Bratton Won’t Stop Talking About Removing Times Square Plazas

It wasn’t just an offhand remark. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has reiterated his desire to eliminate the public plazas at Times Square and go back to the days when people were spilling off the sidewalk into the path of traffic. This time, he’s insisting that taking away space for people won’t just cure Times Square of topless women and costumed characters — it’ll actually improve traffic safety.

He's the Energizer bunny of car-centric thinking. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr
He’s the Energizer bunny of windshield perspective. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

The year after the plazas were installed, pedestrian injuries fell 40 percent at Times Square, and injuries to car drivers and passengers dropped 63 percent along Broadway in Midtown, according to a 2010 DOT report [PDF]. At the same time, pedestrian volumes in Times Square increased 11 percent after the plaza opened.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers and found that total traffic injuries in Times Square have fallen nearly 25 percent in the five years since the redesign compared to the five previous years. Times Square is safer now than it was before the plazas were installed.

Not so, says Bratton.

“That story was really, very inappropriate in its findings. It took a look at Seventh Avenue and Broadway. It didn’t look at the cross streets, it didn’t look at the larger Times Square area,” he said on WGTK-AM 970, reports Politico. “When you look at the larger Times Square area, actually, accidents have gone up. So, all the traffic that has been pushed into the side street… it tells a very different story.”

Whatever stats Bratton is referring to, they clearly don’t account for the huge growth in foot traffic to Times Square since the plazas arrived. Even if injuries haven’t declined — and all indications are that they have — with all the added people walking in Times Square now, the average person is clearly safer from traffic.

It’s not the first time Bratton has spouted numbers about street safety that have no basis in reality. At the launch of Vision Zero, just two weeks after the start of the de Blasio administration, Bratton claimed pedestrians were at fault for 73 percent of crashes in which a pedestrian was struck by a motorist.

A source was never given for the stat, which ran contrary to multiple analyses. A landmark 2010 DOT report, for example, found motorist behavior to be the main factor in 78.5 percent of serious pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

Even Bratton’s predecessor, Ray Kelly, who was a perpetual disappointment on traffic enforcement, never meddled in the city’s street redesigns. But Bratton seems to have no appreciation for the value of having decent public space in the most crowded part of the city. He just wants to drive down Broadway through Times Square again.

“My personal preference, my professional preference based on the statistics I look at, is to take them out. But I am not the final say,” he said, adding that’s up to the city’s “political leadership.”

Here’s a reminder of how Times Square functioned back when it had Bratton’s preferred layout:

Bratton got one thing right: It’s not his role to make decisions about street design for the transportation commissioner and the mayor. But Mayor de Blasio still hasn’t put this to rest, even internally, and said the plazas will stay.

  • Reader

    “So, all the traffic that has been pushed into the side street…”

    Fun game to play with your friends: Is the quote from the police commissioner of the biggest city in the US or from a parking-obsessed community board member?

  • c2check

    As far as I’m concerned, Bratton is actively working against Vision Zero by this point.

    I suggest he retire to Florida sooner rather than later.

  • Mark Walker

    Bratton says he’s retiring at the end of de Blasio’s current term. The next mayoral election is in 2017. De Blasio, we will hold you accountable for his words and yours.

  • Joe R.

    I seriously wonder if he’s getting some form of dementia. His thought processes on this don’t seem rational to me.

  • J

    So Bratton is honestly proposing ADDING traffic lanes as a pedestrian safety measure?!?!?!? Seriously?!?!?!? This from the man in charge of public safety for the largest city in the US? Speechless.

  • WalkingNPR
  • Matthias

    The logical place for traffic to have gone is 7th Avenue, which is most definitely not a “side street” and which seems to be no more congested now than it was before. Saying “You’re wrong” (in the mode of the donald) and making shit up doesn’t make an argument.

  • BBnet3000

    I’d say “go back to LA” but he’s be radically out of step with safer streets in modern Los Angeles too.

  • Mark Walker

    Windshield dementia.

