Introducing the Broadway Redesign:
The Departments of Transportation and Design & Construction, in conjunction with the Times Square Alliance, unveiled a new design which will dramatically improve the heart of the Times Square Bowtie by transforming the crumbling, painted asphalt surfaces which currently constitute the Broadway Plazas into a world-class public space. The design, created by an architectural team led by the firm Snohetta, was made public in 2011 and approved the city in 2012. To view the presentation given at Community Board 5, please click here.
Pre-constuction by private utlities is already underway in the Bowtie, and city construction is expected to commence in early 2013. For updates on the "Times Square Transformation" as it continues, please click here.
Earlier Bowtie Reports and Interventions:
Solving Public Space Problems with Innovative Solutions
We are aware of the great strides that have been made in Times Square over the past decade, but with the increased diversity of uses in the neighborhood have come increasing problems – from an unattractive streetscape unworthy of a world-class public space to pedestrian overcrowding which creates a public safety hazard.
As Times Square begins its second century, it faces new challenges: the demands by pedestrians, vehicles, and special events on this singular space are greater than ever. Times Square must stay competitive relative to the great cities and places of the world by nurturing the creativity, energy, and edge that have made it a global icon.
A Comprehensive Plan to Improve the Pedestrian Environment
The Alliance, working with the Design Trust for Public space, invited an eclectic mix of designers, urbanists, artists, planners and public servants to participate in a series of workshops to make this report as insightful and pro-active as possible. The report that grew out of these workshops, Problems & Possibilities, is honest about the area’s problems and resourceful in suggesting practical solutions. We have defined our principal challenges as:
- Severe pedestrian overcrowding (“pedlock”)
- Fierce competition between multiple users for very limited space
- Ugly and cluttered ground plane (“streetscape schlock”)
Problems & Possibilities details these challenges facing Times Square and lays out a comprehensive plan of creative design and management solutions.
For a summary of the report's findings and recommendations, check out These Streets Were Made for Walkin'.
Many of the recommendations that grew out of the workshops are already under way. Learn about the renovation of Duffy Square, a world-class icon in the heart of the Bowtie that opened in 2008. For more information our efforts to enliven the streetscape and encourage higher quality design, read about our public art program, Times Square Arts.
Re-Imagining Times Square’s Second Century
In order to take advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-imagine Times Square as part of the City’s planned reconstruction for the area, we engaged prominent architects, urban designers and other creative professionals in a focused problem-solving workshop on planning and designing detailed solutions for a new streetscape. Working with consultants at Starr Whitehouse and the Project for Public Spaces, we developed a creative brief outlining our problems, identifying multiple users, and recognizing opportunities for improvement with “best practices” research for sidewalks, street furniture, paving, lighting, and signage.
We started with the objective of designing a flexible and multifunctional space, creating a unique destination, enhancing pedestrian circulation, and activating the center islands. We urged our design partners to:
- Use world-class design and focused programming to address our pedestrian, public space and perception problems
- Create places where people – New Yorkers and tourists alike – can stop, meet, and observe
- Re-think the relationships between pedestrian and vehicular spaces using better pedestrian and traffic management
- Think of Times Square as an ever-changing theater set by fostering the exhibition of creativity in public art, distinctive events, and small-scale performances
The designs and proposals cut across a wide range of concepts, representing different ways to enrich the pedestrian experience. Times Square: The Second Century for a look at the results from the workshop, including our topline recommendations and core themes that will inform our work going forward.
Green Light for Midtown: A Bold Experiment on Broadway
NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan was joined by Tim Tompkins of the Times Square Alliance (at podium), Dan Biederman of the 34th Street Partnership, Charlotte St. Martin of the Broadway League, Mike Stengel of the New York Marriott Marquis, small business owners and representatives from the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, the Flatiron Partnership and the Fashion Business Improvement District.
Beginning summer 2009, Times Square was the site of an unprecedented experiment by NYC Department of Transportation to convert five blocks of Broadway from a traffic thoroughfare into a series of pedestrian plazas. “Green Light for Midtown” reshaped the Great White Way as an attempt to rationalize the West Side traffic grid and relieve pedestrian congestion on New York’s most crowded sidewalks.
The new pedestrian zones, launched as a pilot project running through the end of the year, added over 60,000 SF of usable space for the over 360,000 pedestrians that pass through Times Square every day. The near doubling of pedestrian space provided multiple benefits, offering new places for visitors to sit and linger, and more room for New Yorkers in a hurry to walk quickly.
With minimal investment, the asphalt roadbed of Broadway was remade into an inviting place for people, finally putting the “square” in Times Square. The result is the next logical step in the continued transformation of Times Square following the renovation of Duffy Square and the TKTS booth, which created a new paradigm for public space and design.
New Yorkers and the Neighborhood Respond
Early in the pilot project, a poll commissioned by Quinnipiac University showed that New Yorkers approved of the transformation of Broadway. NYCDOT’s Evaluation Report by NYCDOT found a 35% reduction in crash-related injuries to pedestrians and 80% fewer pedestrians walking in the street, long considered one of the district’s most significant safety concerns. The report found a benefit for drivers as well, as southbound traffic speeds on Seventh Avenue increased by an average of 4%.
Research commissioned by the Alliance found that the new plazas were favored by a majority of New Yorkers, Tri-State residents, local employees, property owners, store managers, theater-goers, and business executives.
In general, the research showed broad support for the plazas, but also showed an underlying demand for aesthetic improvements. The research found that 76% of New Yorkers, 75% of suburban residents, 63% of people who work in Times Square, and 68% of managers of retail businesses said they would like to see the plazas made permanent. Remarkably, the percentage of people who work in Times Square who were “satisfied with their experience in Times Square” shot up from 43% to 74% from 2007 to 2009. A majority of Tri-state residents (66%), NYC residents (74%), and Times Square employees (60%) believed that “Times Square has improved dramatically” since the addition of the plaza areas.
- Summary of opinion surveys commissioned by the Times Square Alliance in fall 2009.
- Full results from opinion surveys conducted by StrategyOne of New Yorkers, tri-state residents, Times Square area employees, store managers, and neighborhood property owners and business executives. (Raw data also available)
- Full results from surveys of Broadway theater-goers conducted by Philip Habib & Associates, Inc.
In early 2010, Mayor Bloomberg reviewed the results of the project, including research sponsored by the Alliance, and decided that the changes would be made permanent.
In fall 2010, the City and the Alliance began a design process with a team led by Snohetta, a Norwegian firm, to transform the sidewalks and plazas into a world-class public space befitting the Crossroads of the World. Construction is planned for summer 2012.