Times Square

Powering Up Times Square

Manhattan’s iconic Times Square is nearing the end of a multiyear redevelopment that is transforming the brightest and busiest intersection in the world.

With up to 400,000 pedestrians passing through it daily – that’s more than 146 million people a year – plus the crowd that gathers for New Year’s Eve revelry, Times Square is the heart of midtown Manhattan. The New York City Department of Design and Construction and the New York City Department of Transportation charged Snøhetta with creating an integrated, multifunctional public space that reflects the best of Times Square and New York City.

The $55 million redesign – bounded by Broadway and 7th Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets, says ArchDaily — permanently redefines Times Square, upgrading critical utility infrastructure and providing event infrastructure for public events.

One of the most drastic changes was the shift from congested streets to pedestrian-only plazas. Removing taxis, buses and overwhelmed tourist-drivers from the 200,000 square foot area – the size of three-and-a-half football fields – converts it into a level, continuous space that makes it easier for walkers and for utilizing some or all of the space as a huge outdoor stage.

Without access to riders, should businesses worry about a decrease in business? Definitely not, said Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007-2013, in a 2010 interview with Esquire, as the project was commencing. The impressive statistics:

  • Prior to the redevelopment, Times Square boasted 70 pedestrians for every 10 cars.
  • Revenues from businesses in Times Square have risen 71 percent – the biggest increase in history.
  • Injuries to motorists and passengers in the project areas are down 63 percent, and pedestrian injuries are down 35 percent.

Certainly the coolest feature added to the plazas are 30- to 50-foot long slanted benches – what WIRED calls “supercharged planes of granite, each roughly the length of a humpback whale, […] plugged into the city’s power grid. Once installed, they’ll be capable of powering anything from a one-man karaoke show to a full-blown rock concert.”

Dragging equipment and cabling in and out of Times Square for shows over and over is inconvenient and destructive. Snøhetta’s solution, says WIRED, is to have access to power omnipresent, but invisible. The 11 benches contain fiber-optic cables and conduits secured behind locked access, with connection to power sources up to 400 amps available. No cables, noisy engines or fumes impeding the show.

Have you been to Times Square recently? What are your thoughts on the transformation? Sound off in the comments.

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