  • bolwerk

    He sounds like Allan Rosen. Surprise. The guy who spearheaded the movement to turn American policing into a carnival of brutality against blacks has other dumb ideas.

    The good news is Bratton is probably stepping down after this term. Maybe Bill de Blasio can appoint Rosen next. I mean, assuming someone like Darren Wilson or Joe Arpaio don’t want the job.

  • Jury’s Out

    Tish James ’17.

  • AlexWithAK

    Yeah I really cannot fathom how closing Broadway to cars would push traffic onto the cross streets around there. If you’re heading south on Broadway, it’s not like toggling back and forth across Times Square is going to be a good alternative. You’re going to toggle once to 7th Ave and be done with it. This is a moronic statement.

  • AlexWithAK

    Is it any wonder the NYPD so infrequently charges drivers who run over pedestrians and cyclists even when they KILL them with this guy in charge? Ray Kelly seemed indifferent which was annoying at the time. But considering Bratton comes off as hostile to anyone not driving a motor vehicle I’d take indifference back in a heartbeat.

  • krstrois

    This:

  • WoodyinNYC

    I Wont Stop Talking About Removing Bratton

    It’s past time for him to go. If de Blasio won’t do the needed job, then we the voters will have to remove de Blasio to get rid of Bratton.

  • Joe Enoch

    Can I like this 1,000 times?

  • New Yorker

    Senile old man.

    Please.

    NYC needs a police commissioner from the 21st century.

  • Andrew

    Two years ago I would never have imagined that I’d ever say this, but can we have Ray Kelly back?

  • Larry Littlefield

    In the suburbs, the public disorder problem was solved by having no public space — aside from streets occupied by fast-moving vehicles. You can see the trend by looking at suburbs built at different times, comparing the old railroad suburbs with the exurbs.

    No sidewalks. No public parks, except drive-to parks with fees. No public squares. Shopping centers that are private property instead. And no pedestrians.

    With groups like the ACLU basically saying that people can do whatever they want in a public space and everyone else has to put up with it, and the police not bothering to enforce anything else, which is the extreme things went to 30 years ago (litter, dog crap, drug dealers, etc) losing public space was a tradeoff they were willing to make.

    That determined the mindset of a generation. That shouldn’t be allowed to shape the future of the generations to follow against their will.

  • bolwerk

    This isn’t about disorder. This is about moral indignation. Overgrown manboys can’t handle the sight of the outline of an areola through some paint. And they want to drive faster – which is ironic, since the plaza probably lets them do just that with fewer holdups for dealing with peds being run over. The city already has the tools to deal with the real problems, like the annoying vendors. They’ve done it before with non-aggressive vendors, like at Union Square.

    Even when applied more believably, broken windows never dealt with much more than a small subset of disorderly behaviors, and I’m using the term loosely to mean “mild legal infractions,” only some of which were actually injurious.

    Sleeping on the subway ? ticket, court date

    Letting your dog shit on the sidewalk ? aw, shucks, pooch has to poop somewhere. Why not near all the other scummer city folk?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Bratton Hates New York

  • KeNYC2030

    The essential thing here is that Bratton knows how to police a street but has no idea what to do with a pedestrian plaza. With a street, you just let the cars go and if someone gets hit, well, that’s unfortunate but “no charges will be filed.” He desperately wants to revert to the familiar.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Letting your dog shit on the sidewalk ? aw, shucks, pooch has to poop somewhere.”

    I agree it has been selective. No one has been stopping people from going down the 10 or fewer checkout line with more than 10 items.

    But the pooper scooper law was actually the original quality of life success. I don’t know if you were around NY in the late 1970s/early 1980s, but back then NOBODY picked up after their dog. It’s an example of the way people CAN be made to change their behavior for the benefit of the community, difficult as that is.

  • bolwerk

    Fair enough that it has improved things, but I’m still not sure I’ve seen a city with NYC’s dogshit proliferation. Of course, they do ticket you if they catch you, but catching you is pretty hard for a mere $200 (or whatever).

    There are other examples too. Litter. Horn honking. You might get a ticket for those things if you’re caught, but you effectively rarely are.

