071108bwayblvd.jpgRendering of "Broadway Boulevard" courtesy DOT.

Surprise! Without a formal public announcement, the city has been moving ahead with a $700,000 plan to shrink part of Broadway in midtown from a four-lane to a two-lane street and use the rest of the space for a public esplanade, which the DOT is calling “Broadway Boulevard.” The change will be complete on August 15th, when the east side of Broadway between 42nd Street and Herald Square is turned over to a bicycle lane and a pedestrian walkway, teeming with cafe tables, chairs, umbrellas and flower-filled planters.

Speaking to the Times, local fashion worker and naysayer Corey Baker predicts that because of their proximity to Broadway traffic, lunchtime diners will “have carbon monoxide in their tuna fish.” But transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan insists that the new Broadway Boulevard, designed by Danish urban planner Jan Gehl, will ease traffic as drivers to eschew that tighter stretch of Broadway for the avenues.

The local business improvement districts will pay for the upkeep of the esplanade, which mainly includes buying and tending to the plants for the planters, which will be the only thing shielding pedestrians from the passing traffic. And not all the men on the street who talked to the Times were as sour as Baker; Andre Fisher, a 54-year-old clothing manufacturer, drew a line in the sand between drivers and sitters: “I think we’ve got enough places for cars and not enough places for people to sit.” To the barricades – er, planters!