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Times Square, New York, USA - Famous City Squares
291    Dibyendu Banerjee    18/02/2021   

The exciting, colourful and always jumping Times Square in New York City, United States, flashing neon lights and giant digital billboards is formed by the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretches from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. It is big, bright, and unforgettable, a major centre of show business and commerce, famous for its New Year’s Eve ball drop celebration, and sometimes fondly referred to as the Heart of the World, the Crossroads of the World, or the Heart of the Great White Way.

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Known as one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the world, Times Square is the hub of the Broadway Theatre District and is one of the world's most visited tourist attractions, drawing an estimated 50 million visitors annually. Formerly known as Longacre Square, it was renamed in 1904 when The New York Times shifted its headquarters to the newly erected Times Building on the square. Eventually, The Times Building became the site of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop when in 1907 the Times began lowering a huge glass ball down its flagpole, just a moment before midnight on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the occasion. Gradually, with the advancement of technology, new and more sophisticated methods started to be used for the ball dropping as the tradition include live telecasting of the event to share the experience with tens of millions across the world.

times square new york usa
The Times Square Ball

When The Dutch people came to settle in Manhattan Island, there were three streams in the area, which were part of a long stream, called the Great Kill, which ended in a deep bay in Hudson River that would subsequently become the 42nd street. The name Great Kill was retained in a tiny hamlet where people live, and carriages were made.

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During American Revolution, the area was owned by John Morin Scott, who as a general of the New York militia served George Washington, and later, his manor house became 43rd Street. In the early 1800s,John Jacob Astor bought the land and made a second fortune by constructing hotels selling off lots to hoteliers andbuilders to rapidly spread uptown. By 1872, the area became the centre of the horse carriage industry in New York, and the area was named Longacre Square, after Long Acre, the horse and carriage trade center in London. In 1913 the New York Times moves to a more spacious one block west of the square, and the old Times Building was sold in 1961, which was renamed the Allied Chemical Building in 1963, but simply known as One Times Square, famed for the Times Square Ball drop.

times square new york usa
times square new york usa
The dazzling billboards

With the introduction of neon signs in 1930s, Times Square became the most distinguished American venue for advances in big, bright electrical display and advertising. Since the beginning of 1928, Times motographic news bulletin, known as Zipper, used 14, 800 light-bulbs to render moving headlines with a band of 5-feet tall moving letters.

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With the onset and deepening of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, the general condition of Times Square changed radically as the residents moved to cheaper areas, and many of the popular theatres closed, or converted into saloons, brothels, or burlesque halls associated with striptease, dramatic or musical entertainment with cheap humour or comic skits. Although a massive crowd celebrated the Victory over Japan Day in Time Square on 15 May 1945, even during the 1960s and 1970s, it was known as a seedy, notorious area, infested with sleazy adult entertainment and crime-prone. An unprecedented 2,300 annual crime was recorded in Times Square by 1984, of which 460 were serious felonies such as murder and rape.

times square new york usa
Times Square, after reconstruction

However, the situation started to change in the mid-1990s, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani led an effort to clean up the area. He arranged to increase security, closed the pornographic theatres, and introduced large tourist-friendly stores, theatres, and restaurants. At his initiative and approach, the Walt Disney Company came forward to buy and restore the New Amsterdam Theatre and contracted with Madame Tussauds and AMC Theatres to move to 42nd Street. These positive actions work as a catalyst to spurthe construction of new office towers, hotels, and tourist attractions in the area Broadway was closed to the cars for a year by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on 26 February 2009, and on 11 February 2011, cars were prohibited in Time Square forever. New York City stopped smoking in Time Square with effect from February 2011.

times square new york usa
Desnuda in Times Square

The rebuilding of the Pedestrian Plaza of Times Square started in 2010, to permanently replace Broadway's roadway with custom-made granite pavers and benches. While the first phase of rebuilding had been completed at the southern end of the square by December 2013, in time for the Times Square Ball drop on New Year's Eve, the entire project was finally completed just before New Year's Eve 2016. The pedestrian plaza is frequented by desnudas, topless female performers with painted breasts who poses for photos in exchange for tips, as well as costumed characters who typically panhandle or beg for tips. Although neither of these activities was illegal,the pedestrian plaza became a source of controversy in the summer of 2015 as the critics complained that the panhandlers' presence was disgusting and detrimental to the ambience in the area. Eventually, loitering was disallowed in the pedestrian zone, and costumed characters were allowed to perform only in the activity zones.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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