Pedestrian plaza supporters fight back after mayoral debate

A debate question about pedestrian plazas, like the one in Times Square, has transportation advocates defensive, as both mayoral candidates suggested they'd revisit the transportation initiative.
A debate question about pedestrian plazas, like the one in Times Square, has transportation advocates defensive, as both mayoral candidates suggested they’d revisit the transportation initiative.
Credit: Getty Images

A stray question about pedestrian plazas in Tuesday’s mayoral debate has advocates befuddled and defensive, as both major-party candidates suggested they would revisit the often-celebrated transportation initiative.

“I’m disappointed about each of them hedging,” said Dan Biederman, head of the 34th Street Partnership, which manages the plaza in Herald Square. “The plazas have been a great success.”

After a fiery line of questioning about public safety, education and taxes, the candidates were asked if they would remove the tables and chairs in Times Square and Herald Square, reopening Broadway and effectively shutting down the pedestrian plazas.

Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio, who has previously expressed support for such spaces, said he had “mixed feelings,” adding that more assessment needs to be done.

“The jury’s out on that particular question,” the public advocate said.

Republican candiate Joe Lhota concurred.

“I don’t understand why it’s there 24 hours a day,” he said.

Both candidates suggested the plazas mostly benefited tourists and could possibly snarl traffic — two sentiments Biederman and other transportation advocates debunked.

“The jury is not out. A verdict has been rendered,” said Steve Vaccaro, a lawyer who serves on the board of StreetsPAC.

Multiple surveys show between 70 and 80 percent of businesses owners, pedestrians, residents and workers in Times Square support that plaza, according to the Times Square Alliance.

Since closing Broadway from 47th to 42nd Streets in 2009, pedestrians walking in the street and injuries to pedestrians in the area have decreased, said Tim Tompkins, president of the alliance.

“Business, public, retailers, doctors — we’re seeing resounding support for the changes from all those sectors,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

While Lhota’s comments came as no surprise to the advocates, they were confused — and even a little disappointed — by de Blasio.

“We think it’s likely he misspoke,” Vaccaro said, noting that de Blasio said that he supported the plaza program in a mayoral questionnaire for StreetsPAC, which endorsed him last month.

When asked to clarify de Blasio’s stance on the plazas, campaign spokesman Dan Levitan said in a statement that the candidate supported “Vision Zero,” a set of policies developed in Sweden that prioritizes safety in the transportation system.

Though Levitan said that pedestrian plazas remain a part of that approach, he did not say that the candidate misspoke during the debate.

“There is nothing wrong with continually examining projects to find ways to make them better for business and more effective at managing traffic,” Levitan added.

De Blasio’s campaign did not express any intention of getting rid of the Times Square or Herald Square plaza if he’s elected to replace their creator, current-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Sounding wistful, Biederman said the plazas were one of the best things the Bloomberg administration has done.

“These sidewalks, when they had three or four lanes of traffic rushing by them, they were not pleasant,” Biederman said.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.