The much-hyped, four-year renovation of Times Square has wrapped … just in time for the famed New Year’s celebration most New Yorkers go out of their way to avoid. Today, the mayor’s office, the Department of Transportation, Times Square Alliance, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer have dedicated the revamped Times Square.
Although this work was first proposed in 2002, it took a decade for construction to actually get underway. In 2009, a proposal finally made headway to replace vehicular traffic with pedestrian plazas along Broadway in Times Square between West 42n and West 47th streets. In 2013, the $55 million undertaking, which was overseen by the architecture and design firm Snøhetta, began.
The completed design includes five reconstructed pedestrian plazas that span 85,000-square-feet—almost two full acres—in the space formerly occupied by Broadway traffic. The plazas boast lots of pedestrian friendly features like wider sidewalks, benches, rebuilt curbs, and a new raised bike lane on Seventh Avenue. Other improvements include upgraded street and traffic lighting.
Prior to this above-ground work, Con Edison and Verizon completed $25 million worth of underground utility upgrades, and the area also got new sewers and water mains. Electrical lines, cables, and outlets were placed underground, allowing for performances and events without the need to run wires above ground. Finally, several lengths of old unused streetcar tracks were removed.
The city hopes the renovation will both lessen the pedestrian congestion and ease traffic in the surrounding area. (In related news, the DOT unveiled the Designated Activity Zones this past summer to ease congestion in the area and deal with complaints about costumed characters.) As Manhattan Borough President Brewer said in a press release, "The conversion of Times Square into a pedestrian plaza made it an amazing, special place—but it needed ground rules and investment to turn an innovative pilot into a mature public space."
The official unveiling of this new Times Square isn’t slated until the spring. But New Years revelers will at least be able to cram into 85,000 more square feet of space to watch the ball drop.