Broadway should become an “open street” for pedestrians and shut to most vehicle traffic between 34th St. and Union Square, a group of Manhattan politicians said Friday.
The elected officials — Manhattan borough president Mark Levine and City Council members Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera and Erik Bottcher — said in a letter to Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez that plans to redesign parts of Broadway around W. 29th St. in response to a horrific crash June 20 don’t go far enough.
In that crash, a taxi driver hit a cyclist and jumped a curb, causing a collision that severed an Ohio tourist’s leg.
In response, city officials proposed restricting car traffic at the crash site on Broadway around 29th St. The city also plans to build pedestrian plazas on Broadway between W. 25th St. and W. 27th St.
But the politicians’ letter says the city’s plan isn’t enough. They want the Department of Transportation to begin pedestrianizing Broadway between 14th St. and 34th St. next year, followed by similar changes up to 42nd St. in the following years.
“We understand this timeline is aggressive — and have therefore proposed this phased approach — but we believe that a safer, more pedestrian-friendly corridor must be achieved quickly,” the letter states.
Levine said work to pedestrianize entire streets is expensive — up to $15 million a block — but said kicking cars off Broadway’s busiest stretches wouldn’t have much of an impact on traffic congestion.
“At first it strikes people as not practical, but then when you talk it through you realize there’s many other north-south avenues and Broadway is kind of redundant at that point,” said Levine.
“Before Times Square was pedestrianized, most folks outside of traffic experts were quite dubious that it would work,” he said. “But now it’s actually helped with the flow of traffic.”
DOT spokesman Vin Barone said the department’s plan to redesign areas of Broadway between Union Square and Columbus Circle already contains much of what the elected officials called for in the letter.
“The administration last week laid out a bold two-pronged street safety strategy with immediate and long-term actions the area around last week’s crash, and our ‘Broadway Vision’ plan will thoughtfully pedestrianize much of the corridor from Union Square to Columbus Circle,” said Barone.