Converting a busy street in Times Square into vibrant pedestrian plazas is one of the most celebrated ideas in New York City’s history—a bold urban move which has been mimicked around the world. Now New York’s mayor and police commissioner want to remove the plazas and restore Times Square back to its original car-congested glory. But why stop there?
The wildly popular public spaces, which began as part of a pilot program in 2009, have been credited with improving vehicular flow, cleaning the air, and boosting sales at local businesses. But forget about all that. The problem, according to the New York Times, is that these pedestrian plazas have simply attracted far too many pedestrians, “most notably, topless women wearing body paint who accost pedestrians for tips.” Because there were NEVER any people who became famous for being naked in Times Square before the plazas were created.
Mayor Bill de Blasio—who has always been critical of the plazas—says a task force is in place that will decide their fate by October 1. NYPD police commissioner William Bratton made his opinions clear in an interview this week: “I’d prefer to just dig the whole damn thing up and put it back the way it was.”
Makes sense. Pedestrian plazas are clearly the root of social ills which threaten the very essence of New York City and they’ve got to go. But if the goal is truly to make Times Square a more inviting place, I’d argue that there are some other things that de Blasio and Bratton might want to consider removing first.
Photo by Wylie Poon