Times Square

Seventh and Eighth Avenues between 40th and 53rd Streets
New York, NY

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

People are drawn to Times Square simply to bear witness to its extravagance, with its hyper-designed oversized billboards and countless shining lights.

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Why It Works

It has been called the heart of New York, America’s town square, and the crossroads of the world. Times Square is all of these things. At no other place will one see a greater cross-section of human beings than right here along Broadway. The dozens of Broadway shows, hotels, abundant restaurants and shopping opportunities, even up-to-the-minute news all combine to make it a constant hub of activity. Yet the single greatest attraction is Times Square itself. With its hyper-designed oversized billboards and countless shining lights, most people come simply to bear witness to the sheer extravagance of it.

What Makes Times Square a Great Place?

Thirteen different subway lines can be accessed from Times Square. Numerous city buses intersect this area. Factor in the walkability of Manhattan, and Times Square is probably the easiest place in New York City to get to and explore.

While not always known for its sparkling image, Times Square has seen a real turnaround in recent years. At the turn of the 21st century, it is substantially cleaner and safer than it has been in decades. It is not a place to relax, though. It is place of extreme excitement, designed to overwhelm the senses.

Time Square is virtually never vacant. With approximately 26 million tourists visiting annually, how could it be?

You probably will not find more diversity in the world than what you’ll find in Times Square.

History & Background

Once a quiet district of carriage-building shops and livery stables known as Long Acre Square, Times Square got its current name in 1904 after The New York Times relocated its offices from lower Manhattan. The Square's traditional New Year’s Eve celebration sprung from the newspaper's grand opening party that year. Ten years later, with the help of subway lines into the area, Times Square had become the undisputed center of theater, vaudeville, music publishing, motion pictures, and nightlife. In the 1920's, roughly 200 different plays were being presented in the district's 66 theaters each season.

Times Square remained the nation’s capital of entertainment throughout World War II. Even when the lights were dimmed or even reduced to total darkness to diminish the risk of attack, the area still boomed. Servicemen and civilians alike flooded the area to dance to the swing music of Benny Goodman and to be crooned by Frank Sinatra.

The area started to decline shortly after the war, and by the mid-1970s it was known more for X-rated peep shows and strip clubs than glorious Broadway productions. It had become a twilight zone of sex shops, seedy bars, prostitution, and drug use that people generally avoided. But with the help of an economic resurgence in the early 1990s, many New York developers, and the city of New York, Times Square found new life. New city ordinances closed and scattered the sex shops and increased policing helped rid the area of crime. Historic theaters were renovated and new ones built. Hotels, offices and new movie theaters have shot up. And the crowds have returned.

Contact Info:

Times Square Business Improvement District: 212-768-1560

Related Links:

  • Times Square EarthCam - Visitors to this site can get live shots of the happenings in Times Square.
  • Times Square homepage - This site offers interesting facts on Times Square’s renewal, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and directions to the Times Square Visitors Center.

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