MIDTOWN — Manhattan has a brand new avenue.
Once one of Midtown's best-kept secrets, a string of public pedestrian plazas that stretch from West 51st to 57th Streets between Sixth and Seventh avenues has been christened with official city street signs bearing its new name: 6 1/2 Avenue.
The new six-block-long avenue has been more than a year in the making and was part of a $60,000 Department of Transportation project intended to maximize the use and safety of the multiple public plazas that were created when the buildings were constructed.
Each is required under law to remain open to the public during certain hours of the day. Together, they have become a sort of short cut for pedestrians wishing to avoid the cluster and congestion of the surrounding roadways.
As part of the project, the Department of Transportation has also created crosswalks between the streets that connect the public plazas. Stop signs have been installed at each crosswalk between West 51st and 56th streets, and a traffic light stands at what is now the corner of West 57th Street and 6 1/2 Avenue.
Those crosswalks and signals are meant to make traveling between the plazas safer, rather than forcing pedestrians to dart between traffic.
"We do think connecting these spaces is a very good idea," Josh Benson, the DOT’s bicycle and pedestrian program director, said at a recent community meeting. "It’s worth it just to serve the thousands of people who use this already."
Community Board 5, which first proposed the idea to the DOT this past year, voted to approve the proposal in March.