The air in Times Square is cleaner since cars were banned from two stretches of Broadway in 2009 and a pedestrian plaza created, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday as he announced an environmental collaboration with former President Bill Clinton.
The concentrations of two components of car exhaust _ nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen monoxide _ dropped significantly in the bustling tourist area, and air quality increased slightly throughout midtown, he said. The numbers are from a Health Department study.
"We created pedestrian plazas right in the heart of our city to straighten out some of the chokepoints in our street grid and to help traffic flow more smoothly and quickly through midtown," Bloomberg said. "We also expected that by reducing the numbers of vehicles in and around Times Square, we would also improve the area's air quality, and that's exactly what the numbers now show."
Clinton joined Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion, the official mayor's residence, to announce that they are merging their two climate groups _ C40, a coalition of cities led by Bloomberg, and the Clinton Climate Initiative, a project of Clinton's foundation.
C40 and the Clinton Climate Initiative both seek to cut carbon emissions through programs that reduce energy use in buildings, promote mass transit and reuse greenhouse gases emitted by landfills.
Bloomberg praised Clinton as "a lifelong champion of climate initiatives."
Clinton said: "Together we are proving it is possible to create jobs and grow economies through reduced emissions."
Clinton recalled seeing the then-seedy Times Square for the first time as an 18-year-old in 1964, saying he saw "a hooker approach a man in a gray flannel suit."
"Pretty heavy stuff for a guy from Arkansas," he said.
As part of its campaign to cut emissions, the Bloomberg administration banned cars from parts of Times Square and Herald Square.
It abandoned a plan for a pedestrian plaza in the middle of 34th Street. Businesses and residents had complained that drivers looking for alternate routes across Manhattan would increase traffic on side streets.