NEW YORK — Is it time to get cars out of the Crossroads of the World?
The vehicle rampage that killed a teenage tourist in New York’s Times Square this month has prompted conversations whether the city should still be allowing cars, cabs and trucks to cruise down the neon-lit blocks where huge crowds of people gather daily to buy theater tickets, gawk at street performers and marvel at the crush of humanity.
Vehicles were banished from Broadway where it passes through the square eight years ago. Some city officials and traffic experts say the ban should be expanded to include the north-south artery Seventh Avenue, turning Times Square into a series of pedestrian plazas.
“The vulnerability of Times Square was made scarily apparent during the most recent attack and I think there has to be a conversation about closing this area to regular traffic,” said City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a Manhattan Democrat. “This is one of the most highly trafficked areas in the world for tourists and we can’t have it remain a soft spot for those with the worst intentions.”
Known around the world for the New Year’s Eve ball drop, Times Square is crowded most days with tour groups, costumed characters, sightseeing bus hawkers and office workers. Foot traffic slows to a crawl when Broadway theater-goers spill out. Taxis, buses, delivery trucks and private cars clog the streets.
Police say Richard Rojas, a Bronx man who had been discharged from the Navy, was high on PCP when he took a U-turn off Seventh Avenue and plowed down sidewalks leading into Times Square for three blocks on May 18, killing 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan, and injuring 22 others.
Rojas, 26, was charged with murder and attempted murder and is being held pending a July 13 arraignment. An attorney for Rojas did not return a call seeking comment.
While police say there are no indications that Rojas was inspired by any militant ideology, Times Square was also targeted in 2010 by…