People who grew up in New York City will often tell you that the heart of the Big Apple beats in Times Square. Even on a rain-soaked evening, it’s a hypnotic scene of people hunched over cellphones, taking pictures on mobile phones. The pedestrian plazas there remain popular attractions, but they are becoming more crowded than ever.
“This is not the Times Square we grew up with,” says Robert Powell, an advertising executive who lives in the Financial District. “It’s become more like a mall than a city.”
Two years ago, officials began a major effort to try to take back some of the prime real estate in the heart of the tourist district. Last fall, the city promised $6.2 million to finance additional improvements to the pedestrian plazas on Broadway, 7th Avenue and 41st Street. At the time, the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer praised the money as a “great start.”
“Times Square was once the home of Broadway and the American heartland,” she said. “It still has something to offer tourists and its residents alike. But the design has been changing for many years.”
In February, a $40 million renovation began at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, and a $20 million renovation will be underway at the 42nd Street station. Barriers have been moved into place and restaurants like Shake Shack and Shake Fish and the Sugar Factory have been added.
But many residents say it has not been enough.
“It’s taking away from street life,” says Harrison Quezon, another advertising executive. “Instead of walking, people are staring into their mobile phones.”
Is it working? Are more people actually coming to the neighborhood?