Perkins Eastman proposes turning New York's Broadway into one long park


Perkins Eastman Architects' Green Line concept would see New York's iconic Broadway converted into a linear park running from Columbus Circle to Union Square.

The Green Line would create a more than 40-block long park for pedestrians and cyclists that would connect many of the city's famous public spaces – including Union Square, Madison Square, Herald Square, Times Square, and Columbus Circle.

Green Line park in Manhattan

According to Perkins Eastman, emergency vehicles would be permitted to use the green route as a shortcut through the city, but cars and trucks would otherwise be banned.

It is the latest in a string of proposals for turning existing city infrastructure into parkland following the success of the High Line, which was built on disused elevated railway tracks. Recent examples include the Lowline underground park below the streets of Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Green Line park in Manhattan

Unlike most of these proposals, which largely focus on derelict spaces and structures, Perkins Eastman's concept is for one of New York's central roads. Broadway is a unique avenue in Manhattan's street grid, cutting across much of the island on the diagonal, creating breaks in the city's plan for public squares.

"Recognising that green public space is at a premium in the city, and proximity to it is perhaps the best single indicator of value in real estate, the Green Line proposes a new green recreational space that is totally integrated with the form of the city," said Perkins Eastman principal Jonathan Cohn.

Green Line park in Manhattan

"As a linear at-grade park, the Green Line would provide much needed active and passive recreational space in the heart of the city."

The proposal builds on recent pedestrian and cyclist improvements implemented along Broadway by the previous mayoral administration of Michael Bloomberg. These include a protected bike lane running the length of the street, which has already reduced vehicle traffic, and the closure of Times Square to cars – part of a redesign by architecture firm Snøhetta.

Green Line park in Manhattan

According to the architects, the Green Line would also help Manhattan manage its drainage system by removing a large strip of tarmac, allowing water to be absorbed into the exposed soil instead of needing to be channeled away.

Broadway currently marks an important point in the city's overburdened stormwater drainage system. West of Broadway, stormwater overflows drain into the Hudson, while to the east, the effluent is discharged into the East River.

Green Line park in Manhattan

"It is an excellent swath to begin groundwater recharge," said Cohn. "Rather than allowing stormwater to enter the underground sewer system, where during heavy rain and snow storms it combines with untreated wastewater and discharges directly into the city's waterways, much of the rainwater could be allowed to percolate directly into the earth."

The Green Line would use a combination of permeable paving stones, bioswales – landscape features designed to filter silt and pollution from rainwater – and plants to help manage runoff.

Green Line park in Manhattan

Based on the success of the High Line, the designers argue the proposal would increase property values and therefore would pay for itself.

"The success of the High Line in providing a new destination park that encourages private investment in surrounding areas is an important precedent," said Cohn. "Unlike the High Line, the Green Line proposes a linear park that is seamlessly stitched into the urban fabric, providing for more immediate value-leveraging for associated buildings and their users."

Danish architecture studio BIG is currently working on plans to build a strip of parkland, public space and pavilions around the edge of Manhattan called the Big U, which will act as an invisible flood defence.

Other unusual public space projects planned for New York include the + Pool, a cross shaped swimming pool that would float in the Hudson River.

Green Line park in Manhattan
Plan of the Green Line – click for larger image
Green Line park in Manhattan
Square typology diagram – click for larger image
  • hellfire

    Yes, make sure those millionaires have a better view out their overpriced apartments. Here’s an idea, if you’re going to propose these out-there ideas, why not propose ideas that are actually useful for the city and not some hokey pre-thesis study?

    Perhaps the aforementioned housing issue, where the only factors that go into determining what gets built is “how much can I get per square feet?” and “how can I increase the property value?” Oh right… turning Broadway into an unnecessary park!

    • Ryan

      What are you talking about? We need spaces in the city that are not dominated by cars.

      • Lame

        You’re right! All we need is more green spaces suffocated by city life/density because it’s the ‘it’ things these days for star architects/planners. Wonder what it is like for a tree in one of these “responsible” urban spaces in the middle of such unnecessary density.

