NYC Will Install 1,500 New Barriers to Protect Pedestrians From Cars

A car rests on a security barrier in New York's Times Square after driving through a crowd of pedestrians in May of 2017. A three-foot-tall piece of stainless steel in the ground ultimately stopped it. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

New York City is spending $50 million to protect its most high-profile public spaces from car attacks with roughly 1,500 metal bollards and large planters. Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Tuesday that the bollards would replace the concrete cubes and barriers that have gone up around areas vulnerable to attack.

“That was necessary to immediately secure those areas in light of these new trends we’ve seen,” de Blasio said, according to the New York Times. “But we knew we needed long-term solutions, we needed permanent barriers.”

Several local officials and advocates are pushing for the city to go further and declare Times Square a car-free area, according to Curbed — although that concept doesn’t look like it will materialize any time soon.

Meanwhile, as Next City has covered, cities around the globe are weighing public safety concerns around vehicle attacks with the implications of so-called “militarized design.” Dario Nardella, mayor of Florence, Italy, recently announced that the city would use trees and planters, rather than bollards, as barriers for the city’s public spaces.

“The safety of these places is urgent and appropriate, but we cannot allow safety to transform thousands of squares and public spaces in Europe to become sites of barriers and concrete blocks, as if they were military checkpoints,” Italian architect Stefano Boeri said in a statement last fall.

New York, however, will have to reckon with more than aesthetics as it plans for pedestrian safety. According to the Times, the bollards’ installation could be complicated by the city’s underground transit system.

“If you want to make them so they can really stop a vehicle, they need to go some distance into the ground,” The city’s transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg said, according to the paper.

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