Some box hedges in raised planters would be nice.
Ancient ad ‘reins’ over Times Square
By SUSANNAH CAHALAN
The oldest still-standing advertisement in New York City — there for more than a century — is hidden in, of all places, Times Square.
“J.A. Keal’s Carriage Manufactory Repairing” — at 47th and Broadway — was painted on the side of a brick building in 1874, back when horses galloped through Gotham.
The billboard, now hidden at the southwest corner of Broadway that has Roxy Delicatessen on its ground floor, is featured in Brooklyn elementary-school teacher Frank Jump’s new book, “Fading Ads of New York City” (The History Press), out this week.
Jump photographed the “ghost sign,” as many of the old ads are called, when it was briefly exposed in 1998.
An adjacent building at 1567 Broadway was torn down before a new building was erected and connected to the towering W Hotel that currently stands behind it.
The city’s oldest still-visible ad is in Chelsea, the book says. Painted in white on a red-brick building at 109 W. 17th St. around 1900, the ad sells “Carriages, Coupes and Hansoms.”
Jump, who teaches at PS 119 Amersfort School, has documented 5,000 ads since 1997. Only a third are still standing.
These two survivors have been lucky to make it into the 21st century, as neither building is landmarked, city officials said.
Major Times Square Redesign to Start in Spring
By Mathew Katz
MIDTOWN — Besides dodging taxis and tourists, visitors to the Crossroads of the World will soon have to contend with torn-up streets and disconnected water mains — as initial work on the massive redesign of Times Square begins this spring, a timetable released by the city revealed.
The $40 million project will see both Broadway and Seventh Avenue repaved — with a mosaic design embedded in the concrete — accompanied by new lamps and benches.
The project will make the pedestrian plaza in the area permanent, adding infrastructure that includes electrical outlets to eliminate the need for generators at large events and concerts, according to the Department of Transportation and the Department of Design and Construction.
But the work will not affect Times Square's annual New Year's Eve extravaganza, as construction will cease between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1.
Work will begin with utility companies, including Con Edison, upgrading or relocating infrastructure such as underground wiring. Actual work on the street is set to begin in the fall and last until the 2015, officials said at a Community Board 5 meeting Monday.
"This is really a project to bring the Crossroads of the World up to the 21st century," said DOT Assistant Commissioner Andy Wiley-Schwartz.
Officials did not specify exactly when the initial work would begin, only saying that it would commence in late spring.
Construction crews will begin work on the Broadway section of the redesign in the winter, initially concentrating on the section between West 42nd and West 45th streets, and then moving on to work on the area between West 45th and West 47th streets.
The Broadway segment of the project will involve adding new infrastructure and pavement, along with tearing out old trolley tracks buried beneath the surface.
The DOT hopes to finish up with work on Broadway by the end of 2013, and then shift its focus onto Seventh Avenue to finish by fall 2015.
While working on Broadway, the DOT has pledged to maintain a 15-foot-wide access path for pedestrians, as well as access to all buildings.
The agency also pledged to keep a minimum of two lanes of traffic open at all times on Seventh Avenue during the work, along with two moving lanes on cross streets.
However, residents and office workers may see some impact to their buildings.
Merchant deliveries won't be allowed in any of the active disruption zones, and it's likely that several buildings will have their water shut off a day at a time because of water-main construction.
"The DDC will monitor all the operations and try to keep noise down," Jim Quinn, principal at Weidlinger Associates, a contractor working on the project, noted at the CB5 meeting.
The design, first unveiled in the fall, was altered to shift a bike lane going down Seventh Avenue from the west to the east side of the street due to community feedback.
Board members were generally supportive of the plan, but they did echo some concerns brought by the Times Square Alliance, including a request to make some of the large benches removable, so they can be taken away to make space for crowds at large events.
"We have to be diligent," said Raju Mann, who leads CB5's transportation and environment committee.
"This is probably the most important public space project in New York City over the next 50 years."
This will be a construction mess for a couple of years. But the result will be much better than the painted asphalt there now. Plus it gives the city the opportunity to do much needed infrastructure upgrades below the surface.
And, immediately after this is complete, the next mayor will decide to restore car traffic on B'way though Times Square.
What they will do is lease the "public" space out to private companies to set up shop.
