East 43rd Street went car-free between Lexington and Third Avenue for a few hours today, giving New Yorkers a preview of what’s to come. DOT plans to turn this block into a “shared space” where motor vehicle access is limited to pick-ups and deliveries, one of the public space improvements linked to the rezoning of Midtown East.
People on foot typically outnumber cars 16-to-1 on the block, which dead-ends at Grand Central Terminal’s Lexington entrance, making it a natural candidate for pedestrian priority treatments. Once it was off-limits to cars this afternoon, the block filled up with people pretty much instantaneously — sitting at picnic tables, walking in the middle of the street, and stopping to take in the various amenities DOT had set up in the space.
“What you’re seeing today is more like a temporary street closure, but I think it gives you a flavor of what’s to come and how important this will be,” Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said at a press conference announcing the project this afternoon.
A preliminary version of the “shared space” will go into effect in the spring as part of the East Midtown rezoning recently approved by the City Council, with a full capital project expected to wrap up in 2021. Two other blocks near the terminal — the Pershing Square plaza and Vanderbilt between 42nd and 43rd — are also car-free or slated for pedestrianization.
“We want to play on our strengths, which include being next to our most important transit hub, in Grand Central,” Council Member Dan Garodnick said. “And we want the pedestrian experience to be as significant as the Class-A office building experience, and that is why we wanted to have a grand entranceway to Grand Central, in a few different parts of the neighborhood.”
DOT’s model for East 43rd Street is the block-long shared space on Broadway by Madison Square. The agency also tried out temporary shared spaces on Doyers Street and Mott Street in Chinatown over the summer.
DOT Previews Car-Lite 43rd Street by Grand Central