Sunday, July 15, 2012

Midtown, it's a'chagin'

Midtown Manhattan is, to say the least, a busy place. People and cars compete for precious sidewalk and street space, all in the attempt to move up, down, and sideways in the center of the mighty isle. The worst part is, obviously, trying to cross any street in Midtown, where the cars and the people converge. Both the people and cars have places to go and feel entitled to charge ahead. Many Mideast negotiations are only slightly more difficult than negotiating vehicle and pedestrian traffic in Midtown.

But it's changing.

Well, only slightly, but any change in the traffic flow of Midtown is noteworthy. In the last few years, we've seen the rise of the pedestrian plaza, car-free zones where folks can walk around and sit at tables and even sunbathe on deckchairs. They've become very popular and the city wants to create more. Thus, Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to build a pedestrian plaza at Vanderbilt Avenue.

Never heard of Vandy Ave? 
It's a funny little street, between 42nd and 47th streets, carved out around the environs of Grand Central Station. Around the eastern side runs the viaduct that circulates lots of cars uptown and down around Midtown. The street itself is very short and narrow, and there really isn't much there except the Yale Club and some fancy restaurants. So turning it into a pedestrian plaza makes sense, considering that space for cars is already available up north. It would be a pleasant walk and open up more space for what is already an overcrowded area. Let's hope it happens.

One thing that is happening, however, or already has happened, is 6 1/2 Avenue. Yes, you read that correctly. A series of pedestrian arcades and plazas from 51st to 57th streets for this new, formally marked avenue. You walk from one to the other, block by block, and are actually walking on a new, honest-to-goodness avenue. I haven't gone there yet myself but plan to soon.

So you see, what's happening is that the city is getting more pedestrian friendly. This is a town for people, not cars, and it's the reversing of the Robert Moses vision of a car-centric town. 
This is something we should all celebrate.

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