01 June 2009

New York's Copenhagen Square?

Loooooooong John
A loooooooong john in Christiania, Copenhagen.
New York's Times Square has been transformed into a mall. I knew about this, of course, as well as the Copenhagen influence on the move, but it was interesting to read this article in New York Magazine.

Janette Sadik-Khan, the city's Commissioner for the Dept of Transport, is no stranger to Copenhagen. In the article she is quoted as saying;

"... that she drew inspiration from the Strøget, the spine of streets through the center of Copenhagen, which was gradually transformed into a genteel pedestrian thoroughfare. But her Times Square takeover also recalls a different Copenhagen institution: Christiania, the decommissioned military base that hippies colonized in the early seventies, banging together a livable town out of salvage and good cheer."

Strøget, fair enough. The pedestrian street from the 1960's that launched the work to reclaim the streets in Copenhagen from the exploding car culture of the time is legendary in urban planning circles and an inspiration for many cities.

But Christiania? I think it's enormously cool that this comparison is made, although I have difficulty understanding it. Christiania was squatted in the early seventies and it has been called Europe's greatest social experiment. This anarchist town seems an odd influence on a large square in one of the world's most conservative nations. But hey. Like I said, it's a cool comparison.

What do our New York readers think about the new zone on Times Square?


Anonymous said...

"world's most conservative nations"? Funny you should say that, but please try to look beyond the last 8 years. Really we're not so bad.

I don't get the comparison to Christiania either, though Times Square has an historic reputation as being pretty seedy. No clue.

Just from all the articles and pictures, the new zone seems pretty great. Planning on checking it out soon enough.

Mikael said...

now saying "world's most conservative nations" is by no means a criticism. not at all.

in a global perspective, even Obama is extremely conservative. If he was a Danish politician he would be on the far right wing.

Woody said...

Americans are so conservative we don't even imagine how the rest of the world lives and thinks. We are the only developed country without universal medical care. We, along with the former Soviet Union, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia, lead the world in executions and incarceration, not to mention torture as government policy. Our economic policy was devoted to cutting taxes on the rich during the good times, and bailing out the biggest banks, Wall Street firms, and other crooks in these hard times. We do not dare to ask that leaders of failed companies cough up their 'performance bonuses' and other ill-gotten wealth even while our taxes are donated to keep their bankrupt corporations afloat. It has been unrelenting class warfare and the Haves continue to win at the expense of the Have-nots. Now, like Chile after Pinochet and South Africa after the end of apartheid, we are supposed to forgive any and all past criminality -- except that unlike those countries, we are being told to reconcile without stopping to get the truth about the past wrongs. Oh, and as readers of this blog are well aware, every other developed country is ahead of us in passenger rail investment and public transit.

Sean said...

Greetings from New York! I walked through Times Square this morning on my way to work and actually spent some time there last week. The new pedestrian spaces are interesting.

They're a bit rough at the moment; protected from traffic by large orange bollards like found at constructions sites, and seating is lawn chairs and less than sturdy cafe tables and chairs, but this is temporary. The city is finalizing designs. More permanent items will come later.

The "feel" is much different than before. When I was there, the new Square feels calmer than the old one, it's quieter, and less congested; people seem in better spirits. Traffic also flowed smoothly on nearby Seventh Avenue. I didn't see the gridlock apocalypse opponents of the change predicted.

Also, of note: a new bike lane is under construction. It will run from Columbus Circle, down Broadway, into Times Square, and join an existing lane that runs south.

Exciting times.

Anonymous said...

in a global perspective, even Obama is extremely conservative.

Ireland: no abortion.
Netherlands: no burqas in public
France: public funds go to Catholic schools

That's a sample from Europe. Now, let's not even start talking about Burma, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, (communist) China, etc.

Kevin Love said...

Canada's Conservative Party (which forms the present government, albeit a minority government) is far-left by US standards. It supports things like universal health care, no capital punishment, complete withdrawl of Canadian troops from Afghanistan by 2011, Crown Corporations like Via Rail, etc, etc.

Canada's Liberal Party (which is currently in the role of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition) is somewhat conservative by continental European standards. Lukewarm on climate change standards, and on policies in daycare, housing or other social issues.

As in so many areas, Canada is somewhere in the middle between the USA and continental Europe.

ERK said...

NYer here. I rode my bike through the new car-free times square this thursday past. I must say, while its nice not to have to joust with cabs and delivery boys salmoning in the bike lanes, the zone is also (strangely) a no bike zone as well. Well, you can bring your bike there, you just can't ride it. Since it is not even a month old, there is an entire precinct of cops manning the line, forcing cyclists to dismount and cars to find a different route altogether. I'm all for lessening the use of fossil-fueled vehicles, but as my bike is my principal means of transportation around the city, I kind of take issue with how this initiative is starting out. Not to mention Broadway and Seventh avenue (which create the square) are some of the best (and busiest) south-bound routes in the city. Having to get off and clickity-clack my way down five blocks in SPD cleats seems at once ostracizing and time-wasting. In NYC, one of the most fast-paced places you can imagine, you'd think they'd have worked this out a little better before shutting down such a vital thoroughfare.

You asked...

Anonymous said...


You wear SPD shoes and not "normal" shoes? Begone bastard spawn of the lycra leviathan!

ERK said...

I never get off... and they're useful... isn't that reason enough?