  • Alicia

    My city has started providing plastic bags in a lot of the public parks for people to clean up after their dogs. Proactive measures that make it easier for people to do so might help. People should get creative in that regard.

  • Joe R.

    It might be worth noting in areas like mine smaller numbers of people clean up after their dogs. They all seem to carry around plastic bags to do so if some homeowner happens to see the dog crapping on their front lawn but often if nobody is around they just leave the shit there. Can’t say how many times I’ve stepped in, or nearly stepped in, dog shit when I’m doing anything in the front yard.

    I know people love their pets but I tend to think cats are much more appropriate for a place like NYC. No need to walk them, and they do their business at home. Note here I mean cats which are 100% indoor. Not a big fan of people who let their cats out. It affects the local wildlife like squirrels or birds because even well-fed cats enjoying killing small prey for sport. They also do their business wherever they feel like.

  • Frank TwoHarbors

    And by extension, so does BdB.

    From non-accountability to NYPD brutality (and Rikers) to utter catastrophic failure with Trottenberg’s DOT, BdB is responsible for the New Yorkers dying during his tenure from preventable deaths.

    All people who consider themselves leftists or liberals will do well to dump this man come next election.

  • bolwerk

    It’s a nice idea, but the problem is it’s often in front of your neighbor’s stoop her e, not in parks.

    And, like @disqus_dlP91vGbzC:disqus says, people seem to do what they know they can get away with. I live in a sea of 4+ family buildings, and normal diffusion of responsibility seems to mean they can get away with a lot.

    The fine is probably just too low.

  • WalkingNPR

    Bratton knows they can’t actually send the real Batman to help, right?

    (And not just because he can’t drive the Batmobile through Times Square)

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/disney-marvel-no-part-nypd-times-square-battle-article-1.2339274

  • chekpeds

    The horrifying truth about policing Times Square is that you cannot do it with your butt glued to the deep seats of the White and Blue Crown Vic, using a loudspeaker. You actually have to WALK. I bet there is a rule that prevents this.

    And where are the 100 cops going to park the 50 NYPD cars that brings them over ? Big problem…

    So naturally Bratton wants to go back to the old days. God forbid he would think of changing NYPD’ s ways, no let’s rewrite history to fit NYPD.

  • JK

    Super disappointed in Bratton. His comments about Times Square have verged on completely idiotic. I’ve been a big fan of his dating all the way back to when he was Chief of the NYC Transit Police and his first go round at NYPD. To me, he was de Blasio’s best appointment. Always thought the guy was thoughtful, insightful and an open minded innovator in a field dominated by ignorance and traditionalists — so an ideal public servant, a guy willing to try new things, but very pragmatic and effective. His utterances about Times Square belie all of that and come across as petulant and deliberately ignorant. Maybe he is irritated with de Blasio and this is a way to torment him, or maybe he has turned into a crank who no longer deserves the admiration of anyone who appreciates smart government.

  • Alex 3speed

    Can we talk to @TSqArts about proposals for an art project involving windows in each of the plazas until this blows over? That way removing the plazas will break the windows and provide a fantastic arc to his story.

  • Bernard Finucane

    That’s because there are no cops around, opr they don’t care. Shutting down car traffic and turning the city back into a city is the right way to solve these problems.

  • bolwerk

    In other words, Bratton is fine as long as the victims of his “innovation” are other people. Nobody supports delusional broken windows policing for themselves.

  • bolwerk

    They don’t care. That’s the point. They only attack “disorder” when it’s an infraction committed by poor people or other marginalized groups.

  • Joe R.

    I might add here that in the minds of these mostly from suburbia police not ticketing for failing to clean up after your dog serves another purpose. In their minds cities are just dumping grounds for everyone else’s problems. What better way to reinforce this idea than to have city residents live in shit, literally? I don’t think it’s purely an accident they don’t care much about enforcing this law.

  • dsdfd

    Put those topless women at the Police Plaza!! And if they don’t like it, tear down Police Plaza

  • nanter

    Paris.

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