With its truly seedy — and, many argue, more interesting — days behind it, Times Square has been going through something of an awkward stage. While the Bloomberg administration’s 2009 installation of carless, pedestrian-friendly plazas made the area more breathable, it remains, in the words of Times Square Alliance president Tim Tompkins, “dumpy-looking.” That’s supposed to change in 2014, which is when the city hopes to complete a $27 million update. The plan, which looks likely to gain official approval sometime soon, calls for a “futuristic” transformation of the square, including the addition of “slablike benches,” “metallic tiles,” and the flattening of the curbs separating sidewalks from now automobile-free sections of Broadway. According to the Times, the cosmetic changes will also serve more practical purposes:
The benches, besides offering a sturdy replacement to the flimsy furniture currently used on the plazas, would also divide the space between free-flowing walkways and a central area where visitors could congregate. In other words: tourists to one side, New Yorkers on the other.
“The comment that one hears almost all the time is that New Yorkers, for the most part, don’t really like to be in Times Square,” said Craig Dykers, the principal architect at Snohetta. He hopes the design will allow for “different speeds at which people can move through Times Square.”
That certainly seems like a lot to expect from a bunch of benches, regardless of their fanciness. Still, when it comes to making walking through the area even slightly less insanity-inducing, anything’s worth a shot.