FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release #09-023
Contact: Seth Solomonow (212) 442-7033
DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan Announces that Green Light for Midtown Plan to Improve Traffic Will Begin on Sunday, May 24
New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today joined Times and Herald Square business and industry leaders to announce that the City's Green Light for Midtown pilot program will begin on Sunday night, May 24, when Broadway traffic through Times and Herald Squares will be routed to 7th Avenue as construction continues on the plan to simplify traffic and improve travel times through two of Manhattan's most congested areas. Thousands of advisories about the project have been distributed, emailed and flashed on electronic message boards around the city in recent weeks to motorists, taxi operators, local residents and businesses, and the outreach continues through the week. DOT also announced the first schedule of events and activities in the new public space. The new spaces will provide opportunities to make Times and Herald Square even more exciting and attractive for New Yorkers and tourists and are expected increase economic activity for local businesses. During the three-month construction period, the public events will keep Times and Herald Squares economically vibrant destinations as work proceeds. Joining the Commissioner at Duffy Square in Times Square for today's announcement were Fernando Mateo of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, local business owners Tim Tompkins of the Times Square Alliance and Dan Biederman of the 34th Street Partnership, and transportation consultant Sam Schwartz, also known as "Gridlock Sam".
"Green Light for Midtown will make the street work like it should," said Commissioner Sadik-Khan "For the first time ever, standard grid intersections will be reconnected in this notoriously gridlocked part of the City, creating major traffic flow improvements on 6th and 7th Avenues."
Commissioner Sadik-Khan was also joined by Broadway League executive director Charlotte St. Martin and Howard Sherman of the American Theatre Wing, which co-present the Tony Awards, and by leaders of the Shubert, Nederlander and Jujamcyn Theaters to announce that the 2009 Tony Awards will be simulcast on video screens to a live audience seated in Times Square on June 7, atop former Broadway road surface that is being converted to pedestrian space as part of the City's plan. The simulcast will be one of the first of many events that can now be held in the newly created public spaces.
"We're thrilled to announce that The Tony Awards will simulcast the entire Awards show, including the pre-telecast, live from Radio City Music Hall, on June 7th, right in the heart of Times Square," said St. Martin. "This will make Times Square the next-best place to be on Tony night."
Announced in February by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and by elected and local business and community leaders, Green Light for Midtown is a pilot program that makes targeted traffic and safety improvements at two of Midtown's most iconic yet congested locations. The pilot program will discontinue vehicular traffic on Broadway from 47th Street to 42nd Street and from 35th Street to 33rd Street-connecting Seventh Avenue through Times Square, where it is currently bisected by Broadway, and improving traffic flow on Sixth Avenue through Herald Square. The result will be simplified traffic patterns, longer green lights and reduced travel times throughout Midtown Manhattan. East/West vehicular access through Times and Herald Squares will not be impacted and travel times are expected to improve on some of those streets
Initial work on Broadway started two weeks ago with the removal of a traffic island in the heart of Times Square and the preliminary reconfiguration of Broadway from 59th to 47th Streets. Through-traffic will be expanded to four lanes along 7th Avenue through Times Square, with travel times expected to improve by some 17 percent. At Herald Square, changes will allow green time for vehicles traveling northbound on Sixth Avenue to increase by 66 percent, unclogging a major traffic choke point, improving travel times for deliveries, emergency vehicles and others on the street. In addition to the congestion relief pilot at Times and Herald Squares, Broadway's approach to Times and Herald Squares will receive street treatments similar to those installed last year on Broadway between 42nd and 35th Streets and at Madison Square.
"Traffic is kind of like the weather - everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. Well, I'm happy to hear that somebody is doing something about it," said Fernando Mateo, New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers. "I've driven through Times and Herald Square a lot but just never thought that you could do anything about it, so I'm excited to see this serious attempt that could really get our city's taxis moving."
New pedestrian plazas will be created on Broadway from 47th to 42nd Streets and from 35th to 33rd Street. The plazas will provide more than three acres of new public space for shoppers, office workers, and tourists, allowing for increased foot traffic - a potential boon for tourism and sales at local stores and restaurants.
"We applaud the City's attempt to come up with bold and innovative solutions to long-standing problems in Times Square," said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance. "I am sure there will be some bumps in the road as we get rolling, but we are determined to work with the Mayor's creative team as we move forward to make this a positive journey for both drivers and pedestrians, neither of whom are well served by the congested streets and spaces we have now."
"The Mayor has done a great thing by including pedestrians in his plans for Herald Square," said Dan Biederman, President of the 34th Street Partnership. "We are happy to cooperate by programming and managing the spaces that will be created when traffic is diverted. This is long overdue, and we think the office workers, shoppers, tourists, and commuters who walk our district will appreciate it."
Since announcing the plan in February, DOT held well-attended open houses in both the Times and Herald Square areas for the public to review plans for the area and ask questions of DOT staff. DOT staff also made presentations and answered questions to Community Boards and to local groups, the Broadway League and other theater groups, in conjunction with the Department of Cultural Affairs. In addition to distributing information to these groups and their members and subscribers, DOT has also distributed information and fliers throughout the project area from 59th to 42nd Street in the last two weeks, and to local retailers through the business improvement districts have distributed information to all of their members. DOT has also distributed information to several taxi organizations and printed 3,000 fliers for distribution by these taxi groups. The City Taxi & Limousine Commission is emailing out a flier in an industry notice this week, and posters are being posted in taxi depots. Details, maps, advisories and a project timeline are available at nyc.gov/dot
The newly created public spaces at Times and Herald Square will be home to numerous events and attractions in the coming weeks and months as new space is created but before the project is completed, helping to maintain them as appealing, economically active destinations during the construction period. A preliminary list follows:
All SummerBest of the Buskers
Lunchtime Monday-Friday, starting week of May 28
Musicians, magicians, dancers, signers and other artists perform throughout the Times Square area.
Tony Awards Simulcast
Sunday June 7, 7 p.m.
Duffy Square / Broadway Plaza
Taste of Times Square
Monday June 8, 5 p.m.
W46th Street between Broadway and Ninth Avenue
Sample food from Times Square's best restaurants, classic New York street performers and top-notch local entertainment on three stages, and swing dancing.
Come Out & Play
Interactive street games link elements ranging from GPS, sidewalks, chalk, smartphones, SMS, capture the flag, Bluetooth, and treasure hunts in a dramatic urban context like New York City.
Solstice in Times Square 2009
Sunday June 21, 7 a.m.
Free and open to the first 724 to sign up, greet the Summer Solstice by doing sunrise yoga in the heart of Times Square.
Visitors Services Cart
The 34th Street Partnership will have their visitor services cart and multi-lingual tourist greeters ready to provide information about cultural, entertainment, and historical attractions, maps to help you get around, and guides to what's where.
"Meet the Birds"
Thursday and Fridays, Summer 2009
Thursdays and Fridays at lunchtime in Herald Square the Arcadia Bird Sanctuary and Education Center will bring gorgeous tropical birds to display. Come on by, look, listen and even have your picture taken with them. And for those of you who didn't know: kids love birds!
An outpost of the popular free "outdoor library" in Bryant Park, the 34th Street Partnership will open a reading room in Herald Square this summer.
34th Street Partnership will provide weekly musical concerts.