NYC As Design Experiment

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Times Square

Creating a pedestrian plaza in Times Square was "the stupidest idea I’d ever heard," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But it only took his transportation commissioner ten minutes to change his mind. And now the area, he said, is retail gold.

The plaza was installed in 2009 as an experiment; by 2010, it was deemed a permanent change. Now the city credits it with doubling commercial rents. "Forever 21 is open from 8 in the morning until 2 in the morning," said Bloomberg. "40,000 people come through their store. It’s unbelievable."

The mayor and his NYC DOT head Janette Sadik-Khan talk about the plaza -- and their approach to street redesign -- in Fast Company, which included the conversation as part of its Co.Design 50 series.

The pair were initially unsure that some of their changes would be successful. What was immediately apparently, though, was the push back. "The innovators are the ones with their arrows in their backs, as the euphemism goes," said Bloomberg.

But because many of the projects were relatively inexpensive and quick to install and remove, they felt they had the freedom to experiment.

"One of the benefits of being able to try things out quickly is, if doesn’t work, fine, put it back," said Sadik-Khan. "No harm, no foul. And that gave us the confidence to move forward with something like a Times Square."

Read the conversation here.