NYPD Surrounds Flatiron Plaza With Concrete Barriers, Because Terrorism

There has to be a better way to protect people from drivers than these blocky, heavy-handed barricades.

Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer

Sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning, NYPD surrounded Flatiron Plaza, where Broadway crosses Fifth Avenue, with concrete barriers. Similar barriers could be coming to public spaces throughout the city in the name of NYPD’s counterterror initiatives.

The Jersey barriers are all around the perimeter of Flatiron Plaza, making it look like a fortress, impeding pedestrian access, and protruding into the bike lanes on the edges of the pedestrian space. For some reason NYPD put the barriers between the bike lane and the pedestrian space, so they don’t provide people on bikes with any protection from car traffic.

At Herald Square a few blocks north, concrete blocks, metal fencing, and police cruisers now cordon off both ends of the block-long bike lane between 35th and 34th streets. Last night, southbound cyclists were either riding into the bike lane via the adjacent sidewalk or going down 35th Street to ride against traffic on Sixth Avenue for a block. A handful dismounted and walked until the bike lane resumed.

herald sq barriers 3
The cordon at Herald Square cuts off access to one block of the Broadway bike lane. Photo: David Meyer

These new barricades are similar to measures at Times Square that NYPD implemented soon after Richard Rojas drove onto the sidewalk, ramming dozens of people until he was stopped by a metal bollard.

The barriers were a surprise to the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership, which manages the plaza at Broadway and Fifth, according to executive director Jennifer Brown. Her staff eventually learned that NYPD put down the barriers to prevent terrorists from weaponizing motor vehicles, and that similar measures could be coming to public spaces around the city.

She said her organization would monitor the impact on pedestrian circulation, and could eventually try to paint or otherwise beautify the barriers, but was resigned to their presence. “I don’t know if it’s our role to question the security measures that [NYPD] counterterrorism is taking,” Brown said.

Streetsblog contacted NYPD and DOT for more information on the barriers and the larger citywide undertaking, and has yet to hear back.

Update: The DOT press office says: “We are speaking with PD re the location of such structures and security is the top priority.”

  • JudenChino

    It’d be one thing if those jersey barriers were protecting the bike lane from car traffic . . . .

  • J

    THe sad thing is that people have been mowing down pedestrians on sidewalks for decades, and the city has done nothing. Only when it’s linked to terrorism does the city actually try to protect people.

  • Jesse

    that was my first thought. They’re on the wrong side of the bike lane.

  • Samuelitooooo

    Has NYPD ever heard of bollards?

  • JudenChino

    So when a cyclist is fatality injured (that’s fancy speak for dies) because they hit their head on the jersey barrier, will the city get sued for negligence for millions and pay? Or will we just blame the deceased for not wearing a helmet?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    I’m all for better physical protection, including temporary barriers like this, curbs, and bollards, but putting people cycling in the crush zone instead of behind the barrier is insane.

    Blocking off bike lanes in the name of safety is ridiculous on its face.

  • AnoNYC

    A terrorist attack is so unlikely, yet bicyclists and pedestrians are killed or injured every day. Why doesn’t the NYPD implement these types of measures when that happens?


  • Vooch

    This is a good start. Obviously the security experts are going to place these jersey barriers ACROSS Fifth & Broadway to prevent any possible Terrorist from weaponizing a motor vehicle. Thats clearly the most safe solution.

  • Mister Sterling

    We are awful. And we are easily scared. Take it from a WTC survivor. Terrorism ain’t going to kill ya.

  • Reader

    Why not move the barriers over to protect cyclists? Man, DOT and Mayor de Blasio are just MIA on this stuff. Pathetic.

  • Jeff

    Similar treatment at the new 33rd St Plaza by Penn Station. The place is surrounded by anti-ramming barriers with NYPD cruisers parked on both ends. I wanted to hang out there to wait for someone’s train to come in but ended up leaving after a few minutes, because who the hell wants to hang out in a plaza that feels so militarized?

