Times Square Then and Now: A Streetfilms Retrospective

Mayor Bloomberg is expected to announce his verdict on Times Square’s new pedestrian spaces very soon. Will the changes be permanent? This morning Bloomberg told radio host John Gambling that we’ll find out sometime next week. In the meantime, it seems like the media has decided to fixate on rumors that Midtown traffic speeds may not have increased across the board, without paying much attention to the tremendous difference this project has made for hundreds of thousands of pedestrians every day.

It’s been eight months since this part of Broadway went car-free, and maybe it’s hard to recall just how bad Times Square used to be for everyone walking around. To really appreciate what we have today, you’ve got to take a trip back in time to see the crowded, dangerous mess that used to fester at the crossroads of the world. Naturally, the moment calls for a Streetfilms retrospective.

  • Great film, Clarence! But Broadway is not closed from my perspective. It’s open!

  • I was all ready to write a comment saying “Why no naked cowboy?” Then you got him in during the last couple of seconds. Good film!

  • Larry Hogue

    I hope it’s still this way when I get there in May. If they let the cars back in, maybe I’ll just have to boycott the city!

  • Good to see a new Streetfilm.

    We missed ya’!

  • This is what bold leadership looks like. 50 years from now what will Bloomberg’s legacy? Pedestrianizing Times Sq. & Herald Sq & Madison Sq will likely be high on the list.

    What’s strange is that it feels like all momentum on projects like this has stopped and DOT is rolling out plans for BRT on first and second Ave that look little better than what Iris Weinshall’s DOT would have produced.

    Why leave 10 block gap on First Ave bike lane and 30 blocks on Second ave? Bold leadership is why I voted for Bloomberg and ever since the election it feels like he’s gotten less bold and less ambitious.

  • J

    I think they’re worried about backlash. Better to make more incremental changes that stick, than push too hard and generate a large backlash movement. We can already see that Community Boards are ASKING for bike lanes. Even a few years ago that was unheard of.

    When each project is announced, the dailies are going to write articles about the backlash, where they find one person who hates whatever it is, and one person who is ok with it. Steve Cuozo will rant about whatever it is. Then things will settle and people will get used to it. If there is a constant barrage of changes, people never have that time to get used to things.

    What is exciting, though, is that the more these types of projects become the norm, the less controversial each new one becomes and the quicker and bigger they can be unveiled. We are starting to see that happen with protected bike lanes (very few complaints so far), and I think we’ll see it more and more with pedestrianized spaces. The changes at Madison Square, Gansevoort, and even Herald Square are almost complete non-issues these days. It’s a slow and deliberate process, but we’re getting there and certainly much much faster than other US cities.

  • Glenn

    As expected, Steve Cuozzo wants to go back to the “old Times Square” in what can only be described as a totally nonsensical rant.

    Here’s a taste:

    Spanning five blocks that were once thrilling to stroll but are now interminable even to an insatiable walker like myself, the plazas are unsightly beyond words and patience. It isn’t for not being pretty. Lots of city landmarks possess moody, melancholy beauty without being pretty: the Coney Island el in the sun, SoHo’s cast-iron facades in the rain.

    Emphasis is mine…

  • Ed E.

    That Post columist is so out of touch. And so is the NY Post. In fact, it makes me glad that newspapers are really losing touch with the general public – all one has to do is watch this film to even see a taste of what the old Times Square was like. It was crap.

  • I haven’t seen Times Square this morning, but last Friday night, soon after the above post, something seemed to already be afoot in Herald Square, which was part of the overall same project:

    in the little segment of the Broadway bike lane between 34th and 33rd–one of the segments where bikes are supposed to share with peds, in that particular segment segregated only by colors on the ground and tiny bike markers–the big planters had been moved to take up most of the bike section:

  • Nick Rogers

    I had the pleasure of coming to NY from London for a week in May. The weekend was when all this work was done. We would always walk to Grand Central to get our 6 train back to 103rd street and walk past Times Square and Byrant Park. The Sunday the work was done we visited Times Square and was amazed at it. I kept saying it was like someone had dropped 5,000 people onto it. I found it easier to walk around and more pleasurable.
    When I visit again in May 2011 I hope it still looks the same!


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