By Anna Lynn Sibal
Would you like to have a spectacular start to your New Year? Would you like to fill the last few hours of the outgoing year with revelry and music and fireworks and general fun? If your answers to these questions are yes, then you should head for Times Square in New York City come New Year’s Eve.
Times Square, the principal intersection between Broadway and Seventh Avenue on Manhattan, is yet another one of New York City’s iconic symbols, a representation of the famed urbanity of Manhattan. Not only is it filled with towers that reach up to the skies, these towers are also full of bright electric signs. In fact, it is the only neighborhood in the City of New York where the inhabitants are required to place neon lights and signs on their buildings, and their brightness now rivals the lights of Las Vegas in Nevada. The most famous of these signs is the gigantic Panasonic AstroVision screen plate sitting in the middle of Times Square itself. Television specials, like the last episode of the long-running sitcom Friends, are usually broadcast on that screen plate.
Some 26 million go to see the sights in Times Square every year, mostly towards the year’s end. On the night of December 31 of each year, at midnight, the New Year’s Eve ball is dropped at One Times Square (formerly known as the New York Times Building), a Waterford crystal ball that is supposed to signify the coming New Year’s Day. It is a tradition that has spanned a hundred years since it was first commemorated thus in 1907. Thousands of people gather every New Year’s Eve at Times Square just to see the ball drop, despite the freezing winter temperatures these people have to go through during that time. The largest number of people ever to have gone to Times Square during New Year’s Eve was in 1945, at the end of the Second World War. In 1972, Dick Clark began anchoring the now annual ABC television special featuring the dropping of the New Year’s Eve ball, a program that is seen throughout the United States and the world every year hence.
Why is Times Square called by that name? Before, the neighborhood was called Longacre Square. Popular belief has it that when Adolph S. Ochs, owner of The New York Times, moved the newspaper’s headquarters into the building now known as One Times Square in 1904, he persuaded the mayor of New York City then, George B. McClellan, Jr., to change the name of Longacre Square to Times Square.
Aside from the New Year’s Eve celebrations and the gigantic billboards adorning Times Square, the place is also known as a shopping and dining center. Times Square is also a media center, with the studios of the ABC network, the MTV Network and Viacom all located here. Times Square is also the location of The New York Times Corporation Building, as well as that of the Condé Nast Publications. The wax museum Madame Tussauds New York is also located here.
New York City Guide