Pedestrians in the heart of midtown have scored a little more room to sprawl out this summer.
The city has closed two blocks of Broadway to vehicular traffic as part of a summer pilot program that aims to “evoke parkland” in the heart of a notoriously congested concrete jungle. Traffic will be prohibited from 36th Street to 37th Street, and 39th Street to 40th Street until Sept. 1, according to Barbara A. Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance.
“We have Times Square and Herald Square but we really don’t have any parks in this area—even though every morning and evening there is a flood of humanity on Broadway and on Seventh Avenue,” said Blair, who worked with the city’s Department of Transportation on the project. “There’s just so much pedestrian traffic.”
The Garment District Alliance brought in 19 birch trees, some pop-up eateries and a yellow, painted tribal “road tattoo” onto Broadway for the occasion. The artwork, designed by Steed Taylor, is titled “sew-and-sew” and will feature the names of Garment District tenants who have been in the area for at least two decades.
While the tattoo is temporary, Blair wishes the entire stretch of Broadway between Times and Herald squares was closed all year around. This, she said, was a “test.”
With finishing touches still being made, the alliance plans to hold an opening ceremony Monday morning at the site of the re-imagined public space.
“With the two plazas, this area of Broadway is confusing for drivers,” Blair said. “We would really love to see it close to traffic.”
The alliance is still working out possible programming for the summer, including musical performances or yoga classes. Bikes are still permitted to pass through the area in Broadway’s painted lane.
As an occasional driver, Marwa Khalil, a financial analyst who works nearby, said she could see the closures straining traffic. But ultimately she felt they were a net positive.
“I like this better,” said Khalil, 37, as she sat on Broadway thumbing her phone. “Traffic is going to be awful anyway.”
Conrad Bacuyag, a paralegal who declined to give his age — “old enough” — embraced the changes as he sat during his lunch break.
“Pedestrian streets are good for the community,” he said. “In some European cities you’re not allowed to drive in the heart of the city.”
The city’s DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.