As far as I can recall, in all the years I have lived in New York, there have been only two (successful) projects that have made the city more livable, and both have occurred in the past few years: 1) creating more bicycle lanes; and 2) creating pedestrian arcades. Another project that sought to limit automobile traffic into Manhattan is stalled.
These pictures are of Broadway between Union Square and Times Square, at the intersections of the avenues. Where there are now tables and chairs and people walking were once automobiles belching out noxious fumes, horns blaring, running down everything in their path.
Naturally, the nay-sayers say “Nay” to it all, but as far as I can tell they are waging a losing battle. Recently, a downtown crank organized a rally at First Avenue and 14th Street to protest the new bicycle lanes, and the majority of people who attended were in support of the new lanes! I don’t know that there have been any rallies against the pedestrian arcades along Broadway.