Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Major Times Square Redesign to Begin this Fall

Forget painted blue walkways and multicolored beach chairs. The Times Square of the future will feature dark, concrete flooring punctuated by small metal rivets designed to bring some of the grit back to the Great White Way, according to a multi-million-dollar redesign that will soon get underway.

The plan, which will officially cement the plazas as permanent structures, calls for the leveling of surfaces across the plazas from 42nd to 47th street to create a continuous pedestrian space, with no vestiges of the old curbs and sidewalks that used to mark the roadway.

“We want to remove the ups and downs and make it simpler and flatter,” said Craig Dykers, an architect with Snohetta Design, who gave members of Midtown Community Board 5’s Transportation Committee a sneak-peak at the $27 million preliminary plan on behalf of the city’s Department of Design and Construction.

Snohetta is also the team behind the 9/11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site.
Under the proposed design, the ground surface of the plazas would be made from two tones of dark concrete pavers, arranged in an alternating brick pattern to differentiate it from a regular street. Some sections would also feature embedded stainless steel “pucks” about the size of nickels, intended to add some pizazz by reflecting light off the marquees around them.

In addition to the surface changes, the new design calls for the installation of numerous large benches of different heights and sizes. In addition to providing more seating for large groups, the new furniture is part of a larger effort to create distinct spaces within the plazas, to make them easier to navigate and to keep throngs of milling tourists away from hurried office workers rushing to and from work.

The larger goal is to create a situation and environment in Times Square that’s friendly for both New Yorkers and tourists alike.

Another benefit of the design, he said, is the inclusion of new infrastructure to cut down on the amount of equipment needed to stage large events.

It will also restore some of the aging infrastructure below Broadway, which has not been rebuilt in more than 50 years and still has trolley tracks running beneath the asphalt, a Department of Transportation representative said.

While other visions for the square had focused on adding new lights and new attractions, Dykers said he wanted to make the ground level as simple as possible to keep the focus squarely on the “frenetic” billboards above.

Another point of concern was a new bike lane that will run through the square, traveling back and forth between Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Under the current plan, the lane would enter Times Square from the north on Broadway, switch over to Seventh avenue at West 47th street, switch from the west side to the east side of the street at 45th street, and then cross back over to Broadway at 42nd Street.

Officials from the Department of Design and Construction say they expectconstruction to begin early in the fall of 2012 and will make every effort to keep traffic flowing as the work. The project is slated to be complete by 2014.