Applying tactical urbanism in Times Square. Pre-cast concrete pavers and granite benches replace the temporary street paint, chairs.

Times Square, New York – Tactical Urbanism – Pedestrianising Times Square

date Started in 2009

The purpose of the intervention was to create an uninterrupted and cohesive surface, reinforcing the square’s iconic role as an outdoor stage for entertainment, culture and urban life. Other purposes of the intervention was to make New Yorkers feel included as many of them felt excluded in Times Square and felt like it was a place for tourists, it also aimed to reduce traffic injuries caused my vehicles. Snohetta a design and Landscape Company based in Oslo led the project. Snohetta’s aims were ‘to improve the quality and atmosphere of this historic site for tourists and locals, pedestrians and bicyclists, while reducing the traffic impediments so the ‘Crossroads of the World’ will retain its edge while refining its floor.’ It cost $55 million and covers the area bounded by Broadway and 7th Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets. Times Square is surrounded by urban spaces and elements such as the iconic Central Park of New York, Madame Tussauds Museum and Hell’s Kitchen. The urban intervention based on tactical urbanism was a follow up of New York’s wildly successful ‘Greenlight for Midtown street improvement project’ back in 2009. Tim Tompkins of the Times Square Alliance, who realised people might want to sit somewhere and stay in the square, bought 376 folding chairs and instantly ‘millions of people have a new way of enjoying the city’. With the success of the temporary urban intervention, the intervention turned permanent. The permanent urban intervention was a huge success, leading to dramatic increases in foot traffic, revenues to local stores and a decrease in traffic related injuries. It features flattened out curbs that create single-level surfaces for pedestrians, as well as new benches and paving surfaces. The intervention also replaced outdates subsurface utilities and rebuilt the streets from the ground up, including sewers and water mains upgrade, attractive design elements such as new granite pavers and electrical and fibre optic cable outlets incorporated into seating elements to serve the numerous public events and reduce the need for external power sources and unsightly wiring. Snohetta believes this will transform Times Square into an even more dynamic and welcoming public space. Further more the first phase of the intervention has been highly successful ‘with more than 400,000 pedestrians passing through Times Square every day, the plazas have been good for New Yorkers, our visitors, and our businesses.’

Image: (c) Snohetta (Permission pending)