Times Square, named after the one-time headquarters of The New York Times, is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, which centers on 42nd Street and Broadway. It consists of the blocks between Sixth and Ninth Avenue from east to west and 39th and 52nd Streets from south to north. It makes up the western part of the commercial area of Midtown Manhattan.
On April 8, 1904, officiated by Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr., the area known as Longacre Square was renamed Times Square following the arrival of The New York Times to the square. Times publisher Adolph S. Ochs had moved the paper's operations to a new tower on 42nd Street in the middle of the square. Ochs persuaded Mayor McClellan to build a subway stop there and rename it Times Square. Just three weeks later, the first advertisement appeared on the side of a bank at the corner of 46th Street and Broadway.
The Times moved out of the tower in 1913, although it remains in the neighborhood. Later known as the Allied Chemical Building and now known as One Times Square, the tower is the site of the annual New Year's Eve ball drop. On January 1, 1907, a ball signifying New Year's Day was first dropped at Times Square, and ever since the Square has been the site of the main New Year's celebration in New York City. On this night hundreds of thousands of people congregate to watch the Waterford crystal ball being lowered to the ground marking the new year. It replaced a lavish fireworks display from the top of the building that had been held from 1904 to 1906, but was outlawed by city officials. During World War II, a minute of silence, followed by a recording of church bells pealing, replaced the ball drop because of wartime blackout restrictions.
Times Square quickly grew as a cultural hub full of theaters, music halls, and fancy hotels. "Times Square quickly became New York's agora, a place to gather both to await great tidings and to celebrate them, whether a World Series or a presidential election," writes James Traub in The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square. Names such as Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire, and Charlie Chaplin were closely associated with Times Square in the 1910s and 1920s.
The atmosphere changed with the onset of the Great Depression during the 1930s. Times Square became a neighborhood full of "peep shows", erotic all-night movie houses, and stores selling cheap tourist merchandise. It was considered a dangerous neighborhood by many. The seediness of Times Square was a famous symbol of New York City's danger and corruption during the period from the 1960s until the 1990s. Influential and dark films such as Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver had many scenes in Times Square.
In the mid-1990s, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (1994-2002) led the effort to clean up the area, including closing up sex shops, increasing security, and opening more tourist-friendly attractions. The cleaning process began when the local government issued an injunction against the tight clustering of the porn shops in the 42nd Street area. Many of the sex shops closed or moved to industrial areas in Brooklyn or Queens. More recently, such establishments have been shut down and more up-scale establishments have opened there.
Times Square today
The theaters of Broadway and the huge number of gaudy animated neon and television-style signage have long made it one of New York's iconic images, and a symbol of the intensely urban aspects of Manhattan. Times Square is the only neighborhood with a zoning ordinance requiring tenants to display bright signs. The density of illuminated signs in Times Square now rivals Las Vegas.
One notable example is the NASDAQ sign at the NASDAQ MarketSite at 4 Times Square on 43rd Street. Unveiled in January 2000, it cost $37 million to build. The sign is 120 feet (36.6m) high and is the largest LED display in the world. NASDAQ pays over $2 million a year to lease the space for this sign. This is actually considered a good deal in advertising as the number of "impressions" the sign makes far exceeds those generated by other ad forms.
In 1998 the Times Square Alliance (formerly the Times Square Business Improvement District, or "BID" for short), a coalition of businesses dedicated to improving the quality of commerce and cleanliness in the district, started operations in the area. Times Square now boasts attractions as a major TV studio for ABC, where Good Morning America is broadcast live, a Toys "R" Us store, as well as restaurants such as Ruby Foo's (Chinese food), the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (seafood) and Carmine's (Italian) along with a number of multiplex movie theaters. It is also attracting a number of financial institutions. A larger police presence in Times Square has improved the safety of the area. While the revitalized region is undoubtedly safer and more pleasant, some complain that the area has lost its spark and is now a thoroughly sanitized, "Disneyfied" version of its former self.
In 2002, NYC's outgoing mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, gave the oath of office to the city's next mayor Michael Bloomberg in Times Square after midnight on January 1 as part of the New Year's celebration. In 2001, approximately 500,000 revelers attended the fete. Security was high following the September 11, 2001 attacks with over 7,000 New York City police on duty in the Square (twice the number for an ordinary year).
The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square by James Traub (ISBN 0375507884)
- Times Square Information and Entertainment: http://www.timessquare.com/
- Times Square Tourism web site: http://timessquare.nyctourist.com/
- Times Square Alliance: http://www.timessquarealliance.org/
- 360-panorama: http://www.panoramas.dk/new-year-2005/FS1_times-square.html
Last updated: 10-24-2005 07:52:33