Open Phones: Remaking Times Square for New Yorkers

Monday, January 28, 2013

This summer New York is set to begin a long-delayed makeover of Times Square. We want to know: What would you like to see included to make the "Crossroads of the World" more appealing for New Yorkers?

Plus: Jeb Boniakowski has one idea for a Times Square reboot: A "McWorld" restaurant, offering the special items the fast food giant serves on their menus internationally.

Comments [50]

davie from New Jersey

I was truly surprised none of your callers brought up the issue of public rest room facilities which are hardly existent in the Times Square area this seems to be a real deterrent for visitors.

Jan. 28 2013 03:18 PM

art25 -- I might agree w your opinion that it should be left alone, but you should know that there is nothing unique about all those lights and chain stores -- for lovers of global cities blanketed w neon NYC may not even make the Top 100.

Secondly ( and I haven't listened to the segment yet ) keep in mind that thousands of New Yorkers actually are forced to work in Times Square everyday -- Conde is there, so is Barklays, not to mention all the New Yorkers serving the tourists. Probably all would like their work hood to be less lame.

Jan. 28 2013 03:13 PM

A "no chains/local businesses only" sector

Jan. 28 2013 02:19 PM
Craig from NYC

I'm not sure you can "make" Times Square do anything, at least in a uniform way. It will always change over time and that is part of its intrigue, even the name Times Square is evocative of that, it easily kept the name after the Times left the area. On the other hand it is possible to manage some of its characteristics, make it safer without losing its mythical edginess, manage the flow of people in a more appropriate way, remove redundant infrastructure, and bring back some aspects of its former character in terms of light versus dark among the marquis. It's not about adding this shop or that shop. Its about adding a spirited yet functional surface for moving and resting. If this is successful then afterwards Times Square will be able to figure out what it wants to be, all on its own.

Jan. 28 2013 02:09 PM
art525 from Park Slope

Leave it alone! It certainly doesn't lack for attention as it is. It is always mobbed. Yeah I was upset when it was Disneyfied but I don't see any ideas here that would improve it. It is a pretty dazzling sight, there is nothing like it anywhere in the world. It is a dazzling sensory overload. The bombardment of advertising is what makes Times Square what it is with all the flashing and spinning images so the idea of removing advertising is exactly what we don't need. The tourists go there because it is a one of a kind experience and maybe we should take a tip from them and go and drink it in once in a while. I guess I agree with Elsie that the rest of the city is of more concern having become more blandly tourist oriented with boring chain stores and chain restaurants. Soho for instance used to be lined with small boutique stores where owners make their own interesting one of a kind objects. Now it is lined with J Crew and Lucky and Urban Outifitters. It has lost it's character, it has become a mall. All over the city we have lost unique one of a kind businesses that made New York unique. That concerns me much more. Times Square is Times Square. And bringing in an architectural firm will make the area too self consciously contrived and arch. The area lost a lot of the organic feeling of having evolved naturally when it was Disneyfied. Now it is the world center for such as a commercial mecca and more self cosnciously contrived but it will be even more so with the suggested architectural changes.

Jan. 28 2013 12:08 PM
Ericka from staten island

too dominated by chain stores...probably the only ones that can afford the rents. the tourists are the point--but cant there be something NY-authentic-nostalgic for them as well? historic into center/better restaurant options would broaden visitor appeal.

Jan. 28 2013 12:04 PM
John A

I'm with Boniakowski,
P.S. in Cape Cod you can get a McPizza.
P.S.S. in Georgia's Coke museum you can drink about 8 unusual and substantial new flavors from the international market.

Jan. 28 2013 12:03 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Sounds like a real-life version of Yogi Berra's famous "Nobody goes there anymore--it's too crowded."

Jan. 28 2013 12:00 PM
claudia from ny

I would close it down to cars and make it a strictly walking area with table and cafe's in the middle of the streets

Jan. 28 2013 11:58 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

If you are "nostalgic" for the old "film noir" 42nd of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, no problem. Just elect one of your liberal Democrats, and you will get everything Giuliani fought to get rid of. You'll get back all the muggings, the crime, the staying in after sunset you want. All the grafitti and all of the panhandling and all of the filth and criminality you can long for!

I don't miss those days one bit. It's like missing the Beirut of the 1970s and '80s. It's like missing Homs and Aleppo of today. It's like missing post war Berlin. Anyone who seeks the thrill of mugging should relocate to Sao Paulo or Johannesberg, et al.

Jan. 28 2013 11:58 AM

Naked cowGirl!

Jan. 28 2013 11:58 AM
Diane S. from New York, NY

A resident's discount card or selected performances/days for Broadway and some of the major restaurants. We already pay very high taxes in the city, and Times Square benefits from this. But prices for Bway shows and restaurants are so prohibitive, that we residents resort to the discount booths, and we don't get to enjoy these venues in high-end seats. I feel like I'm part of the extras crowd for the entertainment of the tourists, giving them local color.

Jan. 28 2013 11:57 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

The current caller Carol -- sorry, but Times Square now is just a crowded outdoor mall, populated by tourists, and if the tourists are Americans, they have their own malls back home.

