New York's Times Square: 5 things about the iconic heart of Manhattan

New York City Police at Times Square in April 2017.
New York City Police at Times Square in April 2017.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK - A US Navy veteran plowed his car into pedestrians in New York City's packed Times Square on Thursday (May 18), killing an 18-year-old woman and injuring 22 people.

While the incident brought to mind vehicle attacks on pedestrians in recent months in Britain, France, Germany, Israel and Sweden, it was not an act of terrorism, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Here are five things about the iconic heart of Manhattan.

1. Attack in 2010

Police stepped up patrols in recent years after a car bomb was planted at the Square in 2010. Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani immigrant, planted a car bomb at the intersection on May 1, 2010. His explosive device failed to detonate and he was arrested shortly after boarding a flight to the Middle East.

2. Longacre Square

The Square, formerly the centre of New York's horse carriage industry, was called Longacre Square after a similar area in London.

It has plenty of nicknames including the "Crossroads of the world", and "The Tenderloin" because it was supposedly the most desirable location in Manhattan in the 1920s.

Longacre Square in 1898, which was later renamed Times Square in 1904. PHOTO: WIKICOMMONS

3. New York Times

It was renamed Times Square in 1904 after New York Times publisher Adolph S. Ochs moved its headquarters to the Times Building, now called One Times Square.

The newspaper later moved to another building in 1913.

4. From seedy neighbourhood to tourist attraction

After the Great Depression of 1929, the area became far seedier with cheap restaurants and theatres showing pornographic films and burlesque shows.

It was a red-light district for decades and the drug trade was rampant up till the 1970s and 1980s.

Tourists taking pictures at Times Square. PHOTO: AFP

Only in the mid-1990s was the area cleaned up in efforts led by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Today, it is one of the world's most-visited tourist destinations.

5. Pedestrianisation

Six months ago, the city completed a US$55-million, nearly six-year renovation of Times Square that turned roadways into pedestrian zones.

It aimed to improve congestion and safety, but not all sidewalks were fitted with safety bollards.

Source: AFP, Reuters, New York Times