(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) The city has chosen local artist Molly Dilworth to paint the five pedestrian plazas at Times Square and Herald Square. Dilworth topped some 150 competitors to win $15,000 and the honor of having her designs installed at the “crossroads of the world” beginning in July and remaining for 18 months. City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan says Dilworth’s designs, called “Cool Water, Hot Island” are based on a NASA-heat map of Manhattan. Sadik-Khan says the blues of the design will complement the oranges and reds of Times Square’s billboards.
Tim Tomkins, the head of the Times Square Alliance, said in an interview with WNYC last month that the design competition was meant to integrate the Times Square pedestrian plazas into the New York City streetscape, and attract locals as well as tourists to the plazas.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed parts of Broadway to car traffic a year ago. Some businesses and motorists objected because they said it scrambled traffic patterns, but Mayor Bloomberg’s traffic analysts disagreed. In February, citing data that traffic in most directions was flowing more quickly and pedestrian safety had improved, the mayor said he would make the plazas permanent.
The plazas have been derided by most cabbies, but have drawn scores of city planners and designers from around the globe, who see the plazas as a model public space.
On Friday, the Times reported that the plazas have slowed some bus routes, though the DOT vigorously pushed back, arguing that consolidation of the routes means buses come more frequently, and that few passengers experience the longer times because they are measured over the routes' entire lengths.
Last summer, the city put out mesh lawn-chairs in the plazas, which were widely derided. Those chairs were scooped up mid-summer and replaced with metal café tables. The café tables will remain in the new plazas until a more permanent design is selected in late 2011.
Dilworth’s work is characterized by large, colorful, abstract, site-specific paintings, including many on Manhattan rooftops. Here's the artists' flickr feed.