Times Square has been one of the most famous sites of the world; like the Eifel Tower in Paris or the Parthenon in Athens. For years a visitor to New York City has headed for Times Square whether they are from the USA or a foreign country, just to see what is there and take in the atmosphere.
Historically, Times Square has spent thousands of years as a non-owned piece of land along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Since then the area has changed personality many times after the Dutch took ownership after claiming a 60 guilder purchase from the natives.
“Herbert Kraft, anthropologist and director of the Seton Hall University Museum, said the land transfer might not have been that big a deal, particularly because many of the Lenape lived in what is now New Jersey. “At the time it was not a great piece of property,” Kraft said of Manhattan. “There were loads of mosquitoes and it was very rocky.” Jim Rementer, a Lenape descendant and head of the Lenape Language Project in Bartlesville, Okla., said the Indians who “sold” Manhattan to the Dutch did not share European notions of land ownership. (Neshoba, 1999, Jersey.net)
The mythical personality of the first business deal has been a romantic draw for many history lovers.
The new millennium in the year 2001 set another historical marker in the history of Times Square. The east coast of the United States was attacked and the worst tragedy since the Civil War on US soil shocked the world. The world famous double towers of the World Trade Center were rammed by one airplane each. People in the upper offices were killed by the terrible fire started by the full fuel tanks in the airplanes.
Then just as shockingly, after explosions were heard close to the bottom of the buildings, the towers imploded into themselves crushing down floor by floor to the ground killing more people.
The US government interpreted the event as an act of war. The evidence was whisked away with no examination or forensic detectives like on television. The blame was first set on ‘the Muslims.’ Afghanistan was attacked by the USA. The president at the time, George W. Bush urged Americans to get out and shop.
Not much later the blame was set on Saddam Hussein the leader of the secular country Iraq. Iraq was attacked by the USA.
Meanwhile in New York City the blame placed on the general Muslim population stuck. People from all over the country came to mourn the first big attack on the greatest military leader in the world. The site was a place of tension and polarization although many mature religious leaders, politicians and families of the killed tried to make the site a place of reconciliation.
Step by step Times Square started becoming a tiny piece of police-state real estate due to searches of the population for items that could be used in a terrorist attack attempt. Gotham Gazette reported in 2002,
New York City’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, gave the oath of office to the city’s next mayor, Michael, at Times Square after midnight on January 1 as part of the 2001–2002 New Year’s celebration. Approximately 500,000 revelers attended. Security was high following the September, with more than 7,000 New York City police officers on duty in the Square, twice the number for an ordinary year. (Gotham Gazette, 2002)
Early last year February 7, 2010, the New York Post had this message to Bloomberg from an OpEd columnist, “Someday, maybe by Mayor Bloomberg’s seventh term, City Hall might find the money and smarts to landscape and accessorize Times Square’s repellent asphalt plazas so they don’t look quite so much like prison yards.” (Cuozzo, 2010)
Unfortunately it’s December 2011 and Cuozzo wishes haven’t come true yet.
Reports from New York City are that in order to keep the Occupy Wall Street movement out of the sight of the bankers, Times Square is barricaded and taped off more stringently than ever. The taped off places, the larger police presence and the instances of pepper spray have dampened the energy and vitality the OSW Movement gave to the area.
In general the unfortunate problem with setting terrorism as a priority is that it isn’t easy to make the city an aesthetically inviting area for people to group together to chat or just sit in the sun. There are also more surveillance cameras which bring with them a real chill to people and a stop to spontaneous behavior.
The plethora of traffic cameras and the controversy over use to stop crime seems to have lost momentum. More security cameras have been placed in the vicinity in Times Square. People are getting used to surveillance cameras for the most part and have shifted their behavior since they are being watched all the time. Whether or not law enforcement officers have voyeuristic intentions, many people feel watched.
Price (2003) quotes Barry Steinhardt, assistant director of the American Civil Liberties Union.”It changes people’s behavior; it changes their perceptions of liberty and society” (p. 1). Other people told Price (2003) that they are not as affectionate in public especially if they are gay. (p. 1).
Not everyone in New York City lets the surveillance change their behavior in an unhappy way.
