We were disappointed when New York City’s Department of Transportation bagged the idea for a 34th Street pedestrian plaza, but the DOT has not completely abandoned their plans to increase sidewalk access for pedestrians. Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan recently announced that the DOT has approved plans for 12 pop-up cafes that will create a dozen small plazas around the city.
The plazas will extend into traffic lanes and parking areas in front of businesses that applied for the outdoor space. They will be protected from traffic flow by a row of large planters, just like the pedestrian plazas along Broadway. The DOT approved the applications, but Community Boards ultimately decide whether or not the cafes can be developed. Community Board 2, which operates in Greenwich Village and Soho, already approved applications for Tea Spot, La Lanterna and Chez Jacqueline on MacDougal Street as well as Le Pain Quotidiene, Salume, and Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in SoHo.
While the plazas are being developed by individual businesses, they will operate as public space. Visitors will be able to order food from the adjacent cafe, but people will also be able to use the space without purchasing anything. Some residents immediately opposed the idea, citing more noise and littering, but we think that any pedestrian-friendly development is a move towards a greener future. Here’s hoping that the plazas become permanent, just like those in Times Square.