Times Square

New York is host to many outdoor events on an annual basis. As you start the planning process, it is important to recognize that your event plays a unique part in the relationship with the community. A quality event can make a difference to the City of New York. EventPermits works with the City of New York and its partners, in planning safe and successful events that comply with city law.

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Before and after the American Revolution, the area belonged to John Morin Scott, a general of the New York militia where he served under George Washington. Scott’s Manor House was at what is now 43rd Street, surrounded by countryside used for farming and breeding horses. In the first half of the 19th century it became one of the prized possessions of John Jacob Astor, who made a second fortune selling off lots to hotels and other real estate concerns as the city rapidly spread uptown.

In 1904, New York Times publisher Adolph S. Ochs moved the newspaper’s operations to a new skyscraper on 42nd Street in Longacre Square. Ochs persuaded Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr. to construct a subway station there, and the area was renamed “Times Square” on April 8, 1904. Just three weeks later, the first electrified advertisement appeared on the side of a bank at the corner of 46th Street and Broadway.

The New York Times moved to more spacious offices across Broadway in 1913. The old Times Building was later named the Allied Chemical Building. Now known simply as One Times Square, it is famed for the “ball” of light, which “drops” from a tower on its roof every New Year’s Eve.

Also in 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association, headed by entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher, chose the intersection of 42nd Street and Broadway, at the southeast corner of Times Square, to be the Eastern Terminus of the Lincoln Highway, the first road across America, which originally spanned 3,389 miles (5,454 km) coast-to-coast through 13 states to its Western Terminus in Lincoln Park in San Francisco, California.

As New York City’s growth continued, Times Square quickly grew as a cultural hub full of theaters, music halls, and upscale hotels.

Times Square quickly became New York’s agora, a place to gather both to await great tidings and to celebrate them, whether a World Series or a presidential election

– James Traub, The Devil’s Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square

Celebrities such as Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire, and Charlie Chaplin were closely associated with Times Square in the 1910s and 1920s. During this period, the area was nicknamed The Tenderloin because it was supposedly the most desirable location in Manhattan. However, it was during this period that the area was besieged by crime and corruption, in the form of gambling and prostitution; one case that garnered huge attention was the arrest and subsequent execution of police officer Charles Becker.

The general atmosphere changed with the onset of the Great Depression during the 1930s. In the decades afterward, it was considered a dangerous neighborhood. The seediness of Times Square, especially its adult businesses, was an infamous symbol of New York City’s decline and corruption from the 1960s until the early 1990s.

In the 1980s, a commercial building boom began in the West 40s and 50s as part of a long-term development plan conceived under Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins. In the mid-1990s, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (1994-2002) led an intense effort to “clean up” the area, increasing security, driving out pornographic theaters, drug dealers and “squeegee men” and opening more tourist-friendly attractions and upscale establishments.

In 1990, the State of New York took possession of six of the nine historic theaters on 42nd Street. The New 42nd Street nonprofit organization was appointed to oversee their restoration and care. The theaters were variously renovated for Broadway shows, converted for commercial purposes, or demolished.

In November 2006, the traffic pattern through Times Square was modified significantly in what is nicknamed by the New York City Department of Transportation as the “Times Square Shuffle.” Cars traveling south on Seventh Avenue can no longer stay on Seventh Avenue when they reach Times Square. The road turns into Broadway, and to stay on Seventh Avenue drivers are now required to make a series of turns before reaching Times Square. Under a traffic plan proposed by Mayor Bloomberg, Broadway will become pedestrian-only in 2009, with vehicular traffic routed through the area along the standard grid of streets and avenues.

Times Square is the site of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop. On December 31, 1907, a ball signifying New Year’s Day was first dropped at Times Square, and the Square has held the main New Year’s celebration in New York City ever since. On this night hundreds of thousands of people congregate to watch the Waterford crystal ball being lowered on a pole atop the building (though not to the street, as is a common misconception), marking the new year. It replaced a lavish fireworks display from the top of the building that was held from 1904 to 1906, only to be outlawed by city officials. Beginning in 1908, and for more than eighty years thereafter, Times Square sign maker Artkraft Strauss was responsible for the ball lowering. During World War II, a minute of silence, followed by a recording of church bells pealing, replaced the ball drop because of wartime blackout restrictions.

A new energy-efficient LED ball, celebrating the centennial of the ball drop, debuted for the arrival of 2008. The newest ball, which was dropped on New Year’s Eve (Wednesday, December 31, 2008) for the arrival of 2009, is larger and will become a permanent installation as a year-round attraction, being used for celebrations such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween.

On average, about 1 million revelers crowd Times Square for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. However, for the millennium celebration on December 31, 1999, published reports stated approximately two million people overflowed Times Square, flowing from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue and all the way back on Broadway and Seventh Avenues to 59th Street, making it the largest gathering in Times Square since August 1945 during celebrations marking the end of World War II.

In 1974, entertainer Dick Clark began hosting a live half-hour ABC special detailing the event entitled Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, which not only aired the descent of the ball, but also performances from popular bands and commentary from various hosts in other cities, notably Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Orlando. During the millennium celebrations in 1999, Peter Jennings based ABC’s operations in Times Square, hosting ABC 2000 Today.

The Times Square neighborhood, notably its busiest intersection, has been featured countless times in literature, on television, in films, in music videos and recently in video games.

Times Square currently serves as the primary shooting location for ABC’s Good Morning America and formerly MTV’s Total Request Live, which have studios facing the square. The annual Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve along with other New Years Eve celebrations is filmed at multiple locations around the square.

+ In July 2005, Howard Johnson’s closed one of its last urban restaurants here. The site had been a Times Square landmark for 46 years.
+ Times Square is featured in the game Grand Theft Auto IV and is named Star Junction
+ Times Square is a venue in the 2008 video game Guitar Hero World Tour, and is the penultimate venue in the game’s career mode.
+ Times Square appears in several South Park episodes, such as “It Hits the Fan.”
+ Times Square was completely shut down for filming of the opening scene of the movie Vanilla Sky starring Tom Cruise.
+ One Times Square is shown being obliterated by a solar flare along with the rest of Manhattan in the movie Knowing.

Will I need a Permit?

If you are asking this question, the answer most likely is, yes!

If you are in doubt about whether or not your proposed activity is an Outdoor Special Event, and are unsure of what is required, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Even though my event is on private property, will some aspects of it spill onto the public space? (i.e. sidewalks, roads, city property or property owned by someone other than you)
  • Is there a remote chance that the safety of the participants and/or the residents of the City of New York may be affected if certain aspects of your event are not properly constructed, installed, or handled (i.e. food, electrical wiring, tents, stages, generators)
  • Does your event require any City of New York services? ( i.e. trash pick up, closing of streets, etc.)
  • Will I be erecting a stage, tent (10 x 10 or larger), bleachers, or booths?
  • Will I be vending? (food, beverages, merchandise)
  • Will I be selling/serving Alcohol? Will my event include advertising and/or product sampling?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you will need an event permit in the City of New York and EventPermits will facilitate all of your needs on your behalf.