The streets were officially demapped, which had to be done before any permanent design could go forward. Mapping and demapping streets is a zoning issue, and has to go through the DCP.
Nice to see there aren't any trees.
EDIT: Expect a rant column in the NY Post.
Times Square makeover to build in broadcasting infrastructure.
by Tom Stoelker
Snohetta's new rendering of the Times Square pedestrian plaza.
Last September, the Bloomberg administration announced architecture firm Snøhetta’s plans for a makeover of the Great Crossroads into a 21st-century pedestrian plaza with futuristic touches like metallic tiles and zoomy slab benches. Then silence as the current décor of junky bistro chairs and peeling paint polka dots seemed to settle in for the ages. The $27 million plan due to be complete by 2014 has been waiting on Con Edison.
Times Square needs extensive subterranean work before the future can get underway. “That’s the greatest story never told,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, Department of Transportation (DOT) commissioner, of the outdated infrastructure beneath the street, including 19th-century trolley tracks and gas mains now being replaced by some serious backstage (that is, below-grade) infrastructure to support one of the world’s great outdoor stages.
No longer will visitors simply look up at the energy of Times Square; they’ll be sitting on it, too. The long granite sculptural benches indicating the thrust of the Great White Way will now carry electrical currents of up to 400 amps. The new entertainment infrastructure with fiber-optic connectivity will be the first of its kind in the city and could have implications for other event venues likely to pop up on 34th and Broadway, Madison Square, Union Square, and other plazas in Midtown.
Times Square at night.
The commissioner added that if the entertainment plaza model were to be replicated elsewhere it would probably follow a public/ private model similar to the Times Square renovation, where months of community charrettes met key support from the Times Square Alliance. Of the $45 million spent on the renovation, $5 million will go toward event infrastructure.
Wesler-Cohen engineered electrical plug-in points on the benches that will provide both 400 and 200 amps. Bexel engineered the broadcast capacity, while Weidlinger Associates facilitated utility coordination. The power for plazas to the southeast will be provided by transformers hidden within two buildings on the south side of the square, while on the northwest a transformer will be placed in a prefabricated vault designed to go beneath the sidewalk. The DOT will manage and maintain the system.
“It all fits into the basic goals of consolidation and simplification that have been key for the project as a whole,” said Snøhetta’s Clair Fellman.
The plug-in points will eliminate the need for generators, whose noise and pollution have been known to cause neighborhood outrage, as they did during last year’s Fashion Week at Lincoln Center. Organizers there eventually plugged in to supplies at Fordham University and at the David H. Koch Theater, but there were still miles of cables “hidden” beneath protective pads cluttering the area.
Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner David Burney said he cannot think of a precedent for similar event infrastructure. Bryant Park, for example, has power capacity not broadcast infrastructure. “The event economy has really evolved in the last 20 years,” said Bryant Park executive director Daniel Biederman. “You’re much better off if you can have underground connectivity distributed throughout your space.” But while facilitating events is important, Burney noted the main focus of the redesign remains the “de-cluttering of Times Square.” If it’s not needed, it’s got to go. Gone are telephone booths, curbs, and many of the light posts. “There’s more than enough ambient light from the signage,” Burney noted.
Con Edison is already working their way north on the square, converting oil systems to natural gas. Burney said that toward the end of this year, the DDC will begin to follow the energy company, capping below-grade work with cast-in-place 12-foot-by-12-foot concrete slabs. Modular concrete pavers will top the slabs. The pavers combine white quartz aggregate with darker hued concrete for contrast, while small stainless-steel circles called “pucks” will be embedded for a touch of glitz.
Turning Times Square into a no-car zone was inevitable. “It never made any sense,” Burney said. “It just becomes a de facto pedestrian plaza anyway—we’re just recognizing reality.” Sadik-Kahn noted that before the pilot program, 11 percent of the space was set-aside for pedestrians, even though they are 90 percent of the traffic. In terms of design solutions, however, one size does not fit all. “What works in Times Square doesn’t necessarily work on New Lots Avenue,” Sadik-Kahn said. However, with pedestrian signage designed by Pentagram to be introduced across the city this fall, there will be some consistency. With its presumed success in Times Square, event infrastructure has a future throughout the city. If you can make it happen there, you can probably pilot it and make it happen anywhere.
