Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration recently announced that the city's ongoing redesign and reconstruction of Times Square is finally complete. The nearly eight-year-long project was initiated to improve pedestrian flow and safety, and provide almost two acres of designated public spaces for various activities and performances. The news comes just in time for the area’s biggest event of the year - the New Year’s Eve ball drop - tomorrow night.
The aptly named “Crossroads of the World” has been undergoing a huge overhaul since February 2009 after the Department of Transportation closed off Broadway between W 42nd and W 47th Streets to vehicular traffic and installed pedestrian plazas. In 2013, a $55 million project to construct permanent plazas designed by architecture and design firm Snøhetta began. Today, those open spaces provide much-needed room for pedestrians to rest their feet from a day of commuting, shopping, and sightseeing. The road that used to be a scene of traffic jams and intolerable crowds is no longer a place to be completely avoided; it’s more inviting, open, and filled with public art and plenty of photo opportunities.
The five plazas occupy 85,000 square feet and feature wider sidewalks, seating, kiosks, rebuilt curbs, updated street and traffic lighting, and a southbound raised bike lane on 7th Avenue. New sewers and water mains were installed and utility companies, including Con Edison and Verizon, were roped into the project for a total of about $25 million in underground utility upgrades. And since the area is such a hot spot for street performances, new electrical lines, cables, and outlets were included but hidden from view so that artists and event organizers can tap into them without needing to run wires above ground.
The timing could not be more perfect what with a million or so revelers getting ready to descend upon Times Square for the famous ball drop on New Year’s Eve. The area is typically jam-packed with hurried city dwellers and tourists – and it will be bursting at the seams come December 31st. But once the revelry has passed, you might want to head into the area, pull up a chair, and relish the fact that you’re sitting in one of the most exciting cities around.
Images via NYC Department of Design and Construction