Union Square Pedestrian Plaza Unveiled Today

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(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  Crossing the streets around New York City's Union Square got a little bit easier today, with the official completion of the redesign of the sidewalks and streets surrounding the area. The neighborhood, which hosts the city's flagship Greenmarket four days a week, sees tens of thousands of visitors on a daily basis, and there have been 95 pedestrian injury crashes from 2004 to 2008. The updates include a bike line and changes to the traffic pattern, and a pedestrian plaza has been added to the east side of Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets.

Looking north on Broadway from Union Square (Kate Hinds)

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan says the redesign does more than make the busy area safer for pedestrians--it looks to the city's future.

"If we're going to continue to grow and thrive as a city, and accommodate a million more people between now and 2030," she says, "we have to rethink how we use our streets."

This is music to the ears of Robert Kramer, a street vendor who has been selling hand-rolled cigars on Broadway and 17th Street for the past 12 years. "I think it's a great idea. Best idea yet," he says. "You don't have all that traffic, all that smoke and exhaust fumes coming down all the time."

But Jenny Carroll of Sunnyside, Queens, said the changes were not only unnecessary, but will be a burden on the people who come to the Union Square neighborhood to shop. " I think we need more parking spaces," she said. " I'm sorry about the green people, but there is a park right here, and when you come to the stores, you don't have a place to park."

The pedestrian plaza has 150 pieces of furniture, including bistro tables, chairs, and umbrellas (Kate Hinds)

The NYC DOT said that the pedestrian plaza cost $500,000 to build. Jennifer Falk, the executive director of the Union Square Partnership, said that it will cost about $100,000 a year to maintain.

Learn more about the redesign here.