Photo: Robert Pittman/Flickr
Over the last 70 years, the Citizens Housing Planning Council has gathered hundreds of archival documents showing little-known NYC history. Their latest gem is a 1974 pamphlet which documents a vision for the “Broadway Plaza” and foreshadows the “Pedestrianization of Times Square.”
In the late 1800s, Times Square was the site of the American Horse Exchange. It grew busier and busier as the area emerged as New York City’s Theatre District.
An image of Times Square dated 1905. Photo: New York Public Library Digital Collections
By 1974, Mayor Abe Beame and the Office of Midtown Planning and Development were ready to revitalize the “Crossroads of the World” with plans for a more pedestrian-friendly Times Square. They sought zoning initiatives to reroute traffic around three blocks of the square and promised the square would “always remain bright” with illuminated signs and activity.
The report cited a 1929 precedent from the Regional Plan Association which had previously called for Broadway to be closed to traffic to make way for the many theatregoers to the area.
The planners hoped that Times Square would become a “beautiful oasis in the heart of the city” with masterplanned roadways, crossways, and pedestrian space — a vision that holds true today.
Since then, we all know how things turned out. Around 300,000 people visit Times Square each day, and its most active days see well over 450,000 visitors.