I avoided Times Square when I lived in New York. Most of the city’s residents do – the Square’s too crowded; it’s too loud and bright and far too commercial. That was my general opinion for years, and still is, more or less. But right now I’m missing it.
I didn’t come to appreciate that garish tangle of streets until last year. I returned to the city for a work trip and was put up at a hotel on 46th street and 8th avenue, not far from an AA meeting I enjoy and a few doors down from the Scientology HQ, which I didn’t even know existed. Mel Brooks was performing two buildings further east, closer to 7th avenue and the runoff of Times Square proper.
It was the perfect summer night for a stroll. The Square was as white hot bright as ever; it was chaotic and cacophonous. A replica Back to the Future DeLorean drove by and life-sized cartoon characters jostled for change as a light drizzle fell. It was past 11, but despite the hour and weather, people were still everywhere, strolling, hustling, and gawking – thousands upon thousands of the reasons I once bypassed the so-called Crossroad of the World at all costs.
Today those crossroads are quiet as the Big Apple continues battling the pandemic. As my own lockdown continues I find myself wishing I could be back in the time before, right there in Times Square’s throbbing center – and I’m sure other people do, too, even New Yorkers.
Until we can be there, here are 23 images of Times Square at night, all taken between 1908 and 2018. A lot happened in those 110 years – two world wars, a Great Depression, some recessions, HIV, 9/11, the Great Recession, a super storm, and a whole lot of other shit – and Times Square stood strong: a tinsel testament to humankind’s tenacity and audacity; a glittering epicenter for all people. It will be so again, and will be for decades to come, come hell or high water, for better and for worse. And I look forward to being in the thick of it.
Scrollable version of the slideshow below.