Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

Times Square Red, Times Square Blue


If one street in America can claim to be the most infamous, it is surely 42nd Street. Between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, 42nd Street was once known for its peep shows, street corner hustlers and movie houses. Over the last two decades the notion of safety-from safe sex and safe neighborhoods, to safe cities and safe relationships-has overcome 42nd Street, giving rise to a Disney store, a children's theater, and large, neon-lit cafes. 42nd Street has, in effect, become a family tourist attraction for visitors from Berlin, Tokyo, Westchester, and New Jersey's suburbs.

Samuel R. Delany sees a disappearance not only of the old Times Square, but of the complex social relationships that developed there: the points of contact between people of different classes and races in a public space. In Times Square Red, Times Square Blue , Delany tackles the question of why public restrooms, peepshows, and tree-filled parks are necessary to a city's physical and psychological landscape. He argues that starting in 1985, New York City criminalized peep shows and sex movie houses to clear the way for the rebuilding of Times Square. Delany's critique reveals how Times Square is being "renovated" behind the scrim of public safety while the stage is occupied by gentrification.

Times Square Red, Times Square Blue paints a portrait of a society dismantling the institutions that promote communication between classes, and disguising its fears of cross-class contact as "family values." Unless we overcome our fears and claim our "community of contact," it is a picture that will be replayed in cities across America.


Times Square Red, Times Square Blue consists of two extended essays, a form I’ve grown quite fond of since my first try at it in 1974. in different ways, at different focal lengths, along different trajectories and at different intensities, both pieces look at aspects of New York City affected by the Times Square Development Project of the last few years.

A presupposition of both pieces is that New York City has anticipated and actively planned this redevelopment since the start of the sixties. the demolition proper that began along Forty-second Street in 1995 and the construction that will yield, among other things, four new office towers and several new entertainment centers along both sides of Forty-second Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenue by 2005, are a culmination of forty years’ expectation and attendant real estate and business machinations, not to mention much concerted public disapproval and protest. the construction of World Wide Plaza at Fiftieth Street and Eighth Avenue during the mid-1980s and the destruction of more than half a dozen movie theaters along Eighth Avenue were as much a part of this process as what is now visibly happening at points along the Deuce—that strip of Forty-second Street that runs from Seventh to Eighth Avenue but (since it’s never been formally defined) could be extended all the way to Ninth Avenue and even, say, as far as the Public Library just east of Bryant Park. in order to bring about this redevelopment, the city has instituted not only a violent reconfiguration of its own landscape but also a legal and moral revamping of its own discursive structures, changing laws about sex, health, and zoning, in the course . . .

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