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Flying shoe
Detail from Milton Glaser's poster for Madison Avenue's Magic Promenade, 1971.
June 08, 2021

Madison Avenue's Magic Promenade

New York City’s Open Streets, initiated during the pandemic to encourage safe outdoor socializing and dining, looks like it’s here to stay. Back in 1971, Mayor John Lindsay kicked off a similar program with the Madison Avenue Magic Promenade. Every Tuesday 7-10pm, Madison Avenue from 61st to 72nd Street was closed to traffic and transformed into a pedestrian mall; shops stayed open late and musicians performed in the street. In case you’re wondering, there was no actual magic involved; MAGIC was an acronym for the Madison Avenue General Ideas Committee.

Glaser’s poster advertising the event featured a remarkable flying shoe designed for you to look your best while strolling the avenue.
Flying shoe with streamers

An account in The New York Times described the festivities:
Potted evergreens and park benches were placed between the dotted yellow traffic lines and roller skaters. Unicycle and bicycle riders shared the street with youths who tossed footballs and balloons in the roadway.

An open mini-train with a Dixieland band made up of members of the Art Directors Club, which called itself the A‚ÄźDeviates, cruised up and down the avenue. In front of the Westbury Hotel at 69th Street, Kethie Hammer sang in six languages accompanied by Guenter Zeblin on his electronic accordion. The Chico Hamilton quartet played at several locations.

A similar open streets program was held at the same time in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Lindsay’s tumultuous and uneven two terms as NYC mayor marked a time of great economic and social unease in the city, but it was also a transformative period in terms of reframing government responsibility and racial justice. In 1971, Lindsay changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic.

During Lindsay’s campaign for reelection, a 1969 cover of New York, featuring a photo by Dan Wynn, asked “Is Lindsay Too Tall to Be Mayor?” - a question that still has resonance today in New York City.
New York Magazine cover