Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner cemented their legacy on the city's streetscape Tuesday with a ribbon cutting on the first phase of a permanent Times Square plaza.
Bloomberg joined Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to announce a newly reconstructed 30,000-sqaure-foot section of Times Square on Broadway between 42nd and 43rd streets that is now open to pedestrians.
The mayor said he was initially skeptical over Sadik-Khan's idea for a pilot plan to close traffic on streets at the Crossroads of the World.
"The more she made the case, the more I thought it made a lot of sense and she was right," Bloomberg said. "Results of that experiment have been tremendously positive for public safety, for economy and for traffic flow. And that's why we are making it permanent."
The administration launched the Times Square pilot in 2009 and there are five sections undergoing a $55 million reconstruction to become permanent public plazas. The first phase features granite pavers, seating and an electrical and sound system for public events. There was also work done below the streets to remove century-old streetcar tracks, utilities, and sewer and water mains.
Construction continues between 43rd and 47th streets until 2015, with a complete redesign of Seventh Avenue expected to wrap up in 2016. Meanwhile, temporary asphalt was put in place north of the plaza for the New Year's Eve and Super Bowl celebrations.
Sadik-Khan praised Bloomberg's willingness during an election year to endorse pedestrian plazas in Times Square, an area that was "certainly not worthy of a world-class city" before the public spaces, she said.
Having fought against criticism and opposition to pedestrian plazas, Bloomberg noted the data on retail sales, traffic flow and safety shows the Times Square plazas work. He advised his successor, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who said during the campaign the "jury is still out" on Times Square plazas, to ignore polls.
"You're going to have a tough time rolling this back," Bloomberg said.