Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ode to Times Square and people's right to the city

Marshall Berman, a Marxist-humanist and urbanism professor, has a new book that celebrates One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square. Dissent has a good essay which is excerpted and adapted from the book here.

The essay, while entertaining and insightful, is quite long. What interests me most is the last part (scroll down to the section titled Epilogue: Reuters and Me), where Berman got thrown off the sidewalk in front of the Reuters building in Times Square, probably because he didn't look appropriate. Here're some of his thoughts:
What has made Times Square special for a century is that, to a remarkable extent, it really did belong to everybