Updated 04/13/2011 09:30 PM
Mayor Unveils New Study On Air Quality In Times Square
Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed Wednesday that the controversial traffic shift in Times Square not only prevents accidents and makes the "Crossroads of the World" cleaner, but has also improved New Yorkers' breathing. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
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Scientists say New Yorkers have been breathing cleaner air in Times Square over the last couple of years, coinciding with new car-free zones.
"That cleaner air, of course, makes a huge difference to the health of more than a quarter-million pedestrians who pass through Times Square every day," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday.
The study finds the air in Times Square has 41 percent less nitrogen dioxide, from more than 70 parts per billion in the winter of 2008, to less than 40 parts per billion, a year later after the city altered the traffic grid.
"Nitrogen dioxide is a respiratory irritant, that exacerbates respiratory illness for both adults and children, including children with asthma," said Dr. Tom Matte of the CUNY School of Public Health
The new traffic pattern does have its detractors, who say it is another sign this area has become homogenized, but both the mayor former President Bill Clinton told reporters Wednesday that the nostalgia for the old Times Square is misplaced.
The pair of politicians announced a new environmental partnership and the 42nd U.S. president recalled more than a half-century ago, when he first strolled into Tad's Steaks and other Times Square haunts.
"I remember everything about it. I saw a hooker approach a man in a gray flannel suit. Pretty heavy stuff for a guy from Arkansas," said Clinton. "My view is it’s way better now. You have to look at the overall numbers."
Still, the air quality improvement elsewhere is not as high. Nitrogen dioxide has remained flat in the rest of Midtown and the city.
Particulates like soot stayed the same in Times Square, because they often come from buildings. Bloomberg is trying to fix that, and is eyeing more pedestrian-only streets, annoying motorists.
"I think they're grasping for straws in what was a very bad move as far as traffic flow and transportation is concerned," said Robert Sinclair Jr. of the Automobile Club of New York.
Some people on the street also told NY1 they did not think Times Square was any cleaner.
"I think it's the same, I don't know. I haven't noticed any change," said one pedestrian.
"I think it's cleaner. I don't think it's that bad," said another.
"There are fewer cars here, apparently. There's exhaust over there, there's exhaust over there, and the winds blowing this way? Is there a wall up?" said a third.