Two legs finally good for getting about Manhattan - Americas - World - The Independent

Two legs finally good for getting about Manhattan

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's mission to make New York walkable is beginning to take shape

The bag lady with the woolly hat and plastic sandals would normally be facing certain death as she pedals her raggedy bicycle the wrong way up the centre of Broadway in the morning rush-hour. Likewise the doorman from the Radisson Hotel, jiving to the rhythm of his own whistle in the middle of the avenue as he tries to flag down a cab.

But these people are not as crazy as they appear: they have noticed that Broadway is a lot different from how it used to be. Thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to give foot traffic primacy over car traffic in the heart of Manhattan, it is no longer the five-lane torrent of taxis, trucks and double-decker tour buses it once was.

They call it America's most walkable city, but in truth New York has for ever been choked by the internal combustion engine, the oasis of Central Park notwithstanding. But several happy developments in the past few weeks strongly suggest that the ambulatory age is making a comeback in Gotham.

If whiling away the afternoon in a deckchair with a book on the asphalt of Broadway seems an unlikely proposition – but yes, it is doable now – then so does sunbathing among the flowers on an abandoned elevated railway track. Welcome to New York's other new option for urban idling: the High Line Park.

It is hard to say which of these two changes in the city is more miraculous. The opening last week of the first phase of the High Line in the meat-packing district – a ribbon of green with wild flowers, cement paving and groovy wooden seats and lounges facing the rippling Hudson River atop the rusting legs of a long defunct elevated freight railway – was the culmination of 10 years of campaigning and fund-raising by far-sighted volunteers.

The transformation of parts of Broadway happened far more quickly but is somehow equally exhilarating. It was only in February that Mr Bloomberg, who is looking to be elected for a third term this autumn, unveiled his plan to close much of the legendary street to traffic. Where it remains accessible to cars, they must share it with a bicycle path and a narrow pedestrian promenade decorated with planters, chairs and tables with bright umbrellas.

As with the High Line, which for now is open from Gansevoort Street up to 20th Street and 10th Avenue, the Broadway project is still unfolding. Even yesterday, grit-spitting machines were erasing old white-line markings to make way for new ones south of Times Square, and forests of orange and white plastic bollards were at every junction to tell baffled drivers where they should and should not be going.

There has been debate, of course. "Turning the ... vibrant, frenetic, centre of the universe into a butt-littered suburban parking lot" is "ferociously dumb", writes Andrea Peyser, a gruff columnist at The New York Post. Taxi drivers and couriers are disgusted, but the grouches are outnumbered by locals who see Ella Fitzgerald's promise – "we'll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy" – coming true before their eyes.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week