    • AnoNYC

      Pedestrianizing Broadway is a boon to the city. Midtown does not have many green spaces, and pedestrians, who make make up the majority of traffic along this artery, would have access to to a more healthy environment.

    • Meme

      We have to make our city centres more ugly and unfriendly, so rich people feel bad in there and apartments will become affordable for the middle classes.

      • hellfire

        I’m pretty sure that’s not what I said at all. There are many ways to enhance an urban environment. “Greening” up the place seems to be just about the laziest way to do this.

        Let’s be honest, if green spaces were such a high priority for someone, an urban environment is pretty much the last place they should be. There are numerous issues to be addressed in New York City. I’d say whether Broadway was green enough is pretty damn low on that list.

        • Meme

          Green city centers stimulate people to:
          – live in central city instead of suburb and therefore reduce daily commuting between distances (either with cars or public transport) and traffic jams.
          – walk more and drive cars less (which is good in different ways and pleasant too).
          – breathe a little healthier air.
          – etc.

          I don’t know how relevant these arguments are in New York, but generally I support green cities. I invite you to support them too.

          • hellfire

            Unfortunately most of those do not apply to New York City (in my opinion of course), aside from breathing healthier air. The ability to live in the central city (Manhattan) is dictated by income. Greening the central spine will only make these properties even more unaffordable than they already are (and they are considerably unaffordable). New Yorkers already walk everywhere or take mass transit, so cars are minimal (compared to many cities).

            To be clear, my admittedly snarky initial comment wasn’t to say green spaces aren’t great. Just that this particular scheme from Perkins Eastman to green up Broadway is pretty sophmoric.

          • AnoNYC

            The Manhattan central business district is heavily utilised by people from all across the city and metropolitan area. Improvements there go a long way.

          • Justin

            Nothing wrong with living in the suburbs and commuting on a daily basis. I (in my home and neighbourhood) have more green areas than the entire city of Manhattan. I love driving my detailed engineered vehicle by myself, enjoying the scenery and privacy of it all. Cities are cool but should not be forced down people’s throats as the end all be all of living environments.

    • Mr J

      This High Line at ground level seems a terrific concept and a huge plus for most New Yorkers. But you don’t approve, so I’m interested in what your objections are, and why you think greening a city is the wrong approach. And importantly, what ‘actually useful’ ideas can you suggest that are better than this?

      • hellfire

        No I can’t suggest “better” alternatives because this isn’t a scheme that’s being built. I also have more pressing things to do with my time rather than writing a dissertation on urban developments and their social impacts. Suffice it to say, the High Line is an exceptional example of selling away the future of an area to developers who have no interest in “developing” a neighbourhood and would rather toss up luxury condo after luxury condo.

        This is not to say the High Line itself wasn’t a nice addition to west Chelsea. It was however the impetus that turned what was a positive idea into just another harbinger for rampant developer greed the second they signed away the air rights to developers. This “proposal” is essentially that on a grander scale.

        I apologise that I’m not more enthused to be further marginalised in my own city, especially when they’re writing drivel such as “…more immediate value-leveraging for associated buildings and their users”.

        I’ve learned to look past pandering “green space” proposals and grandiose social urban experiments, and I am unfortunately more interested in how this city engages in “place-making”, passing laws that may someday actually prevent the whoring of the city to developers, and to develop schemes that earnestly benefit the average resident, not developers or the ultra-rich.

  • Kay

    And cars that need to cross the East/West routes?

    • Dylan Milne

      Just go all the way round. Remember this is about the environment, not just making something look pretty!

      • Kay

        You’ve clearly never driven in Manhattan.

        • Tom B.

          I know I haven’t, and can see no positive value to anyone doing so (speaking only of private vehicles).

    • John Bernhardt

      You’re right – it’s almost like they forgot.

    • AnoNYC

      Perhaps phase one could leave crosstown streets open. Eventually congestion pricing and parking reform could dramatically reduce automotive volumes.

