[The 90’s raw: Times Square]

Raw footage for The 90's. Interview with an expert urbanologist about the history, and 1990s revitalization, of New York's Times Square.

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00:09Copy video clip URL An expert on Times Square is asked: “Is the Times Square area the center of the civilized world or a cultural slum?” He laughs and says “it’s one of the seedy centers of the civilized world. It’s a good example of what happens when the markets are left to their own devices. West 42nd Street is the seediest part of that area, but Times Square has a lot of different areas. There’s the theater district, restaurants, clothing, Tin Pan Alley. It’s a huge entertainment and commercial district.”

01:22Copy video clip URL The expert adds that W. 42nd Street is particularly seedy, but it is being renovated. It’s been victimized over many decades by moral crusades against alcohol, burlesque, pornography, drugs, GIs. They’re well-intentioned but they create these place of moral ambiguity.

02:46Copy video clip URL He talks about the proposed plan to renovate the area. He thinks it’s inevitable. “All big cities revitalize when an important part of that city becomes seedy. They’ll preserve the theaters and important historical areas. The underground complex will be renovated. It’s not a complete land grab though it seems that way because one developer has been given a large section of the land to develop at great profit. But the developer is taking risks, too.”

04:53Copy video clip URL He says the people who will be short changed by this event are the people who won’t be able to afford to upgrade: the young and the poor. The people who will gain from this renovation are the land owners. The trick is to make the development available to all. And that’s where we fail. He adds, “I don’t think I’ll love it as much.”

07:36Copy video clip URL The expert notes that he is an inveterate urban research person. I’ve been interested in the 42nd Street area ever since I was a kid. I used to come here with my father and mother to go to restaurants, t heaters, and movies. In high school I would come here with my friends. We’d go to movie theaters like The Paramount and The Roxy. We’d go to Hubert’s Flea Circus which was kind of like a freak show.  As an urbanologist it became natural that Times Square and 42nd Street would become my laboratory, to watch and see what would happen as the area changed.  He adds he teaches courses about New York City. He still come to Times Square for recreation.

10:40Copy video clip URL He says people are nostalgic about anything from their past. If you become nostalgic you blind yourself to what’s happening right now. They end by saying they are going to meet some of the expert’s friends in Times Square and have a nice time.

11:04Copy video clip URL He notes that Fred Kent, founder of Project for Public Spaces, is a friend and colleague. One thing PPS does is shoot time lapse photography of places like Times Square to show on a macro level how people navigate public spaces.

11:27Copy video clip URL Change of location. The expert is at Times Square, in front of Nathan’s hot dog stand. He notes Nathan’s is now closed. It used to be Toffenetti’s, a huge eating emporium. It got too expensive to run. The developers are going to build an office building here.

13:05Copy video clip URL B-roll of street scenes. An evangelist at Times Square passionately talks about Jesus, Hell, repentance, and abortion.

17:56Copy video clip URL B-roll of Times Square area street scenes, adult show center, adult movie theater.

20:40Copy video clip URL B-roll of Smith’s bar and restaurant.

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