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Times Square foot traffic increasing even without Broadway

Times Square foot traffic increasing even without Broadway

For the past year, Times Square has been widely depicted as a deserted ghost of its former self. But people who love the “Crossroads of the World” even without Broadway continue to bring it back to life.

Pedestrian counts in the Broadway-Seventh Avenue Bowtie between West 42nd and 47th streets are on the upswing yet again as the weather warms, the Times Square Alliance has found.

The daily average of people on foot increased from a paltry 33,143 in April 2020, the pandemic’s darkest month in the city, to 134,659 this month.

It’s still way below the pre-pandemic total of 355,302, but a remarkable 306.3 percent leap over last spring’s desolate condition. The number has gradually ticked up over time with the latest figure surpassing the 105,000 daily average visitor tally The Post reported on in February.

Weekend figures were even stronger — 151,605 visitors daily on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, representing a 394 percent hike over April 2020.

Also contributing to the resurgence, New York state lifted quarantine rules for domestic travelers starting on April 1.

The Naked Cowboy performing before sparse crowds in April 2020.
The Naked Cowboy performing before sparse crowds in April 2020.
Getty Images

The energy’s palpable from one end of the Bowtie to the other. The Naked Cowboy’s back along with Mickey Mouse and superhero characters; shoppers line up for the Disney store; and the Red Steps at the northern end are again drawing a crowd.

The increases are remarkable given that the area’s main attraction — broadway theaters — stay dark. The area’s 10 million square feet of office towers, another big draw, are only about 10 percent full, while occupancy in the 26 of the district’s 47 hotels that are open is only 45 percent.

Times Square Alliance acting president Tom Harris attributed the rising tide of visitors to “warmer weather, vaccinations on the rise and businesses reappearing. Although we miss Broadway’s powerful economic engine and look forward to its return, there’s plenty to do, including people-watching under the bright lights.”

Times Square sits empty ahead of the 2021 New Year's Eve celebrations.
An empty Times Square ahead of the 2021 New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Getty Images

Keeping the lights on feels a powerful psychological signal.

Harris said, “A conscious decision was made by landlords and sign companies that they were going to try to keep as much to normal as possible. Times Square is not Times Square without the lights. It showed people around the world that normal is coming again.”

But, without theaters and offices, where are all the new visitors coming from?

Harris said, “Anecdotally, it seems that New Yorkers and tri-staters are reconnecting with their Times Square. People in the past complained about congestion. With that gone, we can reconnect to what all the tourists knew: that Times Square is the heartbeat of the city.”

Developers foresee an eventual full recovery. As we’ve reported, the owners of the Three and Five Times Square office towers are giving the properties major capital upgrades. The huge TSX hotel/experiential retail tower at the corner of West 47th Street is rising with a planned completion in 2022.

Harris said their timing is perfect: “Developers understand that this is the time to do the work, when it will be less impactful on their employees.”

Throngs of Times Square pedestrians.
Pedestrian counts in the Broadway-Seventh Avenue Bowtie between West 42nd and 47th streets are on the upswing yet again.

In another sign of optimism, at least three currently dark hotels are expected to reopen soon: the Edition Times Square, Westin and Novotel (the last under a new name).
Some Broadway shows are expected to resume at limited capacity this fall. While many stores, including Swarovski, M&M’s World and the Disney store are open, major retailers Old Navy and American Eagle are not.

Several new fast-food places and some larger, long-time favorite restaurants have reopened — including Gallaghers, Planet Hollywood and Sushi of Gari. But the owners of Sardi’s, Carmine’s and Bond 45 are still waiting for their largest source of customers — Broadway — to open its doors.

Two Trees Management’s Williamsburg waterfront complex, home to popular, kid-friendly Domino Park, is enjoying a retail and office leasing boom.

Deals totaling more than 35,000 square feet were signed on the ground floor and on office floors of Ten Grand and One South First, the commercial and residential portions of the 45-story tower with an open slice through its middle that is the East River site’s centerpiece .

At One South First, the recent food-oriented arrivals are OddFellows Ice Cream, Other Half Brewing Co. and Two Hands café. Roberta’s Pizza will bow later this spring. Also on the ground floor are furniture store Beam and Brooklyn Boatworks.

Meanwhile, leases were signed at boutique-office address Ten Grand with a diverse array of tenants: Social Chain (social media marketing), Mad Rose Group (wine merchants) and Angora Group (fashion consulting).

Chief Charlie Palmer
Chef Charlie Palmer is launching a new restaurant.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

It took Charlie Palmer a little longer than he first hoped, but the acclaimed chef will launch his new Charlie Palmer Steak NYC on April 15 at 135 W. 42nd St. at the Durst Organization’s One Bryant Park.

Palmer shuttered his long-running Aureole there after the coronavirus pandemic struck last year. He told us at the time he’d open the steakhouse by August, but the economic shocks took their toll. The design is described as a “light and lean departure from the traditional steakhouse model.”

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