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NYC DOT: Public Plazas Should Be Everywhere — Not Just Manhattan

City also working to shore up Citi Bike's finances

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 10:40 AM

The newly renovated Times Square pedestrian plaza, about a week after it formally reopened A pedestrian plaza in Times Square (Kate Hinds)

(Updated 4:50pm with additional comments) New York City's transportation commissioner said she wants to make sure streets get redesigned all over the city — not just Manhattan.

At a construction industry forum Tuesday morning, Polly Trottenberg (who took the reins from Janette Sadik-Khan in January) was asked if she planned to make any changes to initiatives made famous during the Bloomberg administration, like bike lanes and pedestrian plazas.

In a word: no.

"I think we're really going to build on what the administration did in that regard, and we're going to continue to build out the bicycle network, we're going to continue the plaza program," said Trottenberg. "I think one particular focus that will be part of the de Blasio administration is to really make sure we're pushing those programs out into the other parts of the city that they're not just Manhattan-centric, so to speak, that we really get out make sure we're getting to all five boroughs."

But paying for them — especially pedestrian plazas — will be a challenge. Trottenberg pointed out that in the past, when the city created pedestrian space in Union Square, Times Square, and Herald Square, the projects had financial support from local Business Improvement Districts. But, she said, in less business-rich neighborhoods, "you don't necessarily have big BIDs, you don't necessarily have deep-pocketed parties that can step in and maintain those public spaces in perpetuity, but we really want to make sure we do that in all parts of the city. That's one of the challenges we're having in creating public space, inviting public space all over New York."

Trottenberg joked that she had sidestepped some of the controversy heaped the previous administration for re-engineering some New York City streets. "I'm blessed because in a lot of ways my predecessor broke a lot of eggs," she said, referring to former DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who has been alternately praised and excoriated for bringing bike lanes, public plazas, and a bike share program to New York.

But times have changed. "Now, my line is essentially 'demand exceeds supply,'" said Trottenberg. "I have so many folks all over the city — elected officials, community groups, community boards — coming to me and wanting more bike lanes, wanting bike share stations, wanting plazas, wanting us to see what we can do to make their neighborhoods more livable, more walkable, and more inviting...part of my challenge now is coming up with the resources to meet the demand."

At a separate event, also held Tuesday, NYC Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen expressed strong support for Citi Bike, the city's financially precarious bike share program. Glen, who helped put together the deal to finance the program while at Goldman Sachs, said her former employer is "getting exactly the return on their investment that they expected."

But, she acknowledged, "it's been a bumpy road — pardon the pun." Glen said the city is working "to infuse more capital into bike share so that we can sort of get it back on the road."

Once that recapitalization happens, the city can then look at expansion. "I think everybody would agree," she said, "it's fundamentally changed the gestalt of lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn......it's fantastic. So we're going to do everything we can to make sure that it's healthy and that it expands in a responsible way."

"The mayor and I are completely committed to seeing the program expand," Glen added.

(with additional reporting from Ilya Marritz)

 

 

 

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Comments [13]

Chang from Manhattan

Whoever says about business in public plaza in Manhattan didn't step in the building lobby to see directory for building. Macy's alone has many eateries in many floors. The crowd you see outside is customers from inside out breathing worsened air.

Jul. 25 2014 10:32 PM
Chang from NYC

Rooftop garden to rooftop farm in "Manhattan" has good reason for it. The difference between square feet price in Manhattan and Bronx. Two different cities as small apple and big pineapple. Please please talk about traffic or pedestrian plaza in separate cities of Manhattan or Bronx or Staten Island not under the same umbrella of NYC. I beg you to start any conversation about traffic in different treatment in Manhattan from other boros. Average speed in Manhattan during day is around 10mph. So what a non sense to make it 25? Sorry for "New Yorkers" living in Wechester or Nassau county line or In Staten Island. I'm afraid drivers will fall asleep or distracted to multitasking more. Legislators in Albany would or could lower it to 25mph in upstate? Does anybody know NYC in DOT?

Jul. 25 2014 10:16 PM
Chang from NYC

Pedestrian plaza would be great if there are space for all. But in the city where floors should be elevated in skyscrapers, it is logical to have rooftop space and indoor green space. Opportunity costs for ground level business is less business for indoor upper location. Even Time Square indoor upper level biz suffer. Myabe that location could be exception for tourism, but not for city traffic flow letting police cars park on west side of precinct north of 42St bottleneckin intersection when they could be parked on east side. Absolute nonsense to have public plaza on north of 23St between 5Ave and B'way next to Huge Madison Park.

Jul. 25 2014 12:51 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Times Square always had heavy pedestrian traffic, and that has increased in the last decade, but the same thing with vehicular traffic. I just find this to be something that is aimed more at tourists than at those who are there on a daily basis. On days where it's not weather permitting, it's just seen as a waste of space for most while the roads are still being used. More importantly, this closed off a major thoroughfare known as Broadway and caused surrounding avenues to have much worse traffic than before, which lead to removing relocated buses. It's not that I'm against public space, I just don't see why this has to be done in a way it pits groups against each other. The only real reason you guys act apathetic to motorists is because you don't drive yourselves.

