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Times Square

Dicembre 2011
Il centro del mondo è qui, a Times Square.  La celebre piazza di New York, che ospita la celebrazione di Capodanno più fotografata al mondo, sta per essere restaurata. L’obiettivo degli organizzatori? Renderla “bella come una piazza italiana”.

di Lorenza Cerbini

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Times Square on New Year's Eve
Times Square on New Year's Eve
Tim Tompkins
Tim Tompkins

Times Square is the heart of New York City. For many people, it’s also the heart of the world. The end of the Second World War in 1945, for example, was a dramatic event in human history. Our most iconic image of it shows a young American sailor and nurse kissing each other passionately. That photograph was taken in Times Square.
Ever since The New York Times moved to Times Square in 1904, it has been the place where the news is announced. And since 1971 Times Square has also been a centre for financial news. The New York Stock Exchange is “downtown” on Wall Street, but New York’s – and the world’s – second biggest stock market, NASDAQ (the “National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations”) is in midtown Manhattan, in Times Square. The latest market news and prices appear on the MarketSite Tower, the NASDAQ building’s massive seven-story electronic billboard (which is powered by an unbelievable 16 million LEDs).
The Tower has  featured in countless films and TV shows and it illuminates Times Square 24 hours a day, helping to make it one of the brightest places on earth. Hundreds of smaller electronic billboards advertise the Square’s other businesses, which include restaurant chains like the Olive Garden, Bubba Gump, the Hard Rock Café and TGI Fridays and stores like Toys’R’Us, as well as movies, musicals and plays (Times Square, which is cut in two by Broadway, is also the heart of  New York’s theatre district).

NEW YEAR'S EVE

Times Square gets even brighter on New Year’s Eve, when a million people gather there and a billion others watch them on television around the world. If you plan to go, remember that the rules are very strict. You have to get into the Square by 6 p.m. and, as you wait for the next six hours to pass, no drinking is allowed!

THE ALLIANCE

Today Times Square is vibrant, but that hasn’t always been the case. It was dangerous in the 1970s, but it has bounced back in the last 20 years. Much of the credit must go to the Times Square Alliance (whose president, Tim Tompkins, we interviewed). The Alliance, which was founded in 1992, aims “to improve and promote Times Square, cultivating the creativity and energy that have made the area a centre of entertainment, culture and urban life for over a century.”

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5...

LANGUAGE LEVEL B2 (UPPER INTERMEDIATE)

Speaker: Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent)

On New Year’s Eve, an estimated one million people will gather in New York’s Times Square, while another one billion will watch the event of television. At 6 p.m. a massive Waterford Crystal “time ball” will be raised on a pole on the ”One Times Square” building. A few seconds before midnight it will begin its 77-foot (23-metre) descent to the bottom. We asked Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, about the Square’s origins:

Tim Tompkins (Standard American accent)

It was the creation of the New City subway system and the opening of the subway line in 1904, along with the building of the New York Times headquarters. Times Square is named after the world-famous newspaper, The New York Times, not actually after some notion of time related to New Year’s Eve, which a lot of people think!
Until  1904, the area was in fact known as “Longacre Square.” We asked Tim Tompkins to describe the most important moments in Times Square’s history:

Tim Tompkins

One was the very first New Year’s Eve celebration. In the tradition of Times Square, it was essentially a publicity stunt, but it was a publicity stunt for The New York Times announcing the opening of its building. And, for America, a tradition that’s now over 100 years old is a very, very old tradition! So the creation of that celebration around New Year’s became very important, not only for New York City, but for the entire world. I’d say a second important event for Times Square was the end of World War Two. Times Square was always a place where the news was transmitted instantly, literally on these signs on the edge of the New York Times building, and so it was there that hundreds of thousands of people gathered and learned that World War Two had ended, and there was a picture snapped of a sailor kissing a nurse and that came to symbolise the joy of ending the war and entering into a time of peace.

ITALIAN STYLE

After the war Times Square went into decline and, by the 1970s it had become a dangerous place. It has, however, bounced back in recent years and it is about to undergo major renovation:

Tim Tompkins

What happened a couple of years ago, is that the Mayor closed down one of the two streets that crosses and makes Times Square, which is Broadway. He closed it down to vehicular traffic and made it available for people to walk. So it’s more like a European piazza: the problem is it’s a very ugly piazza! It’s literally asphalt of the street painted – the phrase we use is it’s kind of like “putting lipstick on a pig!” – fundamentally, it’s a very ugly space.
So we look at the great public spaces in the world – and, frankly, most of which are in Italy! –  and we say, “What can we do to make this a public space that New York can be proud of?” And so it’s... really comes down to different kinds of stone or pavers, and taking what had been just this rough, ugly streetbed, and making it into a piazza.


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