NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Times Square is set for a $40 million makeover, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the first phase of the project on Monday.
But as CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, not everyone is thrilled about the timing.
The three-year makeover is being undertaken an effort to make the area more pedestrian friendly. It comes just eight days before the big New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square – and Mayor Bloomberg’s last day in office.
Bloomberg and the Times Square Alliance celebrated phase one of the redesign, which includes a stretch along 42nd Street and Broadway that is now topped with new concrete pavers.
“More than 400,000 pedestrians pass through Times Square every day and with the improvements we’ve made to this plaza’s infrastructure, lighting and broadcasting connections, it can host more public events like this one,” Bloomberg said.
Mayor Bloomberg admitted he was skeptical when the idea to close down part of Broadway was suggested by the transportation commissioner a few years back.
“Predictions ranged from Carmageddon-style gridlock to wind-swept empty plazas,” Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan recalled.
But the mayor said traffic measurements prove it’s helped.
“The data in terms of traffic flow, the facts are the facts,” Bloomberg said. “Measured by the computer, we think this the right thing to do.”
Sadik-Khan also noted the plazas have helped cut down on pedestrian injuries.
“So when people say ‘oh it’s faster or slower,’ that’s park bench wisdom that depends on your last trip. The real numbers you have are from the computer,” said Bloomberg.
With the project under way, brand new granite pavers are now part of the walkway along Broadway between 42nd and 43rd streets.
The work also means extensive electrical upgrades.
“The underground work includes replacing water mains from 1904, sewers from 1919, and century-old street car tracks,” Sadik-Khan said.
But some have said the Crossroads of the World has been looking more like a crossroads of construction lately, and they do not like it at all.
“Unbelievable, crazy, and insane trying to get to work — especially from here, it’s a nightmare,” said Sharlene Turner of Lower Manhattan.
“The construction is hard,” said East Village resident Kathy Kapp. “You have to go around or circumvent a different way.”
Some also said they were not pleased with the barricades that have been mounted right along the entrances to several stores during what is typically one of the busiest times of the year.
“When it’s really crowded, you can barely move there are so many people, so you can’t really get to the businesses,” said Mike Messina, who works nearby.
“It is stressful,” added Elizabeth Gonzales of Passaic, N.J. “But what can you do? It’s New York City.”
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who takes over at City Hall in the new year, said he has mixed feelings on keeping Broadway open to foot traffic only. But Bloomberg said it’s too late now.
“You’d have a very tough time rolling this back,” said Bloomberg, now that pavers have replaced the potted plants and painted asphalt.
The question now is whether it will all be cleared up before the ball drop. City leaders said indeed it would, pointing to a layer of pavement already in place.
City officials also said the barricades will be removed.
Construction will stop between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1 for the ball drop, and the entire project is set to wrap up in 2015.
For more information, visit timessquarenyc.org.
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