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The Return of Bad Ideas

- Abstract

These days, one of the strangest places on earth is Times Square, but not for the reasons one would have expected a mere 15 years ago. Its odd atmosphere is not due to transvestite hookers like the ones who worked on the corner of 46th and Eighth when I lived down the block in the early 1980s, nor the dozens of porn theaters that overtook the neighborhood in the 1970s like swine flu through a middle school. The neighborhood is so improved that faux-boho nostalgists are constantly bemoaning the loss of the delightful local color that wasn’t delightful at all if you had the misfortune to be resident in the midst of it.

No, the new strangeness is due to the fact that Broadway, the Great White Way itself, has been denuded of automobile traffic by order of the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in June. Under the billboards and the neon, the street itself has been painted a weak ochre with outdoor furniture—chairs and tables and divans—sitting around in place of taxicabs and trucks and cars. Cars still move down Seventh Avenue, which is right next to it, but a wide expanse that is neither park nor street suddenly took Broadway’s place.

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