From the New York Times:
Add this to the weird reasons to love New York City: Less than a week after Times Square became an outdoor lounge, it’s already hard to find a seat in the crossroads of the world. Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed large swaths of Broadway to traffic and filled Times Square with plastic lawn chairs in gaudy pink, blue and green as one of his experiments in making the city more livable. The question of whether New Yorkers would like the innovation is already answered. As anyone with a sandwich and a yen to watch the neon lights at lunch can attest, the big problem is finding a free chair.
“Today is the first day I’ve found a place to sit,” Rachelle Bulgin, a 19-year-old college student who works nearby, said on Thursday afternoon. “It’s kinda cool.”
The chair scene has quickly become another New York phenomenon, providing the tourists that fill the area with another reason to gape at the locals. Soon after the chairs were introduced last month, one man created an outdoor living room with a rug, lamp and three plastic seats. It had to go at midnight, when workers lock the chairs up for the night.
New Yorkers are taking their work to Broadway’s outdoor salons between 42nd and 47th Streets and across from Macy’s on 34th Street. There are laptops galore, and one executive pulled a few of the chairs in a circle this week for a business meeting, his wisdom further illuminated by the neon lights flashing overhead.
Mostly, however, people simply sit. They rest their feet and unload their parcels. “There are not many places like this to stop and catch your breath,” explained Debbie Adams, a tourist from South Africa.
Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said little explanation was needed when the chairs were put in place. “We hadn’t even gotten the tags off when people had settled into them. It was like this had been there for the last 40 years,” he said.
Actually, these particular chairs are temporary. Purchased for $10.74 each at a local hardware store, many of the original 350 are already starting to sag and show signs of overuse. But before anybody invests in more durable or attractive seats, the city’s traffic experts want to make sure the idea works. Even the joys of a large sitting area in Times Square are not an adequate trade-off for permanent gridlock.
If traffic is merely bad, as usual, the next step is to make the area a little more glamorous. By August, the seating areas are scheduled to be resurfaced. There are plans for sturdier chairs and planters are expected to replace the orange plastic barrels now being used to warn cars away. Times Square’s experimental park is primitive, but for anyone who loves the lights of Broadway, it is the new best view in town.