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Eric Rosen

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New York Times

Living Among The Bright Lights Of Times Square

It is not novel for a child from a Minneapolis suburb to feel giddy in Times Square, to think, “I want to live here,” as Michael Wolk did when his parents took him to his first Broadway show decades ago. It is unusual, however, for an adult to see the hectic crossroads with its razzle-dazzle LED screens in the same way.

“I’m always fascinated by the energy, and it amuses me more than annoys me,” said Mr. Wolk, who moved to New York in 1977 and rented in the theater district for 11 years before settling at 1600 Broadway, at 48th Street.

“If I don’t draw the shades, I can read a book by the lights of the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ billboard across the street,” he said. Living above M&M’s World and its cartoonish displays, at Broadway and 48th Street, is another source of delight.

Mr. Wolk is the artistic director of All for One, a nonprofit theater company near the 26th-floor condominium he shares with his wife, Sandra Gillespie Wolk, a sociolinguistics scholar. A one-bedroom that cost $1.26 million in 2011, it has a home office and a “tiny terrace that’s a gem on New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop,” he said.

The couple are among around 5,800 residents in the area between Avenue of the Americas and Eighth Avenue, from West 41st to 53rd Streets, according to the Times Square Alliance, a nonprofit group aiming to improve and promote the neighborhood. That is fewer than in the town of Maquoketa, Iowa. Yet daily, 350,000 to 450,000 pedestrians push through, pause in awe and pose for pictures.

According to the Alliance, more people bed down nightly in the area’s roughly 18,000 hotel rooms than live in its 4,700 households. In the last six months, Times Square hotels averaged 91.6 percent occupancy, the Alliance said.

Eric Rosen, the associate broker with Halstead Property who helped Mr. Wolk find an apartment, said he sees two types of clients for the theater district, “people looking for a pied-à-terre in the center of the action and New Yorkers who want to live at the center of the action.”

Tobie Patmas has joined the second group. After her house in Toms River, N.J., was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, she said she moved 10 or 11 times, to friends’ houses and hotels, then rented a furnished studio at the Executive Plaza, a 440-unit condo at 150 West 51st Street that allows 30-day minimum rentals, starting at around $3,000 a month, plus about 10 percent tax.


Ms. Patmas, who said she is over 65, had no intention of staying, but enjoyed it so much she upgraded to a one-bedroom two years ago. “I meet people from all over the world — actors from shows when I’m getting coffee,” she said.

“I went out with a young Frenchman for dinner, and he sent me flowers,” she added. “Age doesn’t matter here.”

What You’ll Find

High-rise hotels and offices dominate the avenues, with some old walk-ups on side streets. Souvenir vendors outnumber grocers, but there is a Food Emporium on Eighth Avenue and 49th Street and a Whole Foods coming to Avenue of the Americas between 41st and 42nd in 2017.

Construction on Broadway is expected to be done by the end of the year, completing the pedestrian plaza from 42nd to 47th Streets. In June, the Department of Transportation designated “activity zones” where costumed Elmos and Minnie Mouses and topless painted women vie to have their photos taken with tourists for tips.

The Vibe

“If you want an active and extroverted lifestyle and easy access to transportation, this is the spot,” said Tim Tompkins, the president of the Times Square Alliance since 2002. Besides more than three dozen Broadway theaters, entertainment includes the Iridium music club and B.B. King Blues Club & Grill. Eating options range from the food hall City Kitchen to the Lambs Club for elegant, spare-no-expense meals.

What You’ll Pay

The median sales price for a one-bedroom condominium through July was $1.425 million, up 74.6 percent from a year ago, said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel. For a two-bedroom, the median was nearly $3.088 million, up 85.4 percent. Mr. Miller said the increases reflected new higher-priced development. There were no co-op sales.

On Sept. 13, there were 23 condos listed for sale in the neighborhood on The New York Times search engine, ranging from $715,000 for a one-bedroom on West 51st Street to $16.8 million for a five-bedroom triplex penthouse on West 52nd.

John W. Chang, an associate broker at Sotheby’s International Realty, said 11 units were recently for sale in the Platinum, 247 West 46th Street, starting at $1.2 million for a one-bedroom. “There’s a high percentage of foreign money, a lot of pieds-à-terre and a lot of investors who use it for rentals.”

Executive Plaza, the 21-story tower at 150 West 51st Street, is mainly investor-owned condos, said Senada Fici, the sales manager for Empire State Properties, which manages about 85 percent of the building, formerly the Taft Hotel. One-bedrooms generally sell for $750,000 to $850,000.


The 41-story Ritz Plaza on West 48th Street has an indoor pool and a gym. Abigail Rickards, marketing manager for Stonehenge Management, said studios start at $2,995 a month, one-bedrooms at $3,700 and two-bedrooms at $5,650.

The Schools

Public School 111 Adolph S. Ochs at 440 West 53rd Street serves about 340 students from prekindergarten through Grade 5. According to the city’s School Quality Snapshot, 18 percent met state standards in English versus 30 percent citywide; 23 percent did so in math versus 35 percent.

Public School 51 Elias Howe at 525 West 44th Street has about 395 students from prekindergarten through Grade 5. There 31 percent of students met standards in English and 44 percent did in math.

Students must audition for the Professional Performing Arts School at 328 West 48th Street, serving about 562 students in Grades 6 through 12. Average SAT scores in 2015 were 520 in reading, 496 in math and 516 in writing; citywide averages were 444, 466 and 439.

The Commute

Subway trains abound. The Times Square-42nd Street station has the 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R and S either full or part time. The 49th Street-Seventh Avenue station has the N, Q and R. The A, E and C stop at 42nd Street-Port Authority. The C, E and A stop at 50th Street and 8th Avenue (the A at night); the 1 and 2, at 50th and Broadway. The 42nd Street-Bryant Park station has the 7, D, F, B and M. The Rockefeller Center station has the B, D, F and M, and the Seventh Avenue station at 53rd Street has the B, D and E.

The History

According to “Ghosts of 42nd Street: A History of America’s Most Infamous Block,” by Anthony Bianco (William Morrow, 2004), “By all rights, Times Square should have been called Oscar Hammerstein Square.” The German-born impresario opened one of the first theaters in the area in 1895, more than eight years before the cornerstone was laid for the old New York Times building at 42nd Street and Broadway, for which the area is named.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016