For what may have been only a fleeting interlude of sanity, Broadway in the Garment District enjoyed a respite this month from colonization by drug addicts and predatory vagrants.
An “experiment” that cheered merchants, employees and shoppers alike cleared the so-called “pedestrian plazas” from West 36th Street to West 41st of addict- and “homeless”-magnet seats and tables for about 10 days.
The big question is: How long will the embrace of common sense, civic order and public safety last?
The urban ideologues and bike zealots who think they know what’s best for our streets could learn something from the plaza fiasco, if they cared to listen to people whose lives were adversely affected by their hostile takeover of public property.
Like some other portions of Broadway, the Garment District blocks were chopped up by the Department of Transportation to reduce auto lanes from four to one or two to make room for bike lanes, Citi Bike racks and — worst of all — ugly, cheaply paved plazas filled with pretentious works of art such as last winter’s sea-urchin-like “Living Lantern.”
No sooner were the blocks warped a few years ago to suit their designers’ fantasies of “open streets” (i.e., streets almost impassable to cars) than — guess what? — the tacky “furniture” was seized by drug dealers and addicts and psychos.
City Hall, the DOT and its bike-loving peanut gallery cheered the so-called “Broadway Boulevard Plazas” that ruined businesses and scared off normal, law-abiding shoppers and strollers.
The nonprofit Garment District Alliance, which manages them, crowed about goofy art it installed on them.
In an outcome that was obvious to all but ostriches, the plazas became an eastward extension of the squalor, addiction and menace in the West 30s around Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.
The creeps held sway day and night.
Stores and small restaurants were besieged by shoplifters and their customers intimidated.
But two weeks ago, somebody with authority to do so (it’s not clear exactly who), yielded to merchants’ complaints — and to common sense.
As an “experiment,” the tables and chairs were yanked from the floors and bundled up in yellow tape at the plazas’ edges.
The plazas looked bare — but they were rid of the menace and depravity.
Overjoyed shop and office employees shared their delight with The Post.
A wholesale/retail executive with offices on Broadway who didn’t wish to be named said, “Ninety-eight percent of people here are happy without the seats.”
He said the plaza seating made life hell for clients who came to his offices and his employees.
Kartic Paul, an assistant manager at Duane Reade at 1430 Broadway, said, “When the chairs were there I saw people putting needles in themselves. All the time, morning and night.
“Now I see a huge improvement. The bums are not here and there’s less crime.”
“The shoplifting was crazy, too,” Paul told us. “They sat outside eating, and they’d come right back in. The cops would take them out, and they came back two hours later.”
Jessica Tanez, a manager at Starbucks at 1411 Broadway, said, “We had a lot of homeless and mentally disturbed people living on the chairs. We had to close down our bathroom. They’d come in and use it for drugs.”
She said that desperate junkies were still trying to use seats that were tied up — as I saw for myself on a twilight stroll.
“They need to be taken out completely,” Tanez said.
The website for the Garment District Alliance, which had at least a hand in the temporary seat removal, boasts it’s “working hard to create attractive and hospitable public spaces” and cites the plazas’ “seasonal plantings and street furniture.”
The alliance didn’t respond to requests for comment as to how long the plazas would be without their seats. A source said it is “working with the city and other stakeholders, and there are ongoing conversations around this.”
The ideal solution would be to put Broadway back to the way it was before plazas.
Since that isn’t going to happen, the best we can hope for is “plazas” without seats — or with more cops than criminals and silly sculptures.