This winter, in a bid to encourage holiday shopping and festivities, the city transformed a stretch of Fifth Avenue from 48th Street to 57th Street into a “car-free” oasis for pedestrians for three Sundays in December — for the first time in 50 years. After Mayor Eric Adams’ office deemed the initiative “widely popular” on Sunday, Dec. 18, Adams introduced a new plan to permanently alter the streetscape to be more friendly to pedestrians.
“New York isn’t coming back, New York is back,” he said in a statement. “Fifth Avenue is an iconic corridor and an engine of our Midtown economy. But it is also an unmissable opportunity to show the city and the country how world-class public space can help create vibrant central business districts.”
The directive from the mayor’s office calls for Fifth Avenue from Bryant Park at 42nd Street to Central Park at 59th Street to become, in the coming years, more walkable. Proposed changes include upping greenery and lighting, making public transit more efficient and “improving street safety, including for cycling,” according to a press release.
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The mayor’s office announced that the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Department of Transportation will coordinate with a design firm in 2023 to make the street a “safer, less congested, pedestrian-centered boulevard.”
“What we saw on Fifth Avenue this past month was game-changing,” DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement. “The Fifth Avenue Open Street proved that a street that is more welcoming to pedestrians is also great for business.” Currently, the stretch is a throughway for vehicular traffic.
The project will receive funding from a “novel public-private partnership,” according to the mayor’s office, including the Fifth Avenue Association, the Grand Central Partnership, the Bryant Park Association and the Central Park Conservancy. It follows the “New New York: Making New York Work for Everyone” plan unveiled the week prior by Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul.
Ed Hogan, board chair of the Fifth Avenue Associated, said that the avenue has been analyzed for two years leading up to the mayor’s latest announcement. “Fifth Avenue has been an economic powerhouse for the city and a leader in retail, tourism, and office space,” he said in a statement. “However, there hasn’t been a public investment in over 100 years. The sidewalks can’t accommodate the crowds, and the streets are overly congested. Open Streets has shown how improving the pedestrian experience can draw more New Yorkers and tourists to this iconic global corridor.”
The plan has support from Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, in addition to Council Members Keith Powers and Julie Menin, whose City Council districts include and are near to the future pedestrian-priority street. In a statement thanking Adams for unveiling the new project, Powers called Fifth Avenue “the center of the greatest city on earth.”
“What we saw on Fifth Avenue this past month was game-changing.” DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez