December 18, 2022
Building on Recent “New New York” Report and Incredibly Popular, Largest-Ever Holiday Season-Specific Open Street, Vision for Fifth Avenue Will Prioritize Pedestrians, Cyclists, Mass Transit, and the Public Realm
Planning Process Will Bring Together Unique Public-Private Partnership With Stakeholders Across East Midtown and Build on Years of Study of This Crucial Corridor
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today launched a major new visioning process to reimagine Fifth Avenue — from Bryant Park at 42nd Street to Central Park at 59th Street — as a safer, less congested, pedestrian-centered boulevard that also prioritizes cyclists, mass transit, and the public realm. Bringing together city government and community stakeholders across East Midtown, the process will draw on the years of study of this critical corridor — one of the world’s leading shopping, office, and tourism destinations and a key economic engine for the neighborhood and the city — to craft a plan that will make Fifth Avenue more appealing to residents, workers, and visitors with world-class public space.
The new effort builds on the “New New York: Making New York Work for Everyone” action plan released last week by Mayor Adams and New York Governor Hochul and on the widely popular, largest-ever holiday season-specific Open Street on Fifth Avenue and around Rockefeller Center, which Mayor Adams visited this afternoon.
“Fifth Avenue is an iconic corridor and an engine of our Midtown economy. But it is also an unmissable opportunity to show the city and the country how world-class public space can help create vibrant central business districts,” said Mayor Adams. “New York isn’t coming back, New York is back. But New Yorkers don’t sit on our hands — we will continue to bring everyone to the table, come up with innovative ideas together, and make our city safer, fairer, and more prosperous.”
“As a world-class city and destination, New York City needs a world-class, pedestrian-forward avenue,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “From historic Central Park to the iconic Bryant Park, Fifth Avenue has the potential to become an even grander corridor, open to New Yorkers and international tourists alike. I look forward to working with the stakeholders for this important planning process as we design an even more inviting Fifth Avenue.”
“Reimagining and rebuilding our streets and public spaces is the most effective path toward neighborhood recovery, economic recovery, and long-term sustainability,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “Building on the success of our Fifth Avenue Open Street, we will deliver a world-class boulevard connecting Central Park to Bryant Park and take a critical step towards a ‘New New York’ and a better, bolder city.”
The “New New York” action plan reimagines New York’s business districts as vibrant 24/7 destinations as a critical goal for the city’s economic recovery, with public realm improvements being one key initiative. Mayor Adams’ holiday season Open Streets plan for Fifth Avenue and the area around Rockefeller Center demonstrated the clear demand for increased pedestrian space and significant benefits for local businesses — in line with the findings of the New York City Department of Transportation’s (DOT) October 2022 “Streets for Recovery” report.
The city will look to identify and implement early action improvements in 2023, with the vision plan and construction plan expected to be completed in two years. While details of today’s plan will come out of that process, Mayor Adams outlined the following key goals for his vision for Fifth Avenue:
The planning process will incorporate a range of data and other factors, including pedestrian traffic patterns, commuting trends based on changing work patterns, and the implementation of congestion pricing.
Early in 2023, New York City’s lead agencies — the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and DOT — will contract with a design firm to begin the process. Local stakeholders will convene as part of a vision plan steering group. In addition to city and state support, the plan announced today will be funded in part by a novel public-private partnership, led by several Midtown stakeholders, including the Fifth Avenue Association, the Grand Central Partnership, the Bryant Park Association, and the Central Park Conservancy. As part of the planning process, the steering group will identify immediate and near-term improvements to the corridor using DOT’s existing street design manual to better support local businesses, pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users — accelerating the work to turn Fifth Avenue into a world-class promenade and business boulevard.
“Through the mayor’s leadership, we have shown the incredible demand for Open Streets all around New York City, but what we saw on Fifth Avenue this past month was game-changing,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “Over December, the Fifth Avenue Open Street proved that a street that is more welcoming to pedestrians is also great for business. We look forward to working with EDC and our local partners to come up with a plan that continues to prioritize sustainable uses on this iconic street.”
“Seeing the packed crowds move through the holiday Open Street along Fifth Avenue gives us a glimpse into the future of how we can reimagine Midtown Manhattan,” said NYCEDC President and CEO Andrew Kimball. “Coming off the heels of the ‘New New York’ action plan, this type of bold thinking and unique public-private partnership will make Fifth Avenue a more vibrant destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike.”
“Commercial corridors, and the small businesses that make them special, are crucial to the economic well-being of our city,” said New York City Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin D. Kim. “By enhancing one of our liveliest corridors for pedestrians and cyclists alike, this iconic area will attract even more tourists and residents. This plan directly promotes the desired pedestrian activity our small businesses need to continue to lead our city’s economic recovery.”
