Fifth Avenue – Sans Cars 1970
The Story Of Mayor John Lindsay’s Pedestrian Malls
Top photo shows 5th Ave. on a typical day. Bottom shows 5th Ave. on July 11, 1970 as traffic was cleared
While many environmental and safety groups bandy about various schemes for making streets safer for pedestrians by removing or limiting cars from city streets, the idea is older than you might think.
During his tenure as mayor of New York City from 1966-1973, John Lindsay always favored pedestrians.
Lindsay’s initial ban of cars took place in May of 1969. Lindsay and the city closed a small area of Nassau Street in downtown Manhattan as part of a temporary 90 day experiment during lunch hour from 11 A.M. to 2 P.M..
After 90 days Lindsay declared the “experimental” closure permanent.
The next year on April 22, 1970 the city closed some streets for the first Earth Day.
It’s one thing to shut down a narrow street in the financial district or some larger streets for a special occasion like Earth Day, it’s quite another to ban cars in the heart of New York’s shopping district.
Lindsay’s bigger plans came to fruition, also as an experiment, 44 years ago on Saturday, July 11, 1970. Lindsay closed vehicular traffic from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., on a fifteen block stretch on Fifth Avenue from 42nd through 57th Streets.
The day before the experiment Mayor Lindsay said, “New Yorker’s should enjoy the most beautiful and exciting street when it becomes a pedestrian mall.”
This would also be different because the merchants along Fifth Avenue were not enamored with the idea. It was the first concerted effort by city officials to see the impact of a traffic closure on a major New York City street and observe the effects on noise, air quality and more importantly, quality of life. Continue reading