What’s this city coming to when you can’t get put in jail in the middle of Times Square? That little neon-lit police kiosk at the base of Times Square is getting a $3.5 million overhaul, and a police spokesperson tells the Times that the holding cell in the building is likely to be eliminated, making way for a space where the public can interact with the cops. Other ideas floated have included displaying live security footage on the sides of the building. (That’s if the plan goes through: There’s no architect attached yet. There has even been talk of turning it into a small museum.) The little building was constructed as an information center in 1957 and was renovated to become a police substation in 1993, when Times Square was in the tail end of its high-crime era.
After decades of cleanup and massage-parlor clearance, Times Square’s most persistent problems have become large Cookie Monsters and panhandling topless women, which are hardly enough to require an on-site jail cell. “Fortunately, things have changed dramatically in Times Square,” said deputy commissioner of management and budget Vincent Grippo. “We don’t view Times Square as a high-crime area, certainly not the types of crimes we were looking at decades ago.” In 2014 Times Square had one-tenth the number of violent crimes it saw in 1994.
The whole modernization project is part of a larger effort on the part of the NYPD to incorporate its stations into the fabric of public life — the architectural counterpart to community policing. While it may seem unlikely to New Yorkers that anyone will actually want to hang out in a police station while visiting Times Square, remember that it also seems unlikely to New Yorkers that anyone would willingly go to Times Square in the first place. In fact, 300,000 people pass that kiosk every day.