    • AnoNYC

      At this point if the city continues to close sections of Broadway, cross-street intersections will likely remain open. At least in the near term.

    • Eric Wu

      Could leave a few main roads for cars to cross.

      • Kay

        It won’t be enough. Manhattan is a tiny island and Broadway is the main artery as it crosses diagonally across the beautiful grid pattern. This means that north to south, the entire island is affected. It would wreak havoc on the city and raise noise pollution. In addition, it would make drivers take detours into otherwise quite residential areas, thus overall lowering the quality of life for most.

        The only way it would work was if all the E-W roads remained open and the parks filled the areas in between. The public can cross the roads to move between one section to the other. In essence one long chain of park islands.

  • Amazing, more please!

  • Boy, THAT’LL never happen.

    • AnoNYC

      That’s what they said about the pedestrianizion of Times Square. I see increased pedestrianization of NYC as inevitable.

  • vincentius

    OK, but I’d like to see a couple more Shake Shacks open along this Green Line.

  • roow110

    I am an industrial/architectural/urban designer and have been working on this EXACT design for about 2 years now. Broadway is at the heart of Manhattan passing through many of the most important parts of the city. Already, through-traffic is banned at most major intersections as its diagonal path interrupts traffic flow. It is only natural to expand these pedestrian zones further out.

    I have been working on a proposal to ban cars from Manhattan expanding off of Paul Goodman’s work from 1961. The first stage of that proposal, to be implemented in the next five years, was to ban cars from the most central road in the city – Broadway – sending a message that cars are the past and give the heart of the city back to the people with walkways, bike paths, parks and public art.

    It would begin at the Met in the Upper West side and continue to Columbus Circle and Central Park to Times Square, connect to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library, to Herald Square and Madison Square Gardens, then down to Madison Square Park, then Union Square, NYU and Washington Square Park, SOHO and finally ending at the Brooklyn Bridge and Ground Zero.

    This one road, which is rarely used any more, could connect almost every major pedestrian area in Manhattan, encourage sustainable modes of transit, take back infrastructure designed for cars and give it back to people and bring nature back to the heart of the city. I hope this comes to fruition and will to continue developing my design proposal in the meantime. Great to see this coming from Perkins Eastman.

  • Brennan Murray

    So we are going to take one of the busiest routes in New York and turn that into a giant park. Lovely concept, but let’s be reasonable even if there are openings where normal cars can cross over. How much congestion is that going to cause?

  • Sir John V

    This is how cities die. Over-eager architects propose eye-catching solutions that no one wants, just to get their name in the mags. Broadway is one of the great urban highways. Tidy it, maybe, restrict it, maybe, but don’t rob it of it’s raison d’etre.

    • AnoNYC

      Excessive allocation of space to automobiles killed large portions of the city in the mid-20th century.

  • JamesW

    Cars should be banned from Manhattan! Investment should be made on creating the world’s best public transport. This would put New York at the centre of the future again.

  • btodder

    New York City has an affordable housing crisis. Pedestrianising broadway is a nice gesture but only if we are “greening up” other areas of the city as well. However, this would only ever be beneficial if we had less cars on Manhattan’s roads because at the end of the year it is way too much.

    Better funded mass transit, subsidised subway fares, and more subway lines should come first. Investing in our public transit system would improve commuting times to Manhattan from outer boroughs. This is going to make living in more affordable places outside Manhattan while working in Manhattan much more viable.

  • Xi

    Perhaps this concept will work one day but at the moment the city’s lifeblood is reliant on cars being able to get around. It’s a nice idea but falls short on how it could be implemented efficiently.

  • How do you deliver truckloads of goods to buildings along this strip? Park as close as you can and carry it in by hand?

  • Eric Wu

    Maybe people could think about creating a city only with public transportation.

  • Ji

    I think it’s great. The improvement and rehabilitation of public places, with any kind of project, raises the price around them. But it’s a consequence of this improvement, which is made to give the citizens a better quality of life. So, if this works good in Broadway, maybe it can be done in some other parts of the city too. Instead of criticising this kind of project, let’s encourage more of them.