New Miracle on 34th Street? Depends on Whom You Ask

Pedestrian mall proposed between 5th and 6th avenues. The cost? $30 million -- at least

By Jeremy Boxerbaum and Glenn Zimmerman
|  Friday, Apr 23, 2010  |  Updated 7:47 PM EDT
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But at what cost?

But at what cost?

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By the end of 2012, you might be able to walk down 34th Street -- right down the middle of it.

Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, at least.

The Bloomberg administration wants to create a new pedestrian mall on that block of 34th Street -- a mall similar to the ones along Broadway at Times Square and Herald Square, according to The New York Times.

Herald Square would be on one end of the new mall and the Empire State Building would be on the other.

The cost? A minimum of $30 million, reports the Times.

The redesign also calls for the part of 34th Street east of Fifth Avenue to become a one-way eastbound street all the way to the East River. The part west of Sixth Avenue would become a one-way westbound street all the way to the Hudson.

However, buses would still travel in both directions in specifically designated bus lanes. A concrete barrier would separate bus traffic from those in the pedestrian mall as a safety measure, according to the plan.

"We expect bus travel times to improve by up to 35 percent, which is something that up to 33,000 passengers that currently travel crosstown will appreciate," New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told the Times.

The proposal marks the mayor's latest effort to discourage driving in the city, reduce congestion and encourage mass transit. City studies suggest the two existing pedestrian malls have had success in reducing traffic-related accidents and increasing the flow of traffic while allowing pedestrians to bask in the joy of a car-free zone.

It's not clear how the design would affect car traffic in the area -- one known for tourist congestion and as a channel for commuters traveling between the Lincoln Tunnel and the Queens-Midtown tunnel. And those who do commute via car or make their living giving others rides are baffled by the suggestion/

"It's very terrible," said cab driver Yahaya Suleiman, "because it's congesting the traffic."

At least one pedestrian expressed his opposition as well.

"That's crazy," said Albert Chu.  "This is a most important street.  Can't be closed."

Public comments will help eventually shape the plan. But if the mayor gets his way, the new mall on 34th Street will be in place by the end of 2012. Drivers will have to find alternate routes.

And millions of feet will hit the street.

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