Has Times Square become a victim of its own popularity?

New York’s Times Square has become a problem – because it is too popular for its own good as 40 million visitors from across the world arrive there every year.

Crowds in Times Square

Crowds in Times Square. Image by Divya Thakur / CC BY 2.0

The square has become a mecca for advertisers and retailers because of the daily footfall – but it is now so crowded that New Yorkers and those working nearby are eschewing the district in rising numbers.

It’s a far cry from the nineties when Times Square was synonymous with sleaze as prostitution, porn shows, pimps, massage parlors and drug dealers dominated the landscape.

Back then, locals and office workers avoided the area together with retailers and corporate office tenants - but for completely different reasons. A sustained effort by state and city officials to rejuvenate the area proved successful with special tax incentives offered to ensure a proper level of corporate relocation took place.

The area’s return as an acceptable meeting, working, living and trading place was added to by the opening of new hotels and a number of residential buildings, the New York Times reports. However, the current surge in numbers to Times Square began in earnest around 2009, when a stretch off Broadway was closed which allowed for the creation of a series of public plazas. This decision led to a substantial increase in the amount of pedestrians visiting daily, jumping from 350,000 pre-2009 to 480,000 since then.

Mr Jeffrey S. Katz, who owns several buildings in Times Square summed up the current situation succinctly. “The plazas just exploded rents. It’s beyond even my imagination.”

But the commercial explosion is coming at a price. Last year the Times Square Alliance carried out a survey that shocked many. It found that a quarter of building owners, property managers and officer workers were ‘dissatisfied’ because of the serious overcrowding, as well as the building of the plazas and the costumed characters. The New York Times adds that everyone is praying that it doesn’t turn out to be  a place legendary baseballer Yogi Berra talked about all those years ago when he declared: “No one goes there anymore; it’s too crowded."

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