Times Square in New York City has a complex history. From the very beginning it became the cultural home for American theater, great music halls and upscale hotels. It also puts on a pretty hoppin’ New Year’s Eve party every year. However, beginning with the Great Depression, the entire area took a nose dive. It quickly became a seedy part of town – a place where you could still see great shows, you just didn’t want to linger too long outside a theater. And with triple XXX venues lining some of the streets, it wasn’t exactly family friendly.
In the mid 1990’s, the city launched an initiative to clean up Times Square and bring some long overdue pride back to the area. The city was committed to finding the beauty and the charm that once defined the area. They knew it was there, they just had to dust it off.
I was thinking about all of this last week. I spent a short couple of days walking around TImes Square. And while the critics complain that the area has been taken over by outsiders and big box stores and it definitely has the air of Las Vegas East with the presence of the Jumbotron signs, there was something pretty amazing happening there. Everywhere I went, I was met by friendly New Yorkers. People stopped to ask if I needed help when I stood at a corner trying to remember which way I needed to walk. Cab drivers engaged in friendly conversation about their lives and my travels to their city. One police officer even had a five minute conversation about where he would go to eat breakfast in the area, away from the overpriced and overcrowded restaurants on the strip. In short, the people of New York now take pride in that part town. They want other people to see it’s beauty and to love it like they do. They want outsiders to feel welcome and safe and happy. Not exactly the image of Times Square of a few years ago.
So, if an entity as big as Times Square can change so drastically – if the reputation of that part of town can go from unfriendly, seedy and just plain dangerous to clean, warm and inviting- can it really be so hard for us as individuals to make the small changes we need to make to live our lives more authentic and bring out the diamond that is buried just underneath the surface?
Put yourself in a New York state of mind.