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Times Square pedestrian plazas a breath of fresh air

Times Square

Times Square Photo Credit: Getty Images

Times Square has been cleaned up in more ways than one.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted a new health department survey Wednesday that found the air pollution in the Crossroads of the World was “substantially lower” since traffic was diverted away from there to make room for pedestrian plazas in 2009.

“That cleaner air ... makes a huge difference to the health of more than a quarter million pedestrians who pass through Times Square everyday,” Bloomberg said at a news conference at Gracie Mansion with former President Bill Clinton.

The duo were together to announce a merging of their separate climate groups, both of which seek to cut carbon emissions in big cities.

For his part, Clinton recalled a seedier Times Square when he first visited in 1964.

“I saw a hooker approach a man in a gray flannel suit. Pretty heavy stuff for a guy from Arkansas,” he said.

Now, the high crime and heavy pollution are gone, Clinton said.

According to the city’s air survey, the number of cars moving through Times Square on Broadway and Seventh Avenue at 44th Street declined from 2,400 per day during peak times to 1,550 once the pedestrian plazas opened. Levels of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are associated with lung irritations, declined 63 percent and 41 percent, respectively, in the area.

The air monitoring, conducted from December 2008 to December 2009, also found that traffic-related air pollutants “did not worsen in other midtown locations — in fact, they improved slightly,” the survey said.

The pedestrian plazas became permanent last year.

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