The untold story of Times Square. It’s more than the ball dropping on New Year’s eve


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Having worked at two different jobs in Manhattan, including one across the street from the Empire State Building on West 33rd Street off 5th Avenue, I continue to follow the changes that have taken place in that part of New York City. This is the area between 5th and 8th Avenues of Manhattan including West 34th to West 42nd Street. When I first worked there in the mid 1950’s there were X-rated movie houses and porn shops all along West 42nd Street. You only need one word to describe this area. “Seedy.” You could not avoid hustlers selling wrist watches on every street corner or passing prostitutes looking for their next “customers.” I recall walking past pawn shops and small stores selling cheap tourist trinkets. We even found street peddlers selling contraband cigarettes trucked in from North Carolina during a prior cigarette tax revolt.

I take this trip down memory lane as a prelude to posting an April 2009 report just received from the Institute for Justice entitled “The Truth About Times Square” written by William J. Stern. Mr Stern served as Governor Mario Cuomo’s chairman and chief executive of New York State’s Urban Development Corporation.

The opening statement will surely create debate within those redevelopment agencies involved in urban renewal projects.
His story opens stating “By popular lore, the revival of Times Square ranks among the most celebrated achievements of New York City in recent years. In the 1960s, 1970, and early 1980s, Times Square was sleazy, crime ridden and so physically and economically blighted it represented a threat to public safety–but today it is nearly crime free. It is filled with tourists, and world class corporations dwell and prosper within its borders. It is celebrated as a triumph of “urban planning,
” “private-public partnership,” the wise use of the power of eminent domain, an example of the intelligent intervention of government into private real estate markets.
       All of it is a myth.

In 1983, when I went to work for Governor Mario Cuomo as chairman and chief executive of New York state’s Urban Development Corporation (UDC), I was convinced I knew how government planning could transform the Times Square I saw at that time to what it is today. The truth is, however, almost none of the grandiose plans my colleagues and I created and aggressively spearheaded ever came to fruition. Our extravagant plans actually retarded development. The changes in Times Square occurred despite government, not because of it.

 Times Square succeeded for reasons that had little to do with our building and condemnation schemes and everything to do with government policy that allowed the market to do its work, the way development occurs everyday nationwide. By lowering taxes, enforcing the laws, and getting out of the way instead of serving as real estate broker, the government incentivized investment and construction and encouraged the rebirth of Times Square to what it is today.”

To read “The Truth” simply go to the following link:

http://www.ij.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2676&Itemid=249

To learn more about how to protect your property rights from eminent domain sign up to attend our next MORR/CURE conference being held this Saturday at the Long Beach Airport Marriott Hotel where our guest speakers include BOS Supervisor Chris Norby, founder of MORR, State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, Attorneys Chris Sutton & Bob Ferguson, Tim Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation and Christina Walsh, Director of Activism and Coalitions, Institute for Justice, Washington, DC.

MORR/CURE Conference registration $65 includes continental breakfast and lunch

For information on our organization or this event simply call 714.871.9756 or 714.834.3440

Larry Gilbert, Member, Institute for Justice’s Castle Coalition & OC CO-Director CURE


About Larry Gilbert