  • Tooscrapps

    Looks like trash and will very soon be collecting trash.

  • We need a citywide activism movement to get NYPD to show consideration toward non-automobile street users. These unilateral measures are an abuse of the trust that we bestow upon them as an agency. And they work for US, not for the global military industrial complex.

    Every other agency must come before a community board (and get FULL buy in) before making a change, any change at all, but NYPD can’t even be begged to show up to a single meeting after people are killed in traffic.

  • r

    If only there were some sort of “mayor” who could hold this agency accountable.

  • com63

    Let’s hope that this is just a temporary measure with a long term fix being bollards on many of the sidewalks protecting pedestrians from terrorists and the more common errant vehicle. Bollards are much less obtrusive than these temporary barriers.

  • Vooch

    The bollards should be installed to Car Free all of Fifth and Broadway. That is the only true safe solution. We need to stop the bad guys and not be weak willed about complete security solutions.

    We need to protect Trump Tower from a car attack on Fifth avenue and all the businesses on Fifth. Time to get serious about stopping the bad guys. Pedestrianize Fifth and Broadway.

  • There is zero chance that approaching this by only heckling the mayor (and doing nothing else) is going to result in change. There needs to be a broad, vocal consensus for accountability & change.

    Do not underestimate the power of the NYPD (as an organization) and its unions. They are a big part of the reason why NY policing has a lot of problems… not because they’re idle bystanders like the mayor & much of the council, but because the status quo is exactly how they want things to be.

  • JarekFA

    The NYPD loves placard abuse because they’re one of the biggest beneficiaries. You start from that small grift and multiple it out exponentially and you have in small part why the NYPD is one of the biggest obstacles to safe streets.

    Which is also why they’ll never #FixJaySt until they make it a busway only and ban private vehicles during day time hours.


  • AnoNYC

    The NYPD should develop some sort of pedestrian/bicyclist safety division within the larger department which serves as a check and balance when measures like this are taken. If someone with power or a division within the department spoke up about potential effects on bicyclists, this situation could have been averted.

  • AlexWithAK

    “We are speaking with PD re the location of such structures and security is the top priority.”

    Note they say “security” and not “safety”. The city goes to enormous lengths to prevent extremely rare terror events, but steps to stem the hundreds killed and thousands injured by cars every year are halfhearted afterthoughts. It’s an enormous amount of cognitive dissonance.

  • JarekFA

    Or just regular patrols on bike! Insane to cover these incredibly dense parts of the city on car all the time. As many bicyclists know, you can get around this city, in many places, much quicker on bike than car (even with flashing lights).

  • JarekFA

    The fucking guy nearly doored me in the bike lane. That’s a violation. Are you guys gonna do anything?!?!?!

    NYPD: crickets

    And uh, I think he said Allah Akbar when he opened the door.

    NYPD: See something, say something. Let’s investigate.

  • ahwr

    NYPD has been using those concrete barriers for years because they can be setup on short notice. Bollards with significant stopping power can’t be installed and moved around on a moment’s notice.

  • “I don’t know if it’s our role to question the security measures that [NYPD] counterterrorism is taking,” [Jennifer] Brown [of the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership] said.

    It’s the role of every single person who pays taxes in this City, because the police work for us.

    The NYPD are our employees, and not (as they seem to think) our bosses.

  • AnoNYC

    I’ve seen the bike squad in action at events, but never on the street. I think the NYPD is piloting that option at certain precincts.

    Way behind other cities in this respect.

  • Frank Kotter

    That’s fine but the city has known about the ‘threat’ since at least 2015, placed huge limestone quarry rock there and hundreds of planters. I the past two years, not a single bollard has been sunk. The risk is known – implementation of abatement is haphazard and amateurish.

  • Steven Craig

    I was pleased to see several sig8ns in the square advising cyclist not to ride in the square itself. They were of course ignored. High time for mega tickets and registration so that cameras can simply record illegal driving and send a ticket as done with motor vehicles
    This could be accomplished with a locator chip embedded in the bike. It would also aid in the recovery of stolen bikes.

