Street Fighters Too
That’s the conclusion the Post came to this morning, backed by anecdotal evidence from drivers.
Janette Sadik-Khan, the sui generis city transportation commissioner, was standing on 51st Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues as rush hour was just starting last week. Rather, she was standing at the intersection with 6½th Avenue, her latest asphalt confection. The pedestrian passageway was designated and demarcated about two months ago, connecting up a series of plazas running from here to 57th Street. Ms. Sadik-Khan was out for her first official stroll.
“It’s kind of a secret garden, one of the new secret spaces we’ve helped create; we’ve got 500 of them in the city and we’re trying to connect people better to their surroundings, make the city that much nicer,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said.
She gazed up at the cute little green street sign one of her construction crews had installed. “6½th Avenue” it read, like a sign on any other corner, though it, along with five others along the seven-block passageway, are the only ones in the city bearing fractions. The commissioner looked down and smiled. “It’s like Harry Potter,” she said. “The 9¾ platform. Or Being John Malkovich, with the 7½ floor.”
“I love it.”
Best Laid Plans
“I think this is a very important opportunity for this community to back this avenue, which was given to the developers decades ago,” Nancy Goshow said last Thursday night, during a meeting of Community Board 5. “The developers have gotten all the benefits for too long, and it is time we as a community take back these spaces and really push them to be improved and made as nice as possible.”
Ms. Goshow was one of a majority of board members who declared her support for what has come to be known as 6½th Avenue, a Department of Transportation proposal to link a series of arcades and public plazas running from 51st to 57th streets between Sixth and Seventh avenues. The spaces were created through a special zoning district in the 1980s and early ’90s, and are made up of Zuccotti-like privately owned public space, or POPS. In exchange for building the spaces, developers got the opportunity to build bigger buildings.
Last year, the community board, at the suggestion of Friends of POPS, a pro-POPS civic group, asked the Department of Transportation to study ways it might connect these spaces. They are already a popular pedestrian thoroughfare, especially during lunch time and at rush hour, providing a less hectic alternative to the avenues on either side. The board wanted to make the spaces even more inviting.
The city’s Department of Transportation is putting the brakes on its plan for 6½th Avenue, yielding to oncoming concerns about the implementation of a plan to construct new crosswalks that would connect pedestrian plazas running from 51st to 57th streets between Sixth and Seventh avenues. The plan was due to be put to a vote at Community Board 5 last Thursday, but the department has delayed its presentation for a month to help pave the way for its approval.
There had been some concerns about whether or not traffic impacts on the corridor had been sufficiently addressed and what the best means to mitigate traffic at pedestrian crossings might be. “It’s not going to be quite so simple at the full board, and they wanted to take a step back and make sure they had all the answers,” one community board member told The Observer. As we previously reported, the board’s transportation committee approved the 6½th Avenue plan unanimously.
What if the city built a huge public park in the heart of Midtown, stretching half a mile over seven city blocks, about as big as the first phase of the High Line? What if that park already existed, dating to the 1980s, largely ignored but for the most knowing New Yorkers?
“We’re basically building a new pedestrian avenue in the heart of Midtown, one of the densest, busiest places on Earth,” Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said during an interview last week.
Call it 6½th Avenue.