“After two years studying this corridor, we are thrilled to work with Mayor Adams and his team on reimagining Fifth Avenue for the future,” said Ed Hogan, board chair, Fifth Avenue Association. “Fifth Avenue has been an economic powerhouse for the city and a leader in retail, tourism, and office space. However, there hasn’t been a public investment in over 100 years. The sidewalks can’t accommodate the crowds, and the streets are overly congested. Open Streets has shown how improving the pedestrian experience can draw more New Yorkers and tourists to this iconic global corridor. We thank Mayor Adams for his leadership and acknowledging the importance of Fifth Avenue to the overall resurgence of the midtown business district.”
“We are excited by the proposal for a pedestrian pathway from Central Park to Bryant Park, connecting two of New York City’s premier green spaces,” said Dan Biederman, president, Bryant Park Corporation. “This will make life more convenient for visitors and New Yorkers alike. We look forward to partnering with the city and state to make this a reality.”
“For the past four decades, Grand Central Partnership and its stakeholders have been committed to improving the shopping, working, living, and commuting experience along one of the world’s most recognizable business corridors: Fifth Avenue,” said Fred Cerullo, president and CEO, Grand Central Partnership. “By supporting the Fifth Avenue vision plan, we reaffirm our support and commitment to working with city agencies and our stakeholders to reimagine and revitalize this premier destination for years to come.”
“Putting people at the center of how we design our open spaces makes our city more livable and equitable,” said Betsy Smith, president and CEO, Central Park Conservancy. “The Central Park Conservancy is proud to join with other civic partners to support the Adams administration in helping to create public spaces that are vibrant and inviting for all and serve to ensure that New York remains a world-class city and a magnet for talent.”
“Fifth Avenue is among the most iconic and most heavily-used corridors in Manhattan, and a new vision that better prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit riders will be good for all who work in and visit the area,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “The incredible success of the holiday pedestrianization shows how transformative this process could be, and I’m looking forward to working with the mayor, the Fifth Avenue Association, advocates, and local stakeholders to make this corridor safer, more pleasant, and more welcoming for all.”
“Anyone who traveled Fifth Avenue this holiday season experienced the benefits of opening this corridor for pedestrian use,” said New York City Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, chair, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “This bold vision for Fifth Avenue will improve street safety and boost business along one of the busiest streets in New York. I applaud the administration’s efforts to make Midtown Manhattan’s streets safe, enjoyable, and accessible for all.”
“Fifth Avenue is the heart of New York City, and transforming this bustling commercial corridor will be a boon for local small businesses,” said New York City Councilmember Julie Menin. “Developing this critical avenue into a world-class promenade and business boulevard will create a safe and spacious environment for local residents, workers, and visitors from around the world. I thank Mayor Adams for bringing together a new public-private partnership to reimagine this shopping destination.”
“Fifth Avenue is the center of the greatest city on earth,” said New York City Councilmember Keith Powers. “From Central Park to Bryant Park to Rockefeller Center, New Yorkers rely on Fifth Avenue to work, shop, visit, and live. That’s why I’ve been calling for a new plan to reimagine and transform Fifth Avenue. Thanks to Mayor Eric Adams for having a big vision for New York City’s most important avenue.”
“Mayor Adams has given a wonderful Christmas gift to all New Yorkers in announcing his administration’s plan to transform this long stretch of Fifth Avenue into a pedestrian-oriented boulevard and transit corridor,” said Eric McClure, executive director, StreetsPAC. “The ongoing holiday Open Street around Rockefeller Center has underscored just how much demand exists for enhanced public space across the city and proven once again that New Yorkers and out-of-town visitors alike will flock to car-free streets if given half a chance. We’re thrilled that the days of penning tens of thousands of shoppers, tourists, office workers, and residents into a pedestrian Pottersville, while cars hog most of Fifth Avenue, will soon be over, and we look forward to supporting the Fifth Avenue visioning process in any way we can.”
“Now is our chance to move Fifth forward by putting people first on one of the world’s most iconic streets. A redesigned Fifth Avenue, complete with protected bike lanes, expanded pedestrian space, and better bus lanes, will create more pathways for people to work, celebrate, and shop in Midtown,” said Danny Harris, executive director, Transportation Alternatives. “Today’s announcement from Mayor Adams and Commissioner Rodriguez is a promising step forward. We look forward to working with them on making this vision a reality as soon as possible.”
“The verdict is clear: New Yorkers love safe and joyful public space, where they can cross the street safely, take in the sights, and chat with their friends,” says Jackson Chabot, director of advocacy and organizing, Open Plans. “The Fifth Avenue holiday Open Street has been a stellar proof of concept, and now is the time to go bold. This plan meets the moment. We commend the mayor for his commitment to centering people who walk, bike, and ride the bus in this visioning process. Fifth Avenue is iconic, and this re-imagination process will solidify it as a premier destination.”