Sadik-Khan: We’re Putting the Square Back in Madison Square

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan gave a brief, clear-eyed overview of the city’s post-pricing transportation agenda today at the Regional Plan Association’s 18th Annual Regional Assembly. Speaking at a panel discussion called "Making Cars Pay Their Way," she rattled off a list of projects in the works, including some public space improvements that are certain to quicken the pulse of livable streets types.

"We’ll be going forward with pedestrian projects on Broadway," she said, "putting the square back in Madison Square and Union Square West." Near-term plans also include building up the bike network, reclaiming surface pavement for public space, and making streets safer for seniors, she said.

Taking the long view, Sadik-Khan mentioned that DOT will unveil its new strategic plan at the Municipal Art Society on April 28th. The document will set the goal of cutting traffic fatalities in half compared to 2007 levels, she said, in addition to making a commitment to more BRT, among other policies. She later noted that Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson has encouraged DOT to apply for federal funding for BRT projects.

While the commissioner professed disappointment at the defeat of pricing, she remained optimistic that the extensive public debate about mitigating traffic and funding transit would yield a payoff down the road. "We shouldn’t be in the business right now of eulogizing congestion
pricing," she said. "The process itself has been extremely useful in many other ways. It’s been a galvanizing force. The words congestion pricing could only be whispered in City Hall a year ago."

More thoughts from the commissioner after the jump.

"After all the meetings, I think the terrain has fundamentally changed. The mood is that Albany has to fund the whole MTA capital plan. Even opponents acknowledge that. And we’ve got people thinking about what the city would be like with less traffic.

"The public and the civic community have a deeper appreciation for the connection between congestion and transit. We now know that license plate rationing is not an effective solution. We know that modifying taxi policies isn’t sufficient. And we can safely say that a millionaire’s tax will not have a meaningful effect on VMT.

"All the information [from the congestion pricing approval process] doesn’t have to sit on a shelf. It can be used to streamline an EIS going forward. We are better positioned to pursue pricing and non-pricing strategies that we need. I hope we continue the partnerships that we’ve formed. I think the process we’ve just been through is a watershed for New York. We’ve shifted the paradigm and started a new conversation. We’re disappointed, but we’ve laid a foundation for future action for months and years to come.

"We need more bus riding. We now have the most bus passengers, and the slowest bus speeds in the country. Why? It has to do with congestion. Even without congestion pricing, we’re still committed to reducing congestion on the streets of New York."

  • Kudos to Commissioner Sadik-Khan for moving forward. More BRT is welcome, especially operating under the direction of NYCDOT rather than the MTA.

    Street closings and limitations are also great additions to the mix. Soon, perhaps, bicycle-only streets. Now if we could just get dedicated transit funding from traffic-law violators, or an improved entry fee program…

  • Roadie

    …and car-free Central and Prospect Parks this summer, right?

  • gecko

    Fair use of public space will definitely remove a lot of cars from the streets.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I think the commissioner is right about the conversation having changed, and the main point is that the very defeat of congestion pricing puts opponents in the position of having to waive through just about anything that isn’t congestion pricing or pay an additional political price.

    So the time to go for something big is right now. You might as well take Broadway, the whole thing, for non-motorized traffic.

    I’d put my response to congestion pricing this way. OK, we aren’t going to do anything to limit congestion for automobiles. We are going to take space to reduce congestion for buses, bikes and pedestrians.

  • What does it mean to “put the square back in Madison Square”? Lane reductions/conversions on Broadway and/or 5th between 26th and 23rd?

  • bureaucrat


  • beng722

    My experience of both Union and Madison Squares is much more commercial ventures (that hamburger stand in Madison Square has obscene lines and makes the park smell like fast food). Is the Commissioner referring to perhaps addressing this perversion of park space into shopping mall/restaurant?

  • Spud Spudly

    Great. But can someone please tell my why the sidewalk just became much narrower on Broadway at 95th street? At the northwest corner of that intersection they just took half the sidewalk away and turned it into blacktop. Is it related to the pending subway station renovation? Either way it seems totally counter to DOT’s stated goals.

  • drose


    I think we’re neighbors. You’re right, the sidewalk was taken away so that the new 96th Street Station can be built in the middle of Broadway. Of course, all six lanes of traffic are essential, so sidewalk had to be taken away to accomodate car traffic.

    Although our sidewalk has already been taken away, don’t look for the new station to be open before summer 2010 (MTA says April, but we know how good they are about finishing projects on time).

  • Spud Spudly

    Thanks. I assume this means we can expect more of the same on both sides of the street. I hope they have some traffic calming measures planned to accomodate the people who will now be crossing to the median to enter the subway. Any plans online? I’m off to search.

  • JF

    You’re absolutely right, Spud – and Drose, that’s sarcasm, right? If the DOT is now willing to take road space away for pedestrian use, they should also be willing to stop taking pedestrian space away from pedestrians for car use.

    Previously discussed here:

  • Spud Spudly

    Oh yeah, lots of sidewalk removal to take place:

    And of course, Naparstek is already way ahead of me on this one! Sorry Aaron for being late to the party:

  • Spud Spudly

    Damn. I hate being one of those people who doesn’t pay attention until the construction has already begun.

  • drose

    Sarcasm is my middle name.

    The NW corner of 95th and Broadway seems to be the worst. That is where the cutback will hit the hardest. And it also seems like the property line for the stores there juts out a few feet beyond the line for Symphony Space across the street. So an even narrower sidewalk over there.

    Luckily, I live closer to the other side of the station, so we won’t see any cutback of our sidewalk. Just have to deal with the neighborhood being a work zone for the next 2 1/2 years.

  • Mark Walker (formerly Mark)

    Yeah, I’ve been watching the nibbling.

    Also worth a mention is the retiming of the traffic signals which took place before the construction began. To accommodate the new turning lane, precious seconds were taken away from pedestrians. Now you practically have to run across the street. I feel sorry for the seniors and everyone who has to use the existing subway entrances.


DOT Capstone Report Looks Back, Offers Advice to Next Administration

Yesterday, DOT released “Sustainable Streets: 2013 and Beyond,” a 212-page report and accompanying website outlining the department’s achievements over the past six years and providing guidance for the next administration. Last night, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan was joined by a panel of council members and New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson for a discussion of the […]

Famed Danish Urbanist Jan Gehl in Town to Consult on PlaNYC

The Urbanist Musketeers: Alex Garvin, Jan Gehl and Fred Kent in Copenhagen, Denmark, Sept. 30, 2006. Jan Gehl, the famed Danish urbanist, is in New York City this week where, sources say, he has been hired as a consultant for Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC program. At a presentation to the board of the Regional Plan Association […]

Is NYC’s “Sustainable Streets” Plan a Communist Plot?

This week’s Observer is running a profile of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. It focuses on the speed with which many of DOT’s Sustainable Streets projects are moving ahead and seems to suggest either: a) Improving conditions for New York City’s pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders is a Communist plot. Or,b) The change that Sadik-Khan is […]