“Suddenly I found myself on Times Square. I had traveled eight thousand miles around the American continent and I was back on Times Square and right in the middle of a rush hour too, seeing with my innocent road eyes the absolute madness and fantastic hoorair of New York” From “On the Road”, Jack Kerouac.
And what would he see now? Would he still be enthralled with it and soak in the romance and frenentic energy of …tourists in metal folding chairs smack dab in the middle of Broadway stuffing caesar wraps down their ‘ol pie holes?
Some famous wag once said that New York was not Detroit multiplied by 6 or Spokane by 20 and he was right, just ask the folks who retire out to beautiful Bumfuck nowhere or hot and humid Florida and slowly realize as they follow oldsters in Oldsmobiles with left turn signal lights permanently locked on, that after the third cup of coffee, or maybe after 5th re-checking of an empty e-mail account, that there is Nothing Happening and they must move immediately move to be within a 50 mile radius of the epicenter of the Universe, get into Times Square for a fix of the powerful nitro fueled dervish blast of human energy.
Times Square is to New York as the Grand Canyon is to Arizona. The Great Wall is to China, Eiffel Tower to Paris. The storied epicenter of a great city where peep shows once reigned, rampant wildings, mob shoot outs, the go big or go home place for plays and musicals, The Great White Way, the ball dropping on New Years, Symphony Sid introducing the Miles Davis Organization for the first time, virginal women smootching with their servicemen after peace is declared and where else would you go, the mall ?
Anticipation now lies squashed like a stink bug on the driveway by the horror of seeing the great river of bustling people, screeching cabbies, monstrous, belching trash carting trucks, terror struck pedestrians hustling to dodge Kamakazi bike messengers all dammed up. Stopped. Replaced by what looks like the second tier economy deck of a Norwegian Dawn Cruise Ship.
Great block long swaths of the street are closed to cars. People sit in the street. Not protesting even, but everyone slouched over eating and smoking. Remember Ratso Rizzo who banged on a Cabbies hood shouting “Hey, I’m Walking here!”? Now it would be; “Pardon me, I am sitting here, that is, if you don’t mind.”
What it is that makes Times Square the second biggest tourist attraction in the world ( yep, Disney is #1) it’s a wonderfully evolving piece of art in itself. Curated by the pagen gods of commerce and capitalism, new LED signs go up, mandated by the city planning commission to be as gaudy as possible, others, like Lehman Bros, follow Joe Camel and the giant Cup of Noodles and drop down to the pavement and crawl with shame into the 30 yard dumpster of economic misfortune.
But as this is an art column, here we go. There is a presumably innocent artist, gameface on, paint roller in hand, decorating the Holy and True Road baby blue and dark blue and light blue. A water pattern it seems. But honestly it looks like just flat tired old paint not even a clever water pattern as if seen on a stifling hot day with a fire hydrant leaking or something that would tip a hat to the old New York. I think it’s supposed to represent heat, so visually it doesn’t work. Sounds like it will be covered by a seating area anyway, so the concept is? Sitting in a fake puddle below some buildings?
What they have done is like damming up the Colorado River, letting a misguided artist decorate boulders and then setting out chairs for tourists to watch the sad trickling stream.
We were just fine standing en masse on the sidewalk, eyes wide open in slack-jawed bliss, watching the pedestrians dodge the seamless race of double decker busses, bike messengers and pimped out lime-green, rice-burners roaring down the broad avenue. The pedal to the metal, hot rod race right down the middle of New York, our great American City.
Attention Mayor Mike: Nobody travels across the world to see people in metal folding chairs eating sandwiches in the middle of the street. Take off the brakes, let the traffic flow.
Herewith the official jargon.
NYC DOT Announces Winning Design For Temporary Plazas In Times Square
Molly Dilworth’s “Cool Water, Hot Island”
New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced the winning design for the temporary treatments that will refresh and revive the streetscape design currently in place at the Times Square pedestrian plazas while the agency moves forward with the separate design process for the area’s permanent capital reconstruction project. Submitted by Brooklyn-based artist Molly Dilworth, the selected design is composed of a graphical representation of NASA’s infrared satellite data of Manhattan. Titled “Cool Water, Hot Island,” the artist’s concept focuses on the urban heat-island effect, where cities tend to experience warmer temperatures than rural settings. The proposed design’s color palette of striking blues and light hues reflects more sunlight and absorbs less heat—improving the look of these popular pedestrian plazas while making them more comfortable places to sit. The colors and patterns evoke water, suggesting a river flowing through the center of Times Square, and they also provide a compelling visual counterpoint to the reds, oranges and yellows of the area’s signature marquees and billboards.
DOT launched the design competition in partnership with the Times Square Alliance in March 2010, the first stage in the City’s effort to remake Times Square following Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s decision to make the plazas permanent as part of the Green Light for Midtown project. The agency received 150 submissions for designs to replace the one currently installed at the five pedestrian plazas along Broadway from 47th to 42nd streets. The winning design was selected by a jury composed of representatives from the DOT, the Alliance, the Mayor’s Office and the Design Commission.
“This brings creativity and public art to the streets—literally,” said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance. “It signals that the theater district— already known for creative expression indoors—is now a place for creative expression outdoors, in the most urban public space in the world.”
The new design is scheduled to be installed by the end of July. The Alliance will monitor and maintain the temporary treatments for up to 18 months as the agency initiates plans for the design and construction of permanent plazas under the Department of Design and Construction’s Design and Construction Excellence program. As part of the longer-term project, DOT and DDC are working with a team of experts—from landscape professionals to architects to engineers—to design world-class plazas with ample seating, new paving and underground infrastructure able to accommodate and enhance the signature events that are staged at Times Square throughout the year. The project will also completely reconstruct the roadways in Times Square, which have not been structurally repaired in decades. An announcement is expected later this summer. Construction on the permanent plazas is expected in 2012.