Like all great urban public spaces, Times Square in midtown Manhattan is many different things to many different people. Some dyed-in-the wool New Yorkers will talk disparagingly about its Disneyification over the past decade, while out-of-towners seem to feel that it embodies what is best (and worst) about American urbanism. Regardless of these perceptions, this hallowed place celebrated its 100th anniversary on April 8th, complete with a massive cake, confetti, and a dedication by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who noted that "Times Square is New York, and it has been for a long time." Before 1904, the site was known as Long Acre Square, which had been the site of an exclusive neighborhood created by the Astors, one of American's most celebrated merchant families, in the mid-1800s. The renaming of the area was in honor of the decision made by the New York Times to build on the square during the period. The celebration of the area's centenary will continue for the next nine months, and will include exhibitions at the New York Historical Society, a public art program, and a design awards competition.
The first link leads to a news piece from the New York Daily News which talks about both the history of Times Square and the ongoing celebrations that are planned for the next few months. The second link leads to a fine article from the New York Times about the history of Times Square, and includes a nice interactive feature that traces the development of the area, complete with audio narration. The third link leads to a piece by Steve Cuozzo of the New York Post, who talks about the changes in the area over the past decade or so with more than a bit of humor and wit. The fourth link will take visitors to another interesting piece on the transformation of Times Square by critic Adam Gopnik, writing in The New Yorker on March 22. The fifth link leads to a fun site where visitors can view real-time images of various parts of Times Square from four different cameras. Visitors will definitely want to check out Camera 4 here, as they can watch tourists buy postcards, make phone calls, and experience New York somewhat vicariously. The final link leads to the official Times Square website, where visitors can read about the history of the Square, find out what's happening around the area, and watch some rather intriguing short films in the multimedia section, including one titled The Gods of Times Square.