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Money Jungle

Imagining the New Times Square

Benjamin Chesluk

Publication Year: 2007

For more than a century, Times Square has mesmerized the world with the spectacle of its dazzling supersigns, its theaters, and its often-seedy nightlife. New York City’s iconic crossroads has drawn crowds of revelers, thrill-seekers, and other urban denizens, not to mention lavish outpourings of advertising and development money.

Many have hotly debated the recent transformation of this legendary intersection, with voices typically falling into two opposing camps. Some applaud a blighted red-light district becoming a big-budget, mainstream destination. Others lament an urban zone of lawless possibility being replaced by a Disneyfied, theme-park version of New York. In Money Jungle, Benjamin Chesluk shows that what is really at stake in Times Square are fundamental questions about city life—questions of power, pleasure, and what it means to be a citizen in contemporary urban space. 

Chesluk weaves together surprising stories of everyday life in and around the Times Square redevelopment, tracing the connections between people from every level of this grand project in social and spatial engineering: the developers, architects, and designers responsible for reshaping the urban public spaces of Times Square and Forty-second Street; the experimental Midtown Community Court and its Times Square Ink. job-training program for misdemeanor criminals; encounters between NYPD officers and residents of Hell’s Kitchen; and angry confrontations between city planners and neighborhood activists over the future of the area.

With an eye for offbeat, telling details and a perspective that is at once sympathetic and critical, Chesluk documents how the redevelopment has tried, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, to reshape the people and places of Times Square. The result is a colorful and engaging portrait, illustrated by stunning photographs by long-time local photographer Maggie Hopp, of the street life, politics, economics, and cultural forces that mold America’s urban centers.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

First, I would like to thank all those involved with the Times Square redevelopment and everyone in the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood who tolerated my questions and offered me the opportunity to spend...

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About the Photographs

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pp. xi-xiv

Maggie Hopp has been making photographs in and around Times Square since the mid-1970s. Her images document the incremental process of the area’s redevelopment, as the signs, stores, and theaters of previous...

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Chapter 1: Brilliant Corners: The Redevelopment of Times Square

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pp. 1-22

In the late nineteenth century, real estate speculators and theater entrepreneurs remade what was then Longacre Square, an unfashionably rough area of tenements, bars, brothels, factories, and slaughterhouses, into a glamorous center...

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Chapter 2: Magnificent Spectacle: Real Estate, Theater, Advertising, and the History of Times Square

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pp. 23-47

Times Square is a peculiar place, and has been for more than a hundred years: a troubling and exciting symbol of the ambiguities and apparent paradoxes of modern urban...

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Chapter 3: The New Spaces of Times Square: Commerce, Social Control, and the Built Environment

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pp. 48-80

Like anyone involved in creating or transforming urban spaces, Times Square’s redevelopers were faced with two seemingly incompatible ideas of the purpose of public space in the city. On the one hand, there was the ideology of democratic access and enjoyment. Part of the ideology of “public” space...

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Chapter 4: The Midtown Community Court: Intimacy and Power in an Experimental Courtroom

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pp. 81-95

One thing that made the redevelopment of Times Square so strikingly different from typical urban renewal projects was its collection of self-conscious, highly publicized efforts to “reach out” to marginal groups and include...

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Chapter 5: Times Square Ink: Redevelopment of the Self

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pp. 96-133

The Midtown Community Court drew on the real estate capital and interests of the Times Square redevelopment to reorganize the rules by which an urban court judges, punishes, and rehabilitates. The Community Court reorganized the formal institution of the courtroom; it set out to...

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Chapter 6: “Visible Signs of a City Out of Control”: Images of Order and Disorder in Police-Community Dialogue

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pp. 134-164

How did everyday citizens relate to the redevelopment of Times Square and the larger socioeconomic shifts it represented? One place I began to answer this question was in the new institutions aimed at fostering community...

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Chapter 7: “It Doesn’t Exist, But They’re Selling It”: The Debates over “Air Rights”

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pp. 165-187

People in New York City and elsewhere didn’t simply accept the new built environments of Times Square and Forty-second Street. They wondered over them, debated them, applauded them, critiqued them, or made a point...

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Chapter 8: Conclusion: The Meanings of Times Square

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pp. 188-196

The New Times Square was a place where people struggled to deal with the fundamental questions of modern urban life: How do we sustain ourselves and fi nd meaning in an unstable world? How do we live in spaces of the modern...


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pp. 197-216


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pp. 217-230

About the Author

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p. 231-231

E-ISBN-13: 9780813543819
E-ISBN-10: 0813543819
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813541792

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 16
Publication Year: 2007