Times Square as much of NYC has lost its grit & authenticity. I say bring back the lowlifes. At least it would be something the tourists couldn't see at home.

And don't forget, it was the authenticity that made NYC an attraction in the first place. Now, it's just dumbed-down stuff, and the tourists want dumb celebrity gawking or being "near" celebrity.

Nothing really of substance left in the place.

Jan. 28 2013 11:57 AM
Guy from NYC

I like the idea of containing two of NYC's biggest annoyances--tourists and dog owners--in the same place. I vote for this!

Jan. 28 2013 11:57 AM
Henry from Manhattan

What would make me play in Time Square?

Extend Central Park south to 42nd Street.

I’m almost kidding.

Seriously, I’m glad Times Square is there, it’s for tourists, and that’s fine. I visit places in other cities that locals don't really go to, that's just the way it is.

Jan. 28 2013 11:57 AM
Katie from Huntington, NY

I've been in pedestrian malls in other countries--Dublin, Ireland, for example. Their malls are "pretty," brick walks, trees, clean. Times Square has cheap tables and cheaper chairs in no semblance of order, garbage in the planters, weeds in the iron grates around any tree you might find. Make it more parklike. We go "through" Times Square, to another part of town, not "to" it.

Jan. 28 2013 11:57 AM
Hilary from Brooklyn

I tweeted this but, in an expanded version of my response:
I will alwys go to Times Square because of TKTS and theatre but I would spend more time (and money) if there were more "indy" good restaurants and pizza joints.
There have been too many of the old-school delis and pizzarias shoved out to make room for "Name Brand Candy" gift shops and restaurants that have "tm" in their names.

Ditto smaller boutiques, record stores and the like. The place is basically a mall.

Jan. 28 2013 11:56 AM
Mark from Brooklyn

It's a question of zoning. NYC should require a critical number of businesses that are either based or headquartered in New York, perhaps with a cap in the number of outlets. The Dining Concourse in Grand Central Station has a similar requirement, and it's clear from the number of office workers dining there that this is a success. We need Times Square to represent something uniquely New York and move away from the national chains that present out-of-towners with the same experience they get at home. As a support worker in the Broadway theatre, I'm always walking to 9th Avenue to get food from a local business. That's what we lost in Times Square and what we need again--New Yorkers serving New Yorkers.

Jan. 28 2013 11:56 AM


Jan. 28 2013 11:55 AM
Deborah from UWS

Designers should incorporate pedestrian bridges ABOVE street level (e.g. high line)for strolling and gawking

Jan. 28 2013 11:55 AM
Cathy from Hoboken,NJ

Get rid of the tourists! Or teach them to walk as a normal speed without blocking the sidewalks. There is little in Times Square to make it worth braving these crowds.

Jan. 28 2013 11:55 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

A McWorld restaurant? Seriously? You think the cuisine offered there would beat the authentic ethnic restaurants all over the city? That's got to be one of the saddest things I've ever heard.

Jan. 28 2013 11:55 AM
DAN from manhattan

Bring back HoJo's!!

Jan. 28 2013 11:54 AM
David Friedman

Legalize gambling and put a casino in Times Square. I also loved when Bond's was there, as a rock venue it was great.

Jan. 28 2013 11:54 AM
Christine from Westchester

I'm with the caller who talked about our visitors who walk four abreast. And add to that, just stop! Right in the middle of the sidewalk, come to a dead stop. As others have said, I avoid like the plague and only go through it when I need to walk through to go to a show.

Jan. 28 2013 11:53 AM
Nick from UWS

Times Square has been irrevocably destroyed by Bloomberg's mall-ification plasticizing, soulless, corporate-rape, theatre-destroying, hideous glass crap building-building crapola idea that Times Square can be "created". One of the shames of the city. Millions of people loved Times Square before it was turned into Disney-tinged sh)))t.

Jan. 28 2013 11:53 AM
Stew from Manhattan

NOTHING. Times Square includes the worst aspects of the city with none of the benefits: chain restaurants, crowds of tourists, noise, advertisements and blinding lights, 24 hours a day.

Nothing anyone suggests could ever make me want to go to Times Square.

Jan. 28 2013 11:52 AM
lowtones from Manhattan

How about a tax on tourism used to subsidize tickets for New Yorkers to the theaters many of us can't afford?

Jan. 28 2013 11:52 AM

All those beautiful theaters only used a few hours per night -- what a waste of space!

Jan. 28 2013 11:52 AM
Erica from Brooklyn, NY

New York needs access to healthy local produce and goods. A farmer's market would be a good idea NOT a McWorld.

Jan. 28 2013 11:52 AM
Tom from UWS

I don't like to hang with mobs of tourists when I travel, and I don't like to be part of that mob when I'm at home. It feels too much like the pathways of an amusement park today. I love pedestrian streets - but the remaking of Broadway and 7th Ave between 42nd and 50th has been a failure that only serves tourists, who block the walks and gawk. That said, I agree with Elsie: we need tourists, so let them run wild over there if that's what sells. Give me back 5th Avenue!

