Broadway Walks: Bloomberg Plans Pedestrian-Friendly Zone

and Geneva Sands-Sadowitz, Lindsay Lazarski, Nick Loomis, Mike Reicher

Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to close stretches of Broadway favors feet over wheels, but some question if it has the legs to stand on.

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As New York City Councilman Tony Avella says, nobody drives in Manhattan for the pleasure of it. They drive there because they have to. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is adding to the aggravation of some of those drivers through his proposed changes to Broadway as part of the “Green Light for Midtown” pilot program – set to take effect on Memorial Day weekend of 2009. See more details about the plan in the fact sheet and the map of the affected areas below.

Few dispute that the traffic problems on Broadway need the attention of city government, but many skeptics question if this is the best way to resolve them. Avella, who is running against Bloomberg in the upcoming mayoral election, is one of the critics who say this trial solution isn’t worth its $1.5 million price tag.

“These changes will just push traffic to other avenues,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea and it’s certainly not a good idea to carry out without consulting anyone.”


  • Close vehicle traffic on Broadway from:
    47th Street to 42nd Street
    35th Street to 33rd Street
  • East-west traffic will not be restricted
  • Closure will add over three acres of open space
  • Planters and “greenery” added at 24 location
  • Estimated cost of $1.5 million
  • Fire lane for emergency vehicle access
  • Green lights lengthened by 21 seconds on 6th Avenue (from 32 seconds today to 53 seconds)
  • Preliminary roadway improvements in April 2009
  • Traffic closed and installation of planters and pedestrian “refuge islands” beginning Memorial Day weekend
  • Public meetings from through May 2009, beginning with:

March 11 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Broadway / Green Light for Midtown Open House, Radisson Martinique Broadway

March 12 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm – Broadway / Green Light for Midtown Open House, Radisson Martinique Broadway

The Affected Areas

Click the lines on the map for a block-by-block description of Broadway.

View Larger Map

Other New Yorkers agree with Avella and say that Bloomberg is acting unilaterally in this important decision. “He just wants to go his way, as he’s trying to get reelected,” said Jack Wayne Sutton, a hawker handing out flyers for the New York Golf Center. “I don’t blame him, but he should just sit down and ask the public what they think.”

One group that would have liked to be consulted is the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Bill Lindauer, the group’s campaign coordinator and a 30-year driver, didn’t like the idea at first but he now thinks Bloomberg’s plan could achieve its goal of reducing traffic, therein making things easier for cab drivers. But he says he’s a wait-and-see kind of guy.

“It could be a brilliant idea or hell-brained idea.”

Members of the alliance recently met with the DOT and offered recommendations, including placing taxi stands in parts of Herald Square and making at least one “taxi only” lane on Broadway from 50th Street to 44th Street.

Whether or not they accept the recommendations, the Bloomberg administration is moving forward with its basic plans, which they announced in late February.

“For Midtown traffic – Broadway is a problem hidden in plain sight,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a statement. “We’re going to the heart of the matter and piloting a simple solution to a complex problem.” She also said that the plan “will work with the grid instead of against it.”

So why is Broadway working against the grid?

In 1811, urban planners laid out the grid New Yorkers are familiar with today, but left Broadway running diagonally across Manhattan. This configuration creates congestion problems at the points where Broadway intersects with both east-west-running streets and north-south-running avenues – namely, the areas where Bloomberg wants to cut vehicle traffic.

Whether it was the 1811 officials who made a mistake or the 2009 ones, time will tell. Either way, Bloomberg left himself a back door with the temporary plan.

“We are going to closely monitor the results to determine if this pilot works and should be extended beyond its trial period,” he said at a press conference.

Listen below to hear how local workers, commuters, and tourists will be affected by the mayor’s proposal to close traffic on Broadway:

Broadway Bikes

Reporters Lindsay Lazarski and Nick Loomis demonstrate, with the help of a helmet cam, the bicyclist’s experience on Broadway: