A potential “6 ½ Avenue” might become pedestrians’ saving grace

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Some people who work and live in Midtown are aware of the public arcades that run from West 51st to West 57th Streets between 6th and 7th Avenues and are even more aware of the risks they take every time they jaywalk across these streets to hop from one arcade to another. These havens tucked away from the busy Avenues are popular for businesspeople that traverse the area during their lunch breaks.

For those who are not familiar, these privately owned public spaces, or POPS, are the product of New York’s 1961 zoning law that allowed developers to build taller buildings in exchange for providing and maintaining a public space. They are often hidden by small signage, trucks parked in front of their entrances, or the fact that some of them look nothing like public spaces. For example, the link between West 56th and 57th Streets is a narrow arcade through Le Parker Meridien Hotel. This two-story lobby is clad in polished marble, rich velvet curtains, and topped off with chic chandeliers. No unsuspecting pedestrian would guess to step foot into the space to escape the  chaotic crowds of 6th and 7th Avenues.

A proposal by Department of Transportation would save some New Yorkers from their daily dose of brazen jaywalking along the arcade path, dubbed “6 ½ Ave,” and increase the public’s awareness of this pedestrian-only route.

DOT identified key problems of the current situation as disconnected public spaces, the lack of crosswalks, and parked vehicles obstructing the visibility of both pedestrians and drivers. They reported that an average of 10 or fewer vehicles travel the blocks each minute during peak times, whereas 1,000 pedestrians cross these same streets during a typical lunch hour. According to their proposal, DOT has developed a plan to connect the midtown arcades by installing stop signs, crosswalks, and pedestrians-only waiting areas. This would unite the arcades into an official (and safe) pedestrian path. Opening up this passageway would improve the city’s pedestrian flow in Midtown as well as the possibility for future mid-block routes. Wouldn’t we all like to escape city crowds from time to time?

Photo: NYC Department of Transportation.