With seven blocks along Broadway in Times Square and Herald Square closed to vehicular traffic for pedestrian promenading pleasure (oh, and to ease traffic congestion too) on Sunday, New Yorkers and tourists alike have been testing out the suddenly clear streets. The Broadway pedestrian plazas are between 42nd and 47th Streets and between 33rd and 35th Streets, and in the Times Square stretch, there were lawn chairs for perambulators.
A Queens resident was enthusiastic to the Post, "It'll encourage people to drive less and walk around more. It raises awareness about alternate transportation and cleaner air. I think New Yorkers can adjust to anything... It's a little chaotic right now, but a place like this, in the middle of Manhattan, will be very unique." The NY Times spied a couple who made the trip all the way from Inwood—with their 14-month-old child in tow—to see the change—the wife said, "I like the experience because now I don’t feel like I’m competing with cars."
And a European tourist was approving, telling the Daily News, "This is good, I must say. In Amsterdam, where I live, in the city center, you're not allowed to drive. It feels a lot safer that way." But naturally, there were detractors—namely the drivers, such as the cabbies who complained to the News: One said, "I think it's really stupid. It's going to mess up all the traffic in midtown" and another worried, "The [pedicab] bikers will take away our business because taxis can't pick up people in front of Macy's anymore."
The project is the brainchild of Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan; she told WCBS 2, "There'll be a period of adjustment as people get used to the new traffic patterns. But we believe particularly on Sixth Avenue we're going to see some immediate relief." She has also emphasized it's a work in progress and that adjustments may be made.
NY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff tells those worried about Times Square losing its je ne sais quoi, "Well, I’m happy to report that, a day after the stretch of Broadway between 42nd and 47th Streets was closed to cars, the soul of Times Square remains intact. The neon still sparkles. Tourists still wander around bewildered. The whiff of last night’s junk food still hangs in the air," but says the jury is still out on the plan, "I worry about the character of the mall, with its string of disconnected plazas....they feel like odd leftover spaces. Until the city commissions a plan for a more detailed design, we won’t know what they will become."