  • Andrew

    We need a citywide activism movement to get NYPD to show consideration toward non-automobile street users.

    Much easier said than done.

    Tolerating the complete lack of parking enforcement for police officers has two basic impacts on their outlooks.

    First, it ensures that nearly all of them drive everywhere they go. Anybody who’s driving clearly has somewhere important to go. Anybody who isn’t doesn’t.

    Second, it engenders a fundamental disrespect for facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, etc. If it’s fine for them to park on the sidewalk, in the bike lane, at the crosswalk, in the bus lane, it becomes very difficult for them to see any importance in preserving these facilities for their intended users.

    I don’t see an easy solution to any of this, but any solution at all relies on the mayor.

  • Andrew

    Because that approach works so well with motorists? (Such as the one this morning who accelerated into a red light where I and several others were already in the crosswalk with the pedestrian signal in our favor.)

  • BortLicensePlatez

    “Pleased to see”. What a windshield moron you are, Steven.

  • BortLicensePlatez

    This whole city is full of cowards. new yorkers like to think they’re so brave but when you live here and see people jump at everything and give all their autonomy to the NYPD for nothing, you start to understand they’re more scared than almost anyone else.

  • Vooch

    tax withholding from those that sign up for the placards as required by IRS.

  • EcoAdvocate

    mega tickets? a locator chip (that could easily be removed by the owner)? smh. ridiculous. I wouldn’t mind seeing mandatory bicycle education for all children in elementary, perhaps also middle school–those that choose never to ride again and just start driving, would have at least more understanding of, compassion for people on bicycles.

  • EcoAdvocate

    Her statement doesn’t make a lot of sense. She could very well point out the negative changes to pedestrian movement and how the Jersey barriers hinder the flow of bicycle traffic, while also being supportive of NYPD’s efforts to improve safety…oops, I mean NYPD efforts prevent, minimize the effects of an extremely rare act of terrorism.

  • WTF

    Does the NYPD have ANY qualified transportation engineers on staff? Why is NYC allowing non-qualified people to make changes to the public right of way? Does non-compliance with the MUTCD endanger NYC’s federal funding?

  • JudenChino

    You must hate life.

  • Toddster

    Uhhh, the 3,000 people who died probably have a different opinion on that, even though I agree these barriers are poorly planned theater.

  • Mister Sterling

    I’m talking about the odds. We are a nation of 300 Million and in all our history, fewer than 4,000 have been killed by terrorists.

  • Hector Suarez

    Run for president mister

  • Hector Suarez

    If it wasn’t for the fear of global warming, we wouldn’t be talking about bicycles; now would we?

  • Hector Suarez

    They need to extend the time on these crosswalks to allow more time for motor vehicles. This would really help with congestion.

  • Andrew

    Then they’ll just do without official placards and continue to break the law. (It’s not like parking on the sidewalk or in the bike lane or at the crosswalk or in the bus lane is legal even with a placard.)

  • Andrew

    At the vast majority of signalized intersections in New York City, all but a few seconds of the traffic signal sequence is available to motor vehicle traffic in one direction or another. (Pedestrian phases are typically simultaneous with the parallel motor vehicle moves.) The only way to provide more time for one motor vehicle move is to take it away from a different one.

  • Hector Suarez

    Very interesting. Thank you.

  • Vooch

    exactly – sorta like this proposal for Munich

  • Hector Suarez

    Imagine the impact that sign would have on NYC’s economy…. More harm then good.

  • singleservingfriendx

    it’s not even because terrorism, it’s one madman and some copy cats plus a militrized police budget, we cannot hope to end human tragedies with more barriers.

  • Those moments are why I walk around with my keys in my hand at all time–probably good I don’t live in NYC.

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  • COD

    We don’t let the NYPD do anything, they just do it.