FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Tourists standing in the middle of Whitehall Street to take pictures of the Wall Street bull will no longer have to worry about getting hit by cars.
The Department of Transportation announced plans Wednesday night to create new pedestrian plazas around Bowling Green to accommodate the crowds of commuters, residents and tourists who are now often forced out into the street.
"All the pedestrians are encouraged … to walk in the roadway, particularly at the bull," said Sean Quinn, planning coordinator for the DOT, describing the current narrow sidewalks. "People are trying to take photos and they're in the road."
At peak times, as many as 220 people per hour walk into Whitehall Street near the bull, Quinn said. Just south of Bowling Green at State and Whitehall streets, up to 390 people per hour walk into the street during the evening rush, Quinn said.
To address this safety hazard, the DOT plans to bump out the sidewalks and shorten crosswalks on Whitehall Street between Morris and Pearl streets and State Street between Battery Place and Whitehall Street. The DOT also plans to create a new pedestrian plaza at the "Charging Bull" sculpture, which would extend north to Morris Street.
"People will be protected [because they will be] standing in sidewalk space," Quinn said.
The design is similar to the DOT's new pedestrian plaza at Whitehall and Water streets nearby, with textured tan pavement, flower-filled planters and plastic posts marking the new edge of the sidewalk. The Bowling Green project includes 22 planters, landscaped by the Downtown Alliance.
The plan would also slightly alter traffic patterns on State Street, by clarifying that one lane is reserved for parking, Quinn said.
Community Board 1's Financial District Committee unanimously supported the proposed changes at a meeting Wednesday night.
"What's not to like?" committee chairman Ro Sheffe said, adding that the plazas would likely make the area safer.
Construction on the new pedestrian plazas will take about two weeks to complete, but the city has not yet set a timetable for beginning the work, Quinn said.
The DOT's work would not affect the NYPD's protections around the "Charging Bull" sculpture, which has been surrounded by barricades for months because of the Occupy Wall Street protests.