1528 Times Square: Nature Will Out
(New York) -- You’ve heard it here time and time again: nature gets the last word. The grass will grow in the cracks in the sidewalk. The Avian Flu will mutate ahead of efforts to stop it. Eventually, cancer wins.
Now we have yet another example: Times Square is in the process of un-morphing from the Disneyesque fantasy that started in the first Giuliani administration and continues today.
Times Square had long been a high-crime, deteriorating collection first of ne’er do wells, then of prostitutes and pimps, drug dealers and their customers, homeless, vagrants, runaways and dirt. There were porn shops, restaurants that remained open in the face of years of warnings from the board of health. Litter, sometimes ordinary, sometimes human.
Rudy swooped in to urban renewalize. And Mike continued. Two consecutive decades of trying to prevent the grass from growing in the spaces between the concrete slabs of sidewalk.
But the ultimate reversal began with creation of the pedestrian mall, a breeding ground for the good old days. The mall is pushing Times Square back to its roots.
Of course, no one had the courage to tell Mayor Bloomberg that he was naked. Now, he isn’t.
But there are a bunch of painted city women wearing nothing (except paint) panhandling for tips and charging money to pose in selfies with the visiting dignitaries from places like Iowa and Pennsylvania and Tokyo.
The Naked Cowboy somehow managed to remain a presence all during the attempted turning of Times Square into a theme park. But now, he’s joined by the bare naked ladies, the jugglers and whistlers not good enough to pass auditions for America’s Got Talent or even the singing-in-the-subway program.
You’ve got the New York Times building, a frighteningly ugly and frighteningly expensive headquarters built on the belief that print ads would forever take care of the finances. The print business is tanking, but the Times’ debt is not.
Cheap, dark bars probably won’t be back right away. The rent remains high. And there are dozens of laws about where and how you can sell porn or present peep shows. So it’ll be awhile before they return. But return they will.
So will the dollar-a-minute hotels, the drunks, the pot and gun dealers.
Now it’s not fair to blame the creation of a pedestrian mall for the probable resurgence of the real Times Square. Its construction was just a tipping point. Or maybe a tipping pointless.
It was created as similar projects were failing all over the country. Bad timing? Bad thinking? Bad for business? A traffic disaster in a place that has among the highest pain thresholds for defining traffic disasters.
The present mayor, Bill de-Zaster, hasn’t yet said he’s going to open the streets to vehicular traffic. But it sure looks like he’s leaning in that direction.
Hurry, Bill. Winter will be here sooner than you think. And after that, spring. And there’s a lot of grass getting ready to grow between cracks in the sidewalk.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015