Manhattan morphs again

Broadway has been sliced in half. Vehicular traffic is now restricted to half the road. A portion of the remaining half has now been painted green and forms a bike path, the rest of it has a granular, jute rug like appearance and sports wrought iron patio furniture and potted plants.

This, we hear, is a result of the mayor’s determined stance against congestion in the city. Some folks aren’t too happy with this transformation. Broadway, after all, is a major conduit of traffic in and out of the city. In the New Yorker‘s “Talk of the Town” feature it was amusing to read about the “New York Naysayers” who display their classic New York skepticism in refusing to believe that this mayoral initiative will ever succeed.

I have been crossing Broadway to get to work for several years now. It has been chaotic and frenetic for as long as I can remember with speeding bike messengers, bewildered tourists, jaywalking pedestrians and clogged lines of cars and buses spewing copious pollutants into the air. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined it would be transformed into “Broadway Boulevard” as part of a Fashion District transformation project. People traveling along and across Broadway never looked like the kind of people who would ever entertain the idea of just stopping mid-stride to sit down and just look around, doing nothing at all.

But this startling development certainly lends credence to the idea: if you build it they will come. As I cross Broadway these days I stare in amazement at the busy, important looking people sitting and staring at the yellow cabs and city tour buses making their way through the much narrowed boulevard, emitting carbon, still not green. It isn’t Central Park after all, despite the potted plants, it isn’t an island of green in the middle of a concrete jungle, it isn’t very pretty…but the chairs beckon and people who never felt a desire to sit en route to work, now sit, sipping coffee, finishing up lunch and watching traffic. A very strange development indeed.

I am not a naysayer, I like this attempt at forcing change. I like this subtle reinforcement, through less than subtle means, of the need to stop for a few minutes, to take a breather, to slow down and find a few minutes in the day to collect your thoughts as you’re going about your business.

Cliched as it sounds, I am very conscious of the passage of time these days, there aren’t enough hours in the day. I am in constant motion. I make up lists of things to do and I check them off. I do this everyday, I rarely glance away from my lists and when I do glance up I find that I’ve grown another year older, or two.

I blinked one day and I found Broadway transformed into a living room. Changes like this sometimes make me feel like a rock, a stream flowing all around me, and at other times like an object hurtling through space, like a shooting star, disintegrating as I go. So this “living room” then is a sign, perhaps a beacon, signaling a stop and underscoring a need to let every moment sink in.

Soon the congestion will abate as the automotive traffic finds alternatives to “Broadway Boulevard”. Drivers and cab users may consider public transportation, bikes, pedicabs or walking and then we might have ourselves a real outdoor living room…reminiscent of other calmer places and slower times.


  1. We have halved and quartered roads here thanks to erratic – in all senses of the term – one ways, craters and potholes, gaping voids where a road was. No mayor ever thought beyond his/her own term of office. The complainers complained to unlistening air.But no one ever wrote – or ever could – as eloquently and elegantly as this about a civic initiative. It's such a pleasure reading you. Always, every time.

  2. Ha, ha, I must see this in October! 😀

  3. mixed reactions indeed!perhaps going back in time may be the best thing for all of us… were'nt those times, just, well, less crazy! i read of stories set in the long ago years and wonder!cheers,I

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Follow Curlicues's Weblog on