Eyes on the Street: Summer Streets, May Day Edition

A stretch of 23rd Street closed to traffic yesterday as a result of the Occupy Wall Street May Day protests. Image: Philip Winn

New Yorkers got an unusual taste of what car-free streets feel like yesterday, thanks to the combination of Occupy Wall Street’s May Day march and the New York Police Department.

To mark the labor movement holiday, thousands of people took to the streets of Lower Manhattan to protest economic inequality. According to the New York Times, the crowd was big enough to fill Broadway between Houston and Worth Streets, a distance of eleven blocks. To prepare for the crowds, the police — who had previously attempted to force protestors to remain on the sidewalk, sometimes violently — closed streets across Downtown to motor vehicles.

The result was a surprisingly pleasant and peaceful prelude to the march. On Twitter, Philip Winn called the temporarily car-free 23rd Street, shown above, an “instantly calmer, slower, more people oriented place.”

I found myself at Broadway and Grand Street just before the march arrived. At that busy Soho corner, the new pedestrian space was being put to good use (sadly, I didn’t have a camera with me). People spread out, enjoying the change from the normally cramped sidewalks. Tourists walked in the middle of the street to better appreciate the architecture (and shops) on both sides of the road. I even saw two joggers, decked out in full athletic gear, taking advantage of what had been turned into, in their eyes, a long, open track.

If you’ve got more photos of this unintentional side effect of May Day, send them to tips [at] streetsblog [dot] org or add the Streetsblog tag on Flickr.