With the typical modesty, the New Yorkers call Times Square “The Crossroads of the World. ” One can argue that it’s not central to the whole world; however, it is pretty central to the island of Manhattan.
Name: In the olden 19th century days, when horses powered the city transportation, the area was the hub of New York’s carriage industry. It was called Longacre Square after its namesake in London, where the carriage trade was centered.
Times Square got its present name in 1904 when the New York Times moved its headquarters to One Time Square. The move took place on December 31, 1903, just in time for the New Year’s celebration welcoming 1904. It was truly grand and involved fireworks set off from the rooftop of the One Time Square building. The New Year’s festivities of 1907 replaced the fire hazard-prone fireworks with a new custom — the New York Times added a ball that dropped from a spear on top of the building at midnight. Since then, watching the ball drop in Times Square has become a great New Year tradition, attracting about a million people. Times Square subway station, which opened in 1904, also became the newspaper’s namesake.
Numbers: How many people pass through Times Square on a regular day? According to the New York Times article from December 24, 2008, titled “Need a Crowd Count? Click, Ask the Russians“, the numbers overwhelmed the machines. In 2008, the technology was not there to process such pedestrian traffic. “So instead, tracking the river of humanity is tackled by dozens of Russian immigrants armed with clipboards, folding chairs and counters. …they counted, with their eyes and their thumbs, two hours at a time, for $8 an hour for a 24-hour period.” This low-tech approach approximated the number of people passing through Times Square in a single day to about half a million! Since then, the technology has improved, and Times Square now uses an automated counting system. There are 18 cameras located on six different buildings, monitoring 35 unique locations in the area. This data puts the number of visitors a day for the slow cold month of January to around 300,000 and reaches over 400,000 in busier months.
Shape: City squares, despite the geometrical suggestion, are shaped as circles. Times Square, stretching from 42nd to 47th street where Broadway crosses 7th Ave, forms a bowtie. Come to think of it, it is rather fitting — by 1920s Times Square became the center of New York’s theater life, hosting around 80 Broadway theaters. Even though the number of theaters dropped to about 40, it is still the busiest theater district in the world.
With that in mind, one may wonder: what do Crossroads of the World look like? A bowtie, perhaps?