things to think about

today i am thinking about: TIMES SQUARE TRIVIA
April 6, 2010, 12:38 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

After my love affair post of yesterday, I felt that it would be useful to get you some basic information on Times Square.

First things first: about all the people.

* On Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009, from 8:30am-1:00am, there were 84,392 people counted on Broadway between 45th and 46th. (PDF) This puts that block of Times Square between Bellingham, WA (YEAH BELLINGHAM!) and Gilroy-Morgan Hill, CA in terms of population. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) It  is also bigger than towns you might’ve actually heard of, like Napa, CA and Santa Fe, NM.

* Hey! Maybe you want to rent some ground floor retail! There are some real bargains out there (PDF): $40/square foot/year (only $100,000!) for Broadway between 49th and 50th; come on down between 45th and 46th and you can pay a big $1,500/square foot/year ($1,815,000!). Hey! Or, putting it differently, if you want that space, each of those 84,392 people better come in and spend $21.50 just for you to make rent. Or, putting it differently, if there are 8,760 hours in a year, you would only have to make $207/hr to make rent if you are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

* There are 33,630 households in Times Square. 71% of those households are under 50. The median income of the residents age 25 to 34 is $71,000. (Wow, I am not in the right industry.)

But let’s scale back and stop just reporting on this weird world of Disney.

* Times Square is in fact named after the NY Times. It used to be called Longacre Square.

* Times Square used to be synonymous with seedy sex stores. Here is a bunch of articles about that, and its reform, from the Times over the years, some of which are behind a paywall. Samuel Delaney’s book Time

s Square Red/Times Square Blue, about the cleanup of Times Square. Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York on adult bookstores, and another about Show World.

* This is a hell of a thread on Wired New York. Lots to read.

* And The Times, Then/Now: Times Square.

Times Square represents the 100 ways in which New York was cleaned up and made less interesting. It stands for the cleaning of the crime and the porn — come in, big brands! Giant billboards! Rather than celebrating what is uniquely New York it now stands for everything in all of America, just bigger.

I think of Times Square as a representative of New York’s rapacious possibility. It makes me think of that song from Annie — “NYC, Just got here this morning — three bucks, two bags, one me.” It is obvious that the grit has been sand-blasted — brand-blasted — off the buildings and anything seamy has been taken away. But I love the grotesque of Times Square, even as I am annoyed by how much it has become amateur hour; I love that possibility, all of those tens of thousands of people at all times on all days. I’m able to divorce my horror at what it is from the way in which it is exciting to watch so many people have their tiny experiences inside the microcosm.

This is the question that I always wonder about: New York has changed, and it has changed in ways that homogenize and simplify, just like Times Square has gotten simpler and more straightforward. But really, it has just done this on the surface — under the covers it is as roiling and complicated, tricky and demanding as ever. At least, that’s what I think; I’m not sure I’m right all the time. Is there still a place in this city for that kid — three bucks, two bags? Is that a hopeless case? Has it always been a hopeless case? I want to see clearly, not be clouded by nostalgia for something I’ve only experienced through movies and stories.

This is a research project I am hoping to undertake. And I leave you with the audio track (note: Sutton Foster as the star-to-be at 2:58):