The Battle for Times Square—Why It Matters, Even Outside New York

The piece begins not in New York but three thousand miles west in Seattle with Janette Sadik-Khan explaining how she triumphed over auto interests by taking back precious road space and returning it to the people in the form of plazas and bike lanes.

2 minute read

August 30, 2015, 11:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City Transportation Commissioner under de Blasio's predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "gets invited to talk about that work a lot, because a lot of cities around the U.S. want to do what New York did—despite the resistance of the auto-centric status quo," writes Sarah Goodyear for CityLab.

They want to give street space that has been dominated by cars back to people on foot or on bikes. They want public plazas with tables and chairs where people can eat lunch and chat and live their lives. New York’s efforts have become a national model.

"But now, allegedly because of some topless women who get tips by posing for pictures covered only in body paint and some rogue costumed characters, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his police chef, Bill Bratton, are talking about taking the plazas out, or at least re-evaluating them," she adds.

What’s chilling about de Blasio’s and Bratton’s treatment of the situation in Times Square is that it betrays a profound lack of understanding of just how important public space is for people in a dense urban environment such as New York.

Goodyear briefly describes the history of the landmark creation of the Times Square plaza, dating back to Sadik-Khan's 2009 vision, and includes excerpts from an eye-catching array of media coverage, both supporting (New York Daily News) and opposing (New York magazine, The New York Times, Times Square Alliance via POLITICO New York) the conversion of the plaza back to its original form since de Blasio's August 20 announcement.

The battle to reclaim street space from the auto goes far beyond Times Square. Consider signing a petition or two linked in a Streetsblog article if you feel strongly. 

Monday, August 24, 2015 in CityLab

Aerial view of homes on beach in Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii Passes First Legislation Regulating Short-Term Rentals Statewide

The new law will give counties the power to limit number or short-term rentals and convert existing short-term rental units back into long-term residential housing.

May 13, 2024 - USA Today

Google office building in Virginia.

Virginia Data Centers Draining State’s Water Supply

Being the world’s largest data center hub is having a severe impact on local water resources.

May 9, 2024 - Grist

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state.

Northwest Power Demand Could Surge as Data Centers, Transportation Electrification Ramps Up

New estimates project a steady increase in electricity demand due to population growth, data centers, and the shift to electric power in homes, buildings, and transportation.

May 17 - Governing

Blurred traffic speeding by on freeway with Los Angeles skyline in background.

California Testing Per-Mile Gas Tax Alternatives

A summer pilot program will test the fairness and efficacy of collection mechanisms for mileage-based fee options.

May 17 - Newsweek

Close-up of 'Pay rent' note in red marker on day 1 of monthly calendar.

After Months of Decreases, Rents Nationwide Are Going Up

Average rents rose by $12 around the country so far this year.

May 17 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.