Reconstructing Times Square: Politics and Culture in Urban Development / Edition 1

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Overview

When the big ball drops on New Year's Eve, thousands are there to witness that great glittering sight, while millions more watch on national television. Times Square may be the cultural hub of America, the "Crossroads of the World," but its lights have not always shone as brightly as they do now.
Once a glamorous theater district, Times Square and 42nd Street had degenerated into a neighborhood known for the winos and sex shops of "Midnight Cowboy" until New York's business and arts communities stepped in. These advocates of urban revitalization exploited cultural and historic preservation arguments to transform a low-income entertainment district into a Disney-fied tourist mecca. Where Ratso Rizzo once kicked cars and "hookers" plied their trade, Mickey Mouse now greets visitors from atop a Disney superstore surrounded by rising office towers, theaters, and theme restaurants-all thanks to huge tax subsidies and government support.
Alexander Reichl tells the fascinating story of how cultural politics and economic greed transformed the city's physical and social environment with an ongoing multibillion-dollar redevelopment program, changing the district from a symbol of urban decline to one of urban renaissance. He explains the political significance of the historic preservation and arts-related approach to urban revitalization, showing how it was used to appeal to the upscale values of middle-class New Yorkers often hostile to urban renewal. He also examines the role of the Walt Disney Company in the project and demonstrates its power to redefine a premier public space.
In telling the story of Times Square, Reichl reveals much about politics and power at the city level and their relationship to the development of urban space. He frames his lively narrative with an illuminating account of how historic preservation initiatives at all government levels have displaced large-scale federal urban renewal programs as the dominant approach to urban development, and he shows the importance of political discourse and cultural politics in mobilizing public support for urban redevelopment.
Now that it has been reconfigured for the 21st century, Times Square provides a rich and multifaceted case for exploring the latest trends in urban renewal. Yet Reichl suggests much that has happened here is regrettable: the ousting of low-income citizens to serve commercial interests, the loss of a culturally diverse entertainment district, and the failure to address persistent class- and race-based segregation in a central urban area. By getting to the heart of the Great White Way, Reconstructing Times Square provides an important look at urban renewal-and politics-in a changing America.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Using New York City's Times Square in the late 1990s, Reichl (political science, Loyola Univ.) provides insight into the economic, political, and social forces involved in city planning. He finds that Time Square's "reconstruction" has resulted from a collaborative effort of business, government, and community spawned by municipal actions dating back to 1967, during the era of John Lindsay. However, it was not until the administration of Mayor Ed Koch, when political allies and foes joined forces (citing historical preservation and the attraction of the area's being part of the theater district) that the movement to return Times Square to its great past while giving it a clean, modern infrastructure gained strength. This urban revitalization was unique in that corporate sponsors were able to convince the populace that restoring the grandeur of the good old days was the best urban renewal of all. Reichl presents many sociologists' viewpoints in a way that is readable and cogent. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.--Kevin Whalen, Somerset Cty. Lib., Bridgewater, NJ Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700609505
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Series: Studies in Government and Public Policy
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 268
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Times Square as Text 5
2 From Urban Renewal to Historic Preservation 21
3 Times Square Discourse: From the Great White Way to the Dangerous Deuce 43
4 Planning the Revaluation of Times Square 77
5 Public Voices and Pro-Growth Politics 115
6 Fin-de-Siecle Forty-second Street: Disneyspace for the Twenty-first Century 143
7 Learning from Forty-second Street 163
App. A Chronology of Redevelopment Events 183
App. B Organizations Involved in Redevelopment
Notes 187
Bibliography 215
Index 225
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