NEW YORK—Times Square, famous for its dazzling lights, massive screens, and zooming traffic, is now also a place for people to sip tea and lounge on colorful lawn chairs in the middle of Broadway.
On Monday, hundreds of people basked in joy on the first day where parts of Broadway closed to vehicle traffic. There was a joyous air about the once congested avenue. Strangers laughed and talked with each other, some people lifted their legs onto the orange traffic barrels as if relishing in a pedestrian victory.
“I think this is the wildest thing,” said Arlinda Williams, who is visiting New York from Atlanta. “It’s so bizarre. No other city would do something like this.”
William’s friend, Elizabeth Batteast added that it’s nice to have a place to stop and relax. “I think it’s good because you gotta do a lot of walking.”
Broadway officially closed at 8 p.m. Sunday from 42nd Street to 47th Street. Traffic seemed unaffected by the change, despite some concerns from locals.
“Traffic looks fine,” said Zin Malik, who was sitting with his family on pink, blue, and green lawn chairs next to Military Island. He added that Times Square has been in dire need of such a change. “Otherwise people are running and rushing around. Here it’s just relaxing.”
The roads will remain closed until the end of the year, when an assessment will determine whether the change stays or goes. Malik’s daughter, Annam, 20, chimed in, “I think they should leave it like this.”
When asked why she chose the busy area over the park, Annam said “you’re sitting in the middle of the street.” Pausing for a moment, she continued, “It’s cool.”
Her comment appeared to be the general consensus.
Rana Usman was enjoying his day off from working at the NYPD. He said he had been sitting there for nearly four hours, just enjoying the day. “It’s fantastic, beautiful,” Usman said. “It’s better than a movie.”
Similar changed were also made at Herald Square, where Broadway was closed to vehicle traffic between 33rd Street and 35th Street. The newly made pedestrian malls will eventually receive benches, cafe tables, and a more park-like feel.
As Broadway is the only major road that bisects the grid layout of Midtown, the change is hoped to reduce traffic. Vehicles traveling east-west will not be affected. If the change is seen to be effective by the end of the year, a more permanent setup will be made for the new pedestrian plazas.