By  on February 27, 2009

New York City’s plans to close seven blocks of Broadway to vehicular traffic were met with mixed reviews from Garment District tenants.

As part of “Green Light for Midtown,” a $1.5 million pilot program, Broadway from West 47th to 42nd Streets, and from West 35th to 33rd Streets will be closed to vehicular traffic. The aim is to alleviate Midtown traffic snarls, especially in and around Times Square and Herald Square, while encouraging walking as a mode of transportation.

Traffic will begin to be diverted starting Memorial Day weekend and all work is expected to be completed by September. Results of the pilot program will be tracked closely by city officials through the end of the year to determine if the program should continue.

Barbara Randall, executive director of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District, was enthusiastic about the changes afoot, primarily due to the anticipated reduced traffic.

“Anything you can do to encourage people to get out of cars is a good thing,” she said. “Times Square is all pedestrians already, so why not give them the space they need?”

Pedestrian-friendly blocks will only enhance the property value of area businesses, she said. The FCBID plans to survey the neighborhood’s tenants and landlords to gauge public response.

Jeanette Nostra, president of G-III Apparel Group Ltd., who commutes by car to her Seventh Avenue office, said she likes the idea conceptually in terms of how it could improve the area’s ambience, but is worried about how it would affect businesses.

“If it were seasonal, it would make more sense,” Nostra said. “I just don’t want it to have any negative economic impact on the operations of any businesses.”

Ed Goldberg, senior vice president for government and community relations for Macy’s Inc., said the street’s rerouting should relieve congestion, make Times Square and Herald Square much more attractive to tourists and the community, boost sales, and improve the street’s safety and utility. Goldberg said the plan wouldn’t effect trucks making deliveries to the store’s 35th Street loading dock. Macy’s will move its taxi rank to Seventh Avenue from Broadway.

Bud Konheim, president and chief executive officer of Nicole Miller, was less convinced and questioned the mayor’s decision to invest in these uncertain financial times.

“What’s on everybody’s mind?” Konheim asked. “The economy. High-end New Yorkers have been decimated and everyone is feeling the effects. This is Nero fiddling while Rome is burning. If he wanted to do something for business, why not close off Madison Avenue for a 12-block stretch? It’s already a great shopping and walking street with great restaurants.”

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