City Scraps 34th Street Pedestrian Plaza Plans

Proposal had met with heavy opposition from local business owners.

Thursday, Mar 3, 2011  |  Updated 8:12 AM EDT
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New York City has abandoned a plan for a pedestrian plaza in the middle of 34th Street, largely because of traffic concerns.       

Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said Wednesday the department will explore other options, including expanding curb access for deliveries. She declined to be more specific.      

The plan would have banned vehicles from a heavily traveled street between Herald Square and the Empire State Building.      

Businesses and residents complained that a pedestrian plaza would increase traffic in an already congested area and block access to their buildings.

Borough President Scott Stringer said he was pleased the city responded to the sentiments of stakeholders other than itself.

"This is a step in the right direction," Stringer told The Wall Street Journal. "You can't change this street without listening to people and the more [Ms. Sadik-Khan] listens the better the result."

Over the past two years, the city has banned cars from parts of Times Square, Union and Herald squares in an effort to make it more pedestrian friendly.      

But many New Yorkers say the 34th Street-area is busy enough, and closing it down to traffic would only make matters worse.

"You need the traffic flow. If you stop it, it's like stopping a heartbeat," Yvette Mercado, 50, told The New York Post. "It would have been a disaster."

While the city declined to elaborate on other plans it will present later this month, Sadik-Khan said any proposal would be subject to revision and rely heavily on community input.

The proposal to create a 34th Street pedestrian plaza has been hotly debated for years.

Earlier experiments with pedestrian plazas have gotten mixed results. An eight-month pilot program in Times Square that closed two swaths of Broadway to cars in the heart of Manhattan became permanent last year after taxi data revealed hacks had faster trips through Midtown, though crosstown travel worsened for cars and other vehicles.

Locals and tourists alike also expressed approval for the car-free zone, which offers lounge chairs in the summer and has been redesigned with paint and other permanent outdoor features to accommodate large events like concerts and other gatherings.

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