Tonight: DOT to Reveal Plans for a Safer Union Square

usgrab2.jpgImage via NY1

Safer street conditions and more space for pedestrians and cyclists could soon be coming to Union Square under a plan to be unveiled by DOT today.

We haven’t gotten our hands on the drawings yet, but media reports say that by Labor Day, East 17th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South, along with part of Broadway north to East 18th Street, are slated to be converted to a pedestrian plaza and car-free thoroughfare.

According to the Times, the pedestrian plaza would run along the north side of Union Square
Park between Broadway and Park Avenue South, with a bike lane and
pedestrian walkway on the south side. Drivers heading south on Broadway would be directed to make a left at East 18th, while East 17th would become a one-way westbound with a single lane. One lane for auto traffic, as well as street parking, would be maintained on Broadway between East 17th and 18th Streets. DOT is reportedly also looking to reclaim parts of Union Square West for pedestrians.

The area around Union Square is notoriously dangerous. Between 1995 and 2005 there were 95 pedestrian- and cyclist-involved crashes at Broadway and Union Square West alone, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. Three pedestrians lost their lives during that same period at Fourth Avenue and Union Square East.

DOT is scheduled to present the plan to the Community Board 5 transportation committee tonight at 6:30 at McBurney YMCA, 125 West 14th Street.

  • I take this turn on my bike every day, and it is indeed total chaos. In fact on Friday, I almost bumped into Mark Green as he crossed the street. Unfortunate, since it’s not very ambassador-like to ride through a swarm of pedestrians–although I do think I had the light. This would be a welcome improvement (even though I’d lose yet another part of my commute route home).

    If this goes through (and especially if U.Sq.W. gets reclaimed), will there be as much supposed need to limit the number of artist-vendors in Union Square, as the Parks Department is preparing to do?

  • Robert Lederman

    This is just the latest effort by the Union Sq Partnership BID and the Mayor to privatize public space in the area. The Mayor is literally trying to sell off our parks, sidewalks and streets to the highest bidder. The BID plans on putting vending concessions into this “pedestrian plaza”exactly as the Times Sq BID announced they will do with the one uptown. The local restaurants will also exploit the “plaza.”
    As far the street artist issue (I am the president of ARTIST) here’s the real deal on the Mayor and Park Commissioner’s plan:

    Benepe Agenda Exposed by Robert Lederman
    (WORD doc)

    Benepe Agenda Exposed (PDF)

    (Note: the 2 above are identical)
    At these 2 links above is a 25 page WORD doc
    or the same as a PDF document, both
    with numerous illustrations, photos
    and other evidence proving that the
    Parks Commissioner is not being truthful
    about the proposed Parks Department
    rules for artists. The Park Commissioner’s
    real agenda will shock you.

  • Even if the primary motive behind the plaza is to introduce space for vendors, then they’re not re-purposing park space for this type of commercial activity, they’re re-purposing automobile storage/transposal space.

  • J


    What does this have to do with the proposed Union Square changes? I actually downloaded and skimmed your 15mb pdf and saw nothing relating to this. This site supports artists and was outspoken against the proposed rules, but your post seems to be against expanding public space in this instance. Is this true? That would go against the desperate need of artists for public space to sell their work. Please explain.

  • Gel

    This graphic is wrong – I’ve seen the outline of the plan. 17th Street gets one-wayed with a bike lane and more ped/plaza space but not totally pedestrianized.

  • mfs

    I read the NYT article as saying what Gel says.

  • J

    Sounds like a diagonal diverter to me, with southbound cars on Broadway are forced to turn left and head east, while eastbound cars on East 18th Street are forced to turn right and head south. I’m curious to see the design, though.

  • J

    On second thought, I doubt all eastbound traffic on 18th Street would be diverted south, but it’s pretty clear that all Broadway traffic will be diverted. I bet they do something along the lines of the intersection of W 24th St & 11th Ave.

  • dave

    these ideas seem to be catching on. interesting that on the NYT’s “room for debate” blog about the 34th st transitway, there actually is not any debate. it seems that they couldn’t find anybody to outright oppose this plan as was commonplace when times square was proposed.

  • Several years back, swear I saw a falcon on a small tree in the Sixteenth Street and Union Square West playground; remarkably, one of the three or four playgrounds in Union Square.

    The planned safety update is long overdue and quite exciting!

  • Gecko — I hope you took cover; I’m pretty sure a falcon would try to eat your kind!

  • #11 J. Mork, Actually, it seemed a little too intent on the little kiddies.

  • Gwin

    I used to ride down Broadway every day coming home from work… a LOT of pedestrians cross 17th Street against the light, so I am not surprised that there have been accidents there.

  • Bernardo

    Since when are pedestrian plazas bike-friendly? You build a pedestrian plaza and guess what happens: pedestrians swarm it, making it dangerous for cyclists to ride through. If you don’t know what I mean. Try to ride through Times Sq. and get back to me. It was easy when there was the bike lane. Now cyclists need to dismount and walk the bike, because the foot traffic is massive.


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