Jun. 24 2014 06:36 PM
Bronx from NYC

"Roads were always made for transportation, and they should stay that way."

Negative, urban roads have always been mixed use spaces. Transportation is a priority for some, while others serve as markets and social incubators.

"There are businesses that actually opposed public plazas, and those where the ones whose only entrances were on the street where the plaza would be on hence making it hard for them to deliver."

Pedestrian Plazas have seen overwhelming support by local businesses. Commerce is up around every plaza in NYC. Deliveries still occur, hell has not frozen over.

"Taxi drivers also opposed the plaza in Times Square, because it was a major pick up and drop off area for them, so they lost a lot in their businesses as well."

This is false because pedestrian traffic surrounding Times Sq is up. Traffic is also more streamlined because a bow tie intersection was transformed into a typical cross shape.

"I don't see what's wrong with the parks that are meant for recreation. My claim for Disneyfication isn't that much off, because NYC is a city that never sleeps, so keeping roads open to vehicular traffic is very important in keeping it as a well oiled machine."

Parks are great but any world class city has a mixture of spaces. The local businesses are a benefit to most plazas.

Jun. 23 2014 11:09 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Sorry Bronx, but I beg to differ on that. Roads were always made for transportation, and they should stay that way. There are businesses that actually opposed public plazas, and those where the ones whose only entrances were on the street where the plaza would be on hence making it hard for them to deliver. Taxi drivers also opposed the plaza in Times Square, because it was a major pick up and drop off area for them, so they lost a lot in their businesses as well. I don't see what's wrong with the parks that are meant for recreation. My claim for Disneyfication isn't that much off, because NYC is a city that never sleeps, so keeping roads open to vehicular traffic is very important in keeping it as a well oiled machine.

Jun. 23 2014 03:31 PM
Bronx from NYC

Robert, new pedestrian plazas outside Manhattan are heavily utilized.

Tal, your comparison to Disney World is ridiculous. By your standard, every city with pedestrian plazas is comparable?

Pedestrian Plazas make sense in urban environments where pedestrians lack space to interact and relax. Businesses greatly benefit as well from increased foot traffic.

BTW, several parks across NYC have been reinvested in. All the parks in my community have seen significant renovations in recent years for example.

New Yorkers overwhelmingly support pedestrian plaza expansion.

Jun. 23 2014 03:03 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

First of all, don't grill me for saying this especially since I'm just as entitled to my opinion as much as you all are. There are areas that oppose this mainly because they don't want tourists ruining their place. Some of them just like their neighborhood as it is. I would rather the Disneyfication stops where it is rather than expand. Seriously, if public space is so important, then how about fixing what's already there like the parks? Also, where is the claim that residents support this? I would like to know from a real, neutral source, not some biased one such as Streetsblog.

Jun. 19 2014 04:44 PM
AMHess from Harlem

Plazas are a great way to reclaim wasted pavement and beautify a neighborhood. They are not a substitute for parks, which some borough neighborhoods also lack, but they can create social centers and liven up previously unappealing traffic-choked areas. Bring more uptown please, with outdoor seating that we so greatly need!

Jun. 19 2014 08:48 AM

Yes, please! The pedestrian plazas in Manhattan have transformed the city in such a wonderful way. And the new plazas in Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene and Dumbo are a good start, but we need many many more. Every neighborhood in Brooklyn deserves outdoor spaces for people to walk, hang out, meet up and enjoy their city.

Jun. 18 2014 03:57 PM
Robert from Lower Manhattan

Instead of creating barren, unused pedestrian plazas in the outer boroughs, the city would be better off spending money to improve the public parks that already exist.

Similarly, the city would do well to make the existing segregated bike lanes rideable before creating new ones. The segregated bike lanes on 8th Avenue and Broadway in midtown are utterly useless for anyone riding faster than 10 mph, since they're filled with pedestrians who treat them as sidewalk extensions. In the 1st and 2nd Avenue bike lanes, I've had many close calls with left-turning cars.

Jun. 18 2014 01:17 PM
Harlem resident from nyc

What has to be addressed is when the public gets over 1500 signatures for a petition when it comes to safe streets in an area where there are numerous churches, schools, senior centers and the local community board ignores the public outcry. We would hope DOT would stand up to some of the local cb's who have these alleged transportation committees and who block these safe suggestions and move foward and listen to the residents not the obtructionist on the cbs.

Jun. 18 2014 10:38 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I find public plazas to be a waste of space. When the days aren't weather permitting, they are just sitting there empty. Also, placing them on a major thoroughfares like the one for Times Square was really a bad idea, because it caused a bunch of buses to be relocated and later removed to help relieve congestion. In reality, traffic never magically disappears, it just relocated somewhere else giving that area the traffic. Besides, the outer boroughs already have public space known as parks. I suggest that money better spent can be done on improving what's already there before going to create others.

Jun. 17 2014 07:51 PM

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