Last week, in that languid time between Christmas and New Years’, the City of New York celebrated the completion of a major public works project—not the Second Avenue subway, but an above-ground reconstruction of one of the world’s busiest intersections.
Almost eight years ago, the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled plans to dramatically transform Manhattan’s Times Square. The $55 million vision, conceived by New York–based Snøhetta, replaced car-clogged streets with pedestrian plazas on Broadway in Times Square between West 42nd and West 47th streets. The project, which spans 85,000 square feet of former roadway, broke ground in 2013.
Officials praised the improvements at a December 28 ceremony. “Being able to carve out two acres of new space for pedestrians in one of the world’s most popular plazas is a remarkable gift to the tens of millions of people who visit the ‘Crossroads of the World’ each year,” said Department of Design and Construction (DDC) commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora, in a statement. “Times Square is now equipped with more resilient sewer systems, wider sidewalks, ample seating, and an emphasis on pedestrian safety that will serve generations to come.”
Times Square before and after, December 2016. (Courtesy DOT)
Changes to the “bowtie” were first spearheaded by former DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Now tourists and New Yorkers (if there are any who go willingly) can enjoy new benches, chairs, and tables dotting the five plazas, wider sidewalks, as well as a raised bike lane along 7th Avenue.
“With the changes unveiled today, Times Square is now a safer and more welcoming place for the millions of residents, commuters and tourists who visit and pass through it every day,” Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized. “I am so proud that our agencies could come together and finish their incredible work before the new year, ending the disruption that invariably comes with big and complex construction projects.”