Broadway is really going to be dead to cars after this
Times Square ‘Bow Tie’ Is to Get Belts of Steel and Granite
By DAVID W. DUNLAP
Department of Design and Construction/Snohetta
This schematic view looking south on Seventh Avenue, from West 44th to West 43rd Street, shows bollards (30-inch-high vertical posts) and two long granite barriers that are meant to protect pedestrians in the Times Square plazas.
Times Square, one the most free-flowing public spaces in the world, will be constrained a bit by the addition of dozens of stainless-steel bollards and granite barriers that are intended to prevent terrorists — and drunks — from driving vehicles on to the pedestrian plazas that have been created between West 42nd and West 47th Streets.
David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
The installation of new security measures throughout Times Square, a step that has been advocated by the Police Department, was approved Jan. 7 by the mayoral Design Commission.
Paul J. Browne, the deputy police commissioner for public information, said in a telephone interview, “We are concerned about pedestrians and other individuals who are using this newly created recreational space being protected from vehicles used either accidentally or intentionally against them.”
Among the threats Mr. Browne noted were drunken drivers, drivers who lost control of their vehicles for other reasons, would-be killers who planned to drive into crowds, and would-be bombers who parked explosive-filled vehicles in the square, as happened in 2010.
A spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, John McCarthy, said the measures would not change current vehicular traffic routes in Times Square. Installation of the devices is expected to be finished this year.
The bollards and barriers are part of an ambitious project intended to make permanent the pedestrian landscaping of Times Square and its northern extension, Duffy Square. By closing parts of the crossroads to traffic in 2009, the Bloomberg administration effectively created five large plazas along Broadway and Seventh Avenue.
The plazas are enormously popular with tourists, office workers and those who like to dress up as oversized cartoon characters, but they have always had an impromptu feeling about them. The permanent landscaping would literally cast the plazas in stone. It has been designed by the acclaimed architectural firm Snohetta of Oslo, Norway, which is also responsible for the aboveground pavilion of the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
The landscaping project was announced in 2011 but has taken time to advance through public review as officials wrestled with the security question. Current measures include big chunks of concrete painted white, with the initials “NYPD” in blue; semi-conical planters that look like a hangover from the post-Modernist movement and flimsy movable barricades.
“We had to strike a balance between reasonable protection and keeping the city’s most symbolic and visible public space both open and appealing,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, which runs the local business improvement district.
“While I was wary at first, I think the designers’ mix of reasonably sized bollards and multi-functional linear barriers strikes that balance,” he continued. “Part of what got me there was realizing that we already had 100 clunky, standard-issue planters serving that function that were hardly sources of aesthetic inspiration.”
David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
Current security measures in Times Square have a catch-as-catch-can appearance. (The Statue of Liberty is not among them.)
On Dec. 11, Snohetta submitted a revised description of the security measures to the Design Commission, noting that the new plazas draw an estimated 364,000 people to Times Square every day. “Tables, chairs and food kiosks create an atmosphere that invites people to linger with an expectation of safety,” the firm said. The plazas cannot simply be blocked off because emergency vehicles, sanitation and sign maintenance trucks and large food-service trailers must be able to cross.
Snohetta said the 30-inch high stainless-steel bollards would be arranged parallel to the cross streets “in order to maximize porosity for pedestrians moving north and south through the bow tie.” It will be possible to remove a few key bollards by twisting them off their posts, to allow vehicles to pass through the palisade when necessary. Snohetta said the bollards would blend in with other stainless-steel elements in its landscaping plan.
The linear granite barriers will parallel Seventh Avenue and double as benches. They, too, will be removable if necessary.
The installation of permanent security devices will “minimize the need for the Police Department to deploy additional barriers such as concrete blocks,” Snohetta said.
It is expected that the overall landscaping and street repair project in Times Square will be completed in 2016. It is to include roadway reconstruction and the replacement of aging water pipes and sewer mains. The cost is currently estimated at $55 million, but not all the contractors’ bids are submitted, so the total could change. The mayor’s press office declined to break out the cost of the bollards and barriers.
Rogers Marvel Architects, the firm responsible for the security landscaping around the New York Stock Exchange, is also involved with the Times Square project; as are Weidlinger Associates, an engineering firm that specializes in security reinforcement; and the security consulting firm Ducibella Venter & Santore.
David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
The architects of the new barriers hope to eliminate concrete blocks like these.