Jan. 28 2013 11:52 AM
The Sea Bass from The Narrows

The day I can see or purchase a product there that I can't find in most american shopping malls, then you may find me there. Times Square's modern iteration is a homogeny of terrible brands, products, and foods.

Jan. 28 2013 11:51 AM
Kim from Harlem

What a challenge. I go to Times Square for theater and dash out as soon as I can.

Secure indoor bike parking somewhere near the theatre district and accessible from West side greenway.

Some types of "micro-spaces" (is this a word?) both in surrounding buildings (atriums) and along the street that would make it possible to just sit and watch what's going on.

Navigational cues for SURE. Slightly larger street signs (maybe with arrows that say "uptown/downtown" so that tourists don't have to stop and stare to figure out where they were going.

Eateries that are unusual and worth going to.

Jan. 28 2013 11:50 AM
pliny from soho

a Fountain
all the European capitals have a beautiful fountain
in their central plazas.

Jan. 28 2013 11:49 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Why does Times Square need New Yorkers to visit it?

I dunno, don’t enough New Yorkers see enough Broadway shows?

Jan. 28 2013 11:49 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Perhaps building a virtual mall on the west side (technically not times square) and a "river to river" trolly/tram on 42nd street?

Jan. 28 2013 11:49 AM
Sara from Bushwick

Ditch all of the chain restaurants, get some good Mom 'n Pop places, and build a cool sculpture park.

Jan. 28 2013 11:48 AM

Make it ad free

Jan. 28 2013 11:48 AM
Susan Burger from Upper West Side

I try to avoid it like the plague. My son, however, figured out that if he and his friends pool their money together, they can take a taxi to Times Square at lunch and get back in time to his Upper West Side middle school so that he doesn't get in trouble -- at least with the Principal. Haha. Something I, who grew up in a California exurb would have never considering doing as an act of rebellion and so didn't ever give him the rule that his lunch choices had to be close enough to the school that he didn't need to take a taxi. Even he, however, would never want to go there on New Year's Eve. Although I found out my little sister figured out how to take the bus to San Francisco when she cut school at age 11.

Jan. 28 2013 11:48 AM
Linda from East Village

Open branches of Fairway, Momofuku, and Century 21 (the latter frequented by natives as well as tourists). Also open some vets' offices.

Jan. 28 2013 11:48 AM
Fishmael from NYC

The New Yorker had the right idea in a cover cartoon last year - separate (and enforced) lanes for tourist and for locals. Perhaps walkways like the Highline, that you need an NYC resident sticker to get on to!

Jan. 28 2013 11:48 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

To answer Brian's question: The only thing that would bring NYers to Times Square is the absence of tourists.

Jan. 28 2013 11:47 AM
Robert from NYC

Move it to a landfill island in the Hudson River.

Jan. 28 2013 11:47 AM
antonio from baySide

A cross town light rail...

Oh wait there's a website!!!

Jan. 28 2013 11:46 AM
Phoebe from Bushwick

Make AFFORDABLE locals-only theater tickets available. I would love to go to the theater regularly, but it is prohibitively expensive.

Jan. 28 2013 11:46 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

Let the tourists have Times' Square - I want the rest of the city back, though. The whole city has become a sad spectacle; a mall for shallow tourists who view going to Century 21 as being on par with a trip to the Met. I want a NYC that is geared towards NYers, not tourists. Even culture is geared towards tourists now, not NYers, and the city has become a theme park as a result. NYC = Dubai on the Hudson. It's just horrible. Bloomberg's touristification of the city has sucked the soul right out.

Jan. 28 2013 11:42 AM

What's the prob -- it's the pumping heart of McHattan!

Anyway, I almost prefer Times Square to look totally phony, at least it's honest. More depressing is walking around landmark buildings and former neighborhoods of Manhattan that had been authentic and gritty for the pre-GOP centuries -- and now appear to be simply keeping the walls warm for the developers to turn them into more slippery-floored tombs charging $300 for a haircut or a tie or a few plates of soup!

Make Times Square attractive to locals (along with the locals who would move back to NYC if it were "More NYC" again)?

It always boils down to community and a bit of space for humans to gather.Frequent, year-round, and free or low-priced visual and performance art events, and opportunities for social outreach to both the needy and the volunteer, for starters. There is only one New York -- but there are thousands of great folks worldwide who could contribute great ideas that would add a bit of soul to the fantastic and storied stage set that is all we've managed to keep intact.

Jan. 28 2013 11:27 AM
Robert from NYC

I hate TS, I do everything I can to avoid it. I hadn't been there since the 70s until recently and was really taken aback one night passing on a bus to see how bright it is. it is literally at night brighter than it is during the daytime. I had to squint as the bus drove thru TS. AND THE CROWDS!!! OH THE CROWDS!!! I hate it I really do. So since the 70s I was there twice. Born and raised was I in NYC, Dah Bronx, no in E Village 37 years.

Jan. 28 2013 11:24 AM
Roy from Queens

The area's such a damn tourist trap, you can't get where you want to go. And people out of town call New Yorkers rude...

Jan. 28 2013 10:28 AM

Just to make the area a little more bearable for myself, I've started referring to it as "Times Squid" instead.

Jan. 28 2013 10:01 AM

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