Yesterday marked the DOT's official opening of the long-awaited improvements to Union Square north and Broadway. The redesign includes four separate lanes across 17th street: a pedestrian lane, a bike lane, a separated lane for cars and trucks, as well as a section specifically for parked vehicles, designed to improve congestion spurred from the Green Market trucks. In addition to the traffic changes, DOT has turned the street into a pedestrian plaza, complete with several of those bright green chairs and tables we've been seeing all over the city lately.
Residents and employees in the area are already noticing a difference. “It’s very nice. I feel much safer,” said a bicycle delivery employee of Chop’t Creative Salad Company, located on 17th Street. Although pedestrians can now walk without the fear of being hit by a car, some feel that issues still remain. While out for a walk with her son in a stroller, one local mom told us, "Now I know I can walk there and not get hit by a car, but you can still get hit by a bike. I watched a clip on YouTube recently of a pedestrian getting hit by a cyclist." There does seem to be confusion surrounding the traffic changes on 17th Street. Some cyclists are disregarding the new bike lane and riding with the cars in the separate vehicle lane, while pedestrians are not paying attention to the designated areas and walking in the bike lane.
And though some local business owners worried that the changes would make it difficult to get deliveries, Dave Rubio, manager at Geox, a shoe store, tells the Post, "It drives traffic into the store. People are able to walk around more slowly and casually. Our traffic has definitely improved since they finished it."
If you’re stopping by the area to check out the new plaza, make sure to see the Fractured Bubble, an art installation on the south end of Union Square Park, by architects Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan of Long Island City. Of their piece, the artists note, “The sukkah is a bubble: ephemeral and transient.” The bubble provides “an opportunity to dwell on—and dwell in impermanence.” You can read more about their collaboration here.