FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release #09-036
Contact: Seth Solomonow/Nicole Garcia: (212) 839-4850
DOT Commissioner Announces Completion Of Green Light For Midtown Construction
With the construction phase ended and new signature spaces at Times and Herald Squares complete, DOT officially marks start of the Green Light for Midtown pilot project to ease congestion and improve safety
New street furniture and colorful pavement treatments give new life to former road space
NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today joined business and industry leaders to announce the completion of construction for the City's Green Light for Midtown project, kicking off the evaluation process for the ambitious pilot program to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety at targeted Midtown locations while also unveiling new street furniture at the pedestrian plazas in Times and Herald Squares. Announced in February by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the project streamlines traffic patterns in Midtown, most notably at Times and Herald Squares, two iconic destinations equally known for being logjams for pedestrians and motorists. By knitting together Seventh Avenue through Times Square, where Broadway crosses, and by simplifying a complicated three-way intersection to two at Sixth Avenue through Herald Square, traffic pinch points that caused delays throughout Midtown are eliminated. Rerouting traffic from Broadway also allowed for the creation of sweeping pedestrian plazas from 47th to 42nd Streets and from 35th to 33rd Streets. The new plazas, furnished today for the first time with hundreds of sleek tables, chairs and benches, planters and colorful paving to demarcate the pedestrian areas, create a more inviting, animated streetscape for New Yorkers and tourists alike. The Commissioner was joined by Tim Tompkins of the Times Square Alliance, Dan Biederman of the 34th Street Partnership, Charlotte St. Martin of the Broadway League, Mike Stengel of the New York Marriott Marquis, small business owners and representatives from the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, the Flatiron Partnership and the Fashion Business Improvement District for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Broadway between 44th and 43rd Streets to inaugurate the new spaces.
“Broadway is ready for its close-up as we measure impacts on travel and the pedestrian experience at Times and Herald Squares, two of the City's most celebrated spaces, which are also legendary choke points for street and sidewalk congestion,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “With construction completed, mobility and safety will be held up to a yardstick, and with the addition of new tables and chairs, everyone who visits Times and Herald Squares will get the best seats to see the sights, sounds and energy that are distinctly New York.”
Together with the street furniture, the new traffic configuration and landscaping transform areas into world-class streetscapes that just months ago were known more for congestion and crowding. Times and Herald Squares now boast sturdy tables, chairs and benches that complement and enhance the character of the streetscape. In Times Square, red tables with hundreds of red and gray chairs and a handful of silver benches and tall tabletops enliven the space and provide spots for people to gather with friends and family or simply take a moment to rest. Similarly, Herald Square features dark green tables and hundreds of green folding chairs as well as tall tabletops and silver benches that accent the space. Beige gravel brightens the spaces and defines new seating zones. Colorful paint—burgundy and green in Times and Herald Squares, respectively—outlines the new walking spaces and breathes new life into the former Broadway roadbed. In Times Square, the first of the City's new CityRacks bike racks—the “Hoop”—have been installed along Broadway between 43rd and 44th Streets and more will follow.
Each plaza also features a design of painted circles in lighter shades, creating the City's first “PolkaDOT plazas.” These playful markings help guide pedestrians from one top cultural destination to others along Broadway. The painted areas are coated with a special treatment designed to reduce surface temperature and keep the pedestrian spaces cooler. Additionally, Broadway from Columbus Circle to 57th Street now includes new public space with seating protected by granite blocks, accents that reference nearby Central Park. More than 100 planters also have been added to “green” Times and Herald Squares along with 24 landscaped islands south to W. 27th Street. To transform these spaces, DOT relied on the help of its many partners, including the Times Square Alliance, the 34th Street Partnership, the Central Park Conservancy and New York City's Department of Parks & Recreation. Each of these organizations will help maintain these spaces throughout the pilot. If made permanent, the plazas will be reconstructed with sturdier materials.
During the three-month construction period, events and activities were held in Times and Herald Squares to ensure that they continued to be attractive, enjoyable destinations and economically viable spaces for local businesses while work was being done. Now that work is complete, the plazas provide more than two-and-a-half acres of new public space for shoppers, office workers and tourists. Ample space is now available for staging public events and activities from musical performances to exercise classes to movie screenings. Importantly, the additional room also expands the front doors to local stores and restaurants and increases the capacity for foot traffic to drive sales.
"Even before the completion of these improvements, both tourists and the New Yorkers who work and pass through Times Square were overwhelmingly positive about opening up Broadway to pedestrians,” said Tim Tompkins, President, Times Square Alliance. “These enhancements will have even more people acknowledging the foresight and creative thinking of the Mayor and the DOT Commissioner. This is turning out to be a great thing for Times Square."
“DOT's Green Light for Midtown program has created the opportunity for the 34th Street Partnership to extend the park amenities and programming of Herald and Greeley Square Parks onto the newly pedestrianized areas of Broadway, more than doubling the amount of quiet, clean, safe, and pleasant space in the neighborhood,” said Dan Biederman, President, 34th Street Partnership. “Office workers, shoppers and sightseers love the additional amenities and programming, retailers appreciate the fact that potential customers are lingering in the district, and traffic is flowing much better than before.”
"The success of the Broadway plazas is evident from the thousands of people who use the space every day to enhance their Times Square experience,” said Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director, Broadway League. “With appropriate traffic supervision, we are hopeful that the ongoing test which has closed Broadway from 42nd to 47th streets will continue to ease congestion on Seventh Avenue for Broadway theatre-goers."
The new design is expected to result in travel-time improvements on Sixth and Seventh Avenues and improve bus speeds for 70,000 daily riders traveling through Midtown. By giving more room to pedestrians and simplifying intersections, the initiative also will enhance safety. The ribbons of public space added to Broadway between 42nd Street and Herald Square reduced traffic-related injuries by 50%. The agency anticipates the Green Light for Midtown project will be equally successful in making Times and Herald Squares even safer, more enjoyable destinations for New Yorkers and tourists. With implementation complete, DOT will begin collecting data to assess the project's impact on mobility and safety. DOT also will work with the business improvement districts and other partners to gather information on the public spaces and their economic effects. The results of the pilot will be tracked closely through the end of the year to determine if the program should continue.
While preliminary work on Broadway began as early as April, Memorial Day weekend officially marked the beginning of transformation of this historic corridor. The street was resurfaced near Columbus Circle and streamlined between Columbus Circle and Times Square. Work also included the narrowing of Broadway between Herald Square and 25th Street. The agency expects the simplified traffic patterns will result in smoother travel throughout Midtown Manhattan.
For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/dot.