Bryant Park to Broadway: A ‘Boulevard 41’ Is Proposed
The march of the pedestrians in Midtown Manhattan may soon spread to another block.
Owners of buildings along West 41st Street want to turn one block of the street into a tree-lined boulevard that would link the extended plaza along Broadway to Bryant Park. The block would have seating and tables to accommodate the lunch crowd that overflows the park on warm days.
The street would still be open to traffic. The plan, called “Boulevard 41,” is scheduled to be presented to a committee of Community Board 5 on Thursday night. If the idea receives the board’s support, it will be proposed to the city’s Department of Transportation, which has come under criticism for turning over so much city pavement to cyclists and pedestrians.
To create space for the trees and tables, the department would have to allow for the loss of parking space on both sides of the street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway. The street would remain open to traffic, which runs westbound. Andy Wiley-Schwartz, the department’s assistant commissioner for public space, said the plan could be approved by this summer. But the amenities, he said, could stay in place only from May to October, because they would be considered part of the department’s seasonal Street Seats program.
The proposal fits in with the changes that the city has made in recent years to make the heart of Midtown more hospitable to tourists and other pedestrians. In Times Square, Broadway has been closed to cars and trucks for more than four years. From Times Square to Herald Square, traffic lanes were erased to create a bike lane and pedestrian plazas.
But the notion of making similar changes to West 41st Street did not spring from the minds of city officials. Instead, it was dreamed up by property owners, members of the business improvement district that surrounds Bryant Park. The block was “kind of being treated as a back lot,” said Dan Biederman, president of the Bryant Park Corporation, which manages the park that sits beside the main branch of the New York Public Library. Executives at Blackstone Group, which owns the office tower at 1095 Sixth Avenue, decided to “examine the idea of making it a grander entrance to the park,” he said.
Mr. Biederman, who ordinarily is not shy about discussing ideas for improving Midtown, was reluctant to provide details of the plan before it was presented to the community board. The committee’s meeting is scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. in the offices of the Bryant Park Corporation at 111 West 40th St., a building that borders the block in question. The committee’s chairman, Raju Mann, said that he had not studied the proposal but that it appeared to involve “a pretty significant remaking of the block.” He said the community board had generally been supportive of projects intended to slow traffic and make Midtown streets more hospitable to pedestrians. The plan could be beneficial to businesses along the block as well, he said.
One of them, a restaurant called Pronto Pizza, was immediately supportive of the idea.
“That will be great,” said Helen Alicea, who helps manage the restaurant. “If they did that, it would be wonderful.”
She said she would welcome any changes that would make the block less like a giant loading dock. “All the trucks that stop in front,” Ms. Alicea said, “it’s like an ongoing all-day thing.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 30, 2013
An article in some editions on Thursday about a plan to link the extended pedestrian plaza along Broadway to Bryant Park, on West 41st Street in Manhattan, misstated, in some copies, the surname of the New York City Transportation Department’s assistant commissioner for public space. He is Andy Wiley-Schwartz, not Riley-Schwartz.