Good morning. It’s Thursday. Today we will look at Times Square — what its boundaries are, and why that question has suddenly become important. We will also look at tennis, New York City style, as it is played on public courts.
Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times
To many New Yorkers and tourists alike, Times Square conjures a hub of bustling street life stretching north from 42nd Street and Broadway for however many blocks.
But exactly how many blocks? And what are Times Square’s actual boundaries anyway?
For many, its parameters are sensory. Can you see the flashing billboards? Smell those hot dog vendors? Are you frantically fending off furry-costumed characters pestering you for handouts?
Then you’re still in Times Square.
But city officials have now codified what they call the district’s formal boundaries, in accordance with a new state law banning people legally carrying handguns from bringing them into Times Square and certain other crowded tourist destinations.
The new map — being promoted by the mayor’s office, Police Department and City Council — allots pretty generous parameters for Times Square: a broad swath covering roughly three dozen blocks from Ninth to Sixth Avenues and from West 40th to 53rd Streets.
It includes the Port Authority terminal and stretches close to Rockefeller Center.
What do New Yorkers think?
My colleagues Jonah Bromwich and Chelsia Rose Marcius spoke to New Yorkers to find out about their own notion of Times Square’s boundaries and to see if they agreed with the newly formulated, expansive borders.
While working the counter at a deli at West 48th Street and Ninth Avenue on Tuesday, Adam Alkindi declared firmly that the deli was definitely not in Times Square.
“No way,” said Alkindi, 21, who was raised just a block away. “It’s peaceful over here.”
As Alkindi put it: “Where it’s crowded, where there are a lot of big stores and lights. That’s Times Square.”
Another New Yorker, Robert Govan, 62, allowed that the boundary could possibly reach as far north as West 52nd Street, but as far as the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Govan said he would never consider it part of Times Square.
“Nah. No way,” he said. “Not going to happen.”
For some New Yorkers, the boundaries can seem flexible. Felecia Majette, 62, whose office is at West 49th Street and Sixth Avenue, said that she considered that part of Midtown Manhattan an extension of Times Square.
“There’s movement from here to there,” she said. “It’s all combined.”
Majette said she approved of the new boundaries. The last thing she wanted, she said, was“a bunch of people around here carrying guns, even if they’re allowed to have one.”
What sparked this new gun law?
The new gun law regarding Times Square and other districts is in response to a legal change that came in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a century-old New York law that had placed strict limits on the public carrying of guns.
With the new rules set to kick in, lines have formed outside permitting offices across New York State, including the Niagara County Courthouse, where there were 150 people lined up on Wednesday morning. Nearly 100 had camped out overnight.
In Oswego County, the permitting office hired two full-time employees to keep up with demand. And a firearms permitting expert in Suffolk County has been fielding as many as 50 phone calls a day from prospective applicants.
In New York City, there has been a 54 percent increase in license applications since June.
The city’s response
In response to the federal law change, New York State passed legislation that designated locations where people would be prohibited from carrying guns. Those included government buildings, places of worship, health care providers, libraries, playgrounds, public parks, the subway — and Times Square.
The city’s new map is larger than the boundaries kept by the Times Square Alliance, which considers Times Square to cover most of the territory from West 40th Street to 53rd Street between Sixth and Eighth Avenues, as well as Restaurant Row on West 46th Street west of Ninth.
“Everyone has a different idea of where Times Square is,” the alliance’s president, Tom Harris, told me on Wednesday. “There are 365,000 people a day walking through Times Square, and the N.Y.P.D. does an excellent job of keeping those people safe.”
Enjoy a sunny day near the mid-80s. The evening is clear, with temps dropping to the mid-60s.
In effect until Monday (Labor Day).
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Away from the U.S. Open, vibrant tennis on the city’s public courts.
The U.S. Open, being played in Queens, is a showcase for elite athletes competing at the highest level.
But outside the National Tennis Center, there are hundreds of New York City public courts that feature their own form of spirited competition and colorful characters.
At some, the most competitive part of the game is simply trying to procure an hour of court time.
In Central Park, and at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park, players line up near dawn just to sign up for an hour of play later in the day.
In Hudson River Park, just north of Canal Street, there are three pristine playing surfaces with formidable river views and such a long wait time that players sit on numbered benches for a shot at the next available court.
At other locations, some late-rising New Yorkers have tried bribing court attendants for playing time.
The first thing they ask is, ‘Can I get your cell number,’” said Bernard Lewis, the court attendant at the clay courts in Riverside Park near West 96th Street.
“I’ve had people try to bring me coffee and pastries — one guy owned a pastry shop and tried to bring me cakes,” he said. “But once you accept anything, they own you.”
There are courts in the Bronx and in parts of Queens that remain largely empty, though there are some parents bringing children in the hope they may become the next Venus or Serena Williams.
One such parent was Ronald Ewool, an African immigrant who trains his two adolescent daughters — Alicia, 13, and Deborah, 12 — at the Crotona Park courts in the Bronx.
He was one of numerous people I met while reporting a story last month about a tight-knit community of Black players in Brooklyn who are part of a rich culture of Black tennis on the city’s public courts.
Frederick Johnson Park in Harlem, long known as “the Jungle” for its competitive climate, once attracted top African American players, including Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe, and is still popular with Black players. John McEnroe has been known to personally scout players there for his training program for underserved youth.
Naomi Osaka, who won the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020, played tennis as a young girl at Detective Keith L. Williams Park in Queens and helped fund a renovation of the courts last year.
Of course, there can also be a competitive downside to training on city courts, said Steven Turner, 75, who grew up in Greenwich Village and went from playing in Central Park to playing the pro tour against the likes of Stan Smith, Rod Laver and Ilie Nastase in the 1970s.
“Going from the city’s public courts to world class tennis is almost impossible,” said Turner, who played in the U.S. Open when it was still held at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, Queens. “Because New Yorkers are always trying to butt in and supposedly help you with their tips — it messes up your game.”
Union Square Station
I was leaving the Union Square subway station when I saw a young woman who appeared to be in her 20s running furiously toward a well-dressed older woman from about 30 yards away.
The younger woman was causing quite a commotion, and people in the station were looking on with a mix of worry and curiosity.
When she reached the older woman, she was out of breath.
“Excuse me,” she said excitedly, “but where did you get those shoes?”
— Kiho Cha
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — C.K.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].