Manhattan Week: Times Square Dilemmas Shift From Crime To Foot Traffic
From grit to glitz, the makeover of Times Square kicks off Manhattan Week, as NY1 celebrates its 20 years on the borough beat. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
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Pedestrian plazas let New Yorkers take a seat in the "Crossroads of the World," but there was a time when anyone even walking in Times Square, could have easily been caught in the crosshairs of a predator.
"Back in the '70s and '80s, Times Square and 42nd Street in particular was the most dangerous block in America," says President Tim Tompkins of the Times Square Alliance. "There were more crimes on 42nd street between Seventh and Eighth Avenue then anywhere else in New York."
42nd Street in the 1990s
The Times Square Alliance, formerly the Times Square Business Improvement District, was founded in 1992, the same year NY1 launched, to clean up this stretch of Midtown.
In time, the so-called Disneyfication of Times Square took hold, as crime plummeted and porn and pawn shops were pushed out for more family-friendly entertainment. But the transformation ushered in other problems.
"Our public space problem used to be you were going to get mugged in this public space, and then our public space problem became we've got to make it better and nicer and accommodate these massive numbers of people that are coming to Times Square," says Tompkins.
Duffy Square was expanded and the TKTS booth reopened in 2008 with splashy spectator steps.
In 2009, the Department of Transportation closed Broadway between 42 and 47th Streets to vehicles and created pedestrian plazas. What started off as a pilot program is now permanent and not without controversy.
"We still have to have deliveries, traffic has to get to where it has to go, people have to get to work," says Robert Sinclair of AAA. "Traffic is not going to disappear, it merely is going to be displaced."
Some think the pedestrian spaces are for the sole enjoyment of tourists, but Tompkins says otherwise.
"There are hundred of thousands of people working in Times Square in these office buildings, from Reuters, Viacom, Conde Nast, that weren't here before. There are many more residents," he says.
This all brings great changes to Times Square, where roughly 350,000 pedestrians pass through on any given day. An estimated $40 million redesign plan for the pedestrian plaza is underway, paving the way for Times Square's next act.