Times Square

During coffee, my mobile rings. It’s Reuben. “Ian, are you anywhere near Times Square?”

I tell him we’re about five minutes walk away. “Great. Could you take a look around and give me 100 words on the scene down there by 1 am, please?”

I ask him to explain. “Oh, sorry. I’m covering the Tony Awards tonight and I need a few lines about the Times Square angle. You’ll see when you get there. Oh, and there’s something else…”.

“Yes, what?”

“Welcome to New York”.

We finish our coffee and head down to Times Square.

It’s not really a square, it’s two triangles formed where Broadway crosses over Seventh Avenue.


Times Square in daylight

If you picture Seventh Avenue running from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, Broadway runs across it from 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock. The crossroads form a tall, narrow “X” bounded by 42nd Street at the bottom and 47th Street at the top. The two narrow triangles are between the upper and lower arms of the “X”.

Technically, only the bottom triangle is Times Square; the top triangle is Duffy Square. But everyone calls the whole complex “Times Square”.

Times Square is packed. Seventh Avenue and the cross streets are closed to vehicles. A narrow traffic lane is marked with orange cones and cars creep through.

Everywhere else is crowded with people, not just on the sidewalks but also on the large areas of closed-off roadway. They sit on deckchairs, camping chairs, plastic chairs and folding stools. There are thousands of them, packing into the car-free spaces, sitting facing the huge outdoor plasma screens which dominate the neon advertising on the sides of the surrounding buildings.

I ask a cheerful cop what’s the story. He explains that New York is trialling closing off various parts of Times Square to traffic to see which configuration works best for pedestrians and traffic flow. But he too is surprised by the huge turn-out this Sunday night.

Everyone is watching the screens which are showing the Tony Awards presentations live from Radio City Music Hall only one block over and three blocks north.

The crowd is in a great mood. They have snacks and drinks. People are cheerful and talking excitedly to each other, friends and strangers alike. They cheer and clap enthusiastically at each announcement.

As we watch, “Billy Elliott” picks up yet another Award. That makes it ten for the night. Our chance of picking up tickets for the show as we’d hoped at the discount booth in Times Square has just dropped to zero.

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