I am someone who grew up around and in Manhattan, and have and will always love this city. Heck, I even created a website all about it! The problem that Manhattan seems to have on a larger scale each year is the most visited place in the world- Times Square. This is an area that for years upon years was a mecca of unique opportunity, fascinating stores and people, and what made New York City so special. Now, all it seems to me is a strip mall that you can go to in your local city.
Even though I was born about thirty years ago, I would go into the city back in the 90’s and really get a kick out of what Times Square was really about about. It had a seedy and underbelly nature to it, that brought out some seriously awesome characters and places that I absolutely loved to visit. One in particular was Tower Records, which I would spend my weekends at, divulging every different type of music magazine from Rolling Stone to Billboard, being entranced by this beautiful store that was adorned in yellow and featured every single type of artist that you want.
Then, about ten years ago, Tower Records closed in Times Square. So, the next best thing for me was Virgin Megastore, which was a little more mainstream than Tower but it still had everything a music and industry junkie could want, in one location. Shortly after starting my internship in Times Square three years after Tower Records closed, Virgin closed their doors as well, only two blocks from where i worked. Evidently, it’s a Sephora now, or Victoria’s Secret. Who cares.
Recently, I saw that Toys R Us closed, as well as FAO Schwarz, which was under the Toys R Us brand. Now even though FAO wasn’t directly in Times Square, it was a unique opportunity for adults and children alike to really experience their own version of Willy Wonka in the best city in the world. Now that’s gone, and I’m sure it will turn into another conglomerate or luxury building for the asshole yuppies that keep moving here, but it brings me to a bigger point.
The pizzazz that Times Square had, is gone. It drives me up the freaking wall when I see thousands of tourists drop so much money per year, stay in Times Square, and don’t leave. Even worse, they dine at TGI Fridays, Applebees, or The Olive Garden, all located within a couple of blocks of each other… in Times Square. I don’t understand? Why would you want to spend double the amount of money that you would spend at a local one back at home, for a shitty pasta dish or burger, when all you have to do is walk an avenue or two over to Hell’s Kitchen or head down to Chelsea or the Lower East Side and see the absolute amazing options they have to offer. It really does baffle me. Anytime I am in another city, I am happy to experience what they have to offer locally as I know the taste of an Applebees burger is the same shit everywhere. Come on, people.
All Times Square does now, is give me a headache. Yes, there are some great exceptions for food in the area, like Havana Central for instance, but its just an overrun part of New York City with no sparkle to it, and any kind of mall store you can imagine. What happened to the grit that was NYC? Why has everything changed so much, for the worse, for what is supposed to be, the best city in the world? I do hope, at some point, seeing as all of these one off amazing places keep closing all around Manhattan, that the gentrification of the city gets so big that it blinds the people in power and eventually brings us back to what made us so great in the first place. Time will tell.