Midtown East. While the specifics of the plan still remain scant, one bit of news was revealed today when both Crain’s and the Post revealed that Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden is lobbying to have Vanderbilt Avenue turned into another one of the administration’s patented pedestrian plazas.
The proposal is not yet a definite, but Mayor Bloomberg supported it all the same at a press conference today for the city’s initiative to create micro-apartments.
“I think you gotta stop and say what are the streets for?” the mayor told reporters when asked about the proposal, never denying it. “They are for transportation. What is the basic first kind of transportation? It’s walking. And then you should look after that and see whether other things can fit in.”
The plan is similar to those on Broadway and other corners of the city, where an under-utilized strip of roadway will be closed to vehicular traffic, in this case the two-lane road running along Grand Central Terminal from 42nd to 47th streets. The mayor pointed out that the street is lightly used and therefore an appropriate place for a pedestrian plaza, especially with the heavy foot traffic going into and out of the train station. Improvements to the open space would likely be funded by the sale of air rights to adjacent landlords, as The Observer had previously reported.
The mayor stressed that emergency vehicles would still have access to the street and Grand Central Terminal, a concern raised by one of the reporters who brought up the issue.
“Vanderbilt is a street that gets virtually no traffic,” the mayor said. “There’s some but very small.” The strip is especially quiet, not just for cars but pedestrians, as well. But new towers along the avenue could mean an enlivened street, as well.