One group in New York has satirized the almost unavoidable security and traffic
cameras by imagining what life would be like in the city if residents actively avoided cameras. The Surveillance Camera Players make use of a map of surveillance cameras prepared by the New York Civil Liberties Union Camera Surveillance Project by comically trying to walk through New York without being caught on video. They also play to the cameras, performing specially adapted plays in front of them. Their motto-“Completely Distrustful of Government”-is a play on Police Commissioner Howard Safir’s brush-off, “Only someone completely distrustful of all government would be opposed to what we are doing with surveillance cameras.” (Price, 2003)
Meanwhile the architect and planner Jean Parker (2005) describes what is necessary for sidewalk security. New York City is where she has worked for twenty years coming up with security architecture that fits the environment and people’s use of the space.
Security features used must be anchored into the sidewalk substrate in order to stop vehicles traveling at speed. Steel reinforcing rods should extend from the interior of the bollard or planter a minimum of three feet down into a heavy concrete footing; the depth will vary according to the amount of reinforcement, the size of the footing, the anticipated force of impact, and other engineered details. (pdf)
Parker is not happy with a lot of what is going on in terms of the ugliness of the security. For example she has included photographs of the concrete barriers which are put in the street to stop cars. Even if a car drives into the barrier the car will be stopped. In order to camouflage or beautify the barriers someone has placed boxes of flowers along the top of the barriers. Parker says, “Colorful planters on top of “jersey” barriers . . . do little to alleviate the clumsy appearance of these temporary security barriers” (pdf). She suggests more sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing ways to add security to areas in New York City while at the same time enhancing the space so people will feel comfortable. She specializes in ‘environment and behavior.’ The idea that a place has to be ugly in order to be secure is one she does not think is true at all.
The new building which has been designed for the address Eleven Times Square looks very beautiful in the drawings. The architect Dan Kaplan was interviewed by Cuthbertson (2010) who reports, Kaplan designed the 40-story building to be about space and light for tenants, a glassy tower that is “solar responsive,” he said. A concrete core inside the building allows for pillar-free corners and floor-to-ceiling windows.”
The building probably will be a “heart stopper” as Kaplan says he would like it to be. From the drawings it looks astonishing. The many cornered building looks like it is make of glass and the whole building seems like it is in motion sweeping into the sky. The contractors and union worked together to solve safety issues, the concrete was poured before the steel structures were put into place, and the building incorporates environmentally sustainable components such as taking advantage of solar energy. (Cuthbertson, 2010)
New Years Eve will bring hundreds of visitors to watch the ball drop at midnight. No mention of what security measures to expect is made on the Official Times Square website. There is a camera from EarthCam.com available for anyone to watch the crowds moving through the pedestrian walkway. The camera is on 24 hours a day.
At the moment the look of portions of Times Square are unattractive and foreboding. It looks and feels like a major tragedy just took place. Official barriers and ugly tape are not in the least bit inviting. The area has a depressed, empty and gloomy feeling. Some people are frightened by the police presence in large numbers whereas others are comforted. But even those that feel comforted by the police presence feel frightened about what the reasons may be for the police to be there. That’s now way to feel in a city that the whole world admires for its feeling of excitement and adventure.
I agree with Ms Parker that security does not have to be ugly. When Times Square has an aura of fear and tragedy just waiting to happen the feeling touches everyone in the vicinity. I conclude the city should make an effort to beautify the area.
“Inaugural Address of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” GothamGazette.com.2002. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. Retrieved from
Cuozzo, S. “Mayor Bloomberg, free Times Square.” NYPost.com. 7 Feb.2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. Retrieved from
Cuthbertson, C. “Getting to the core of 11 Times Square.” 6 May 2010 Web. 8 Dec. 8 2011. Retrieved from
“May 6. On this Day in History.” Jersey.net. 22 Sept. 1999. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. Retrieved from
Parker, J. “Perimeter Security for Public Space.” Implications. 3 (12) pdf. 2005 Web. 7 Dec. 2011. Retrieved from
Price, A. “Surveillance and the City.” The Next American City. (2) 36+. 2003. Retrieved 8 Dec. 2011 from www.questia.com>.
Times Square. The Official Site of Times Square. n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2011
Times Square Cam. Earth Cam.2011 Web. 8 Dec. 2011. Retrieved from