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Times-Square Is The Dystopian Hellscape We Were Told To Fear

Times Square Is The Dystopian Hellscape We Were Told To Fear


There are a few places in the Big Apple that real New Yorkers avoid like the plague, and no single place is more avoided en masse than Times Square. It is Dante's Seventh Circle, the lake of fire, and the Sarlacc pit all rolled into one. But the terror that Times Square represents goes beyond slow-moving crowds, gawking tourists, and pushy people selling CDs and posing for photos dressed as Iron Man.

The current state of Times Square tells the story of a city quickly pricing out its longest-tenured residents. Once upon a time, Times Square was considered the Red Light District of New York City. A seedy part of Manhattan overrun by porn shops, peep shows, pole dancers, and prostitutes.

Times Square NYC Prostitution

I'm not saying it was safe or a great place to live or visit. But, there was a beauty to its squalor and a certain level of justice to the lawlessness. Also, as you can imagine, it was home to all manner of people who didn't make very much money. Unfortunately for them, though, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani did not consider them people. He thought they were obstructing progress and undesirable.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani, former New York City Mayor from 1994 - 2001

Once New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani stepped in with his "reforms" and police crackdowns, the entire area was transformed from Skid Row to Disneyland. I am not trying to make the argument that the hookers, pimps, drug dealers, and hustlers who once inhabited Time Square are the best people humanity had to offer. But many of the "undesirables," as his honor so delicately put it, were forced out of their low-income homes right along with them.

While walking through Times Square can be hellacious all on its own, with tourists stopping in the middle of the street to point out a building as if they are viewing "Starry Night" at MOMA. or groups obstructing the flow of foot traffic to take group photos in front of a Starbucks. It's a bit more disgusting knowing how many people lost their homes to make way for Bubba Gump Shrimp and The Hard Rock Cafe.

Hard Rock CafeHard Rock Cafe in Times Square

Ironically, Times Square gained its name in 1907 once The New York Times moved into the neighborhood. The "Times" is one of the largest newspapers on the planet and is known as a champion of free speech, integrity in journalism, and as the real storyteller of our culture. This area of Midtown Manhattan may just be the actualization of the death of a culture.

Times Square advertisements
Large billboard advertisements displayed in Times Square

Times Square is a high-tech advertising wasteland that nourishes nothing except our most base consumerist impulses. LED ads that are 50 feet tall tell us to buy things we don't need, while neon signs flash from mediocre restaurants that offer foods that can be found for half the price and double the quality at the bevy of eateries in NYC.

Yeah, Times Square sucks because it's always bustling with slow-moving tourists blocking the way when we just want to get to where we are going. But traversing that terrain is so soul-crushing because it represents a fake ideal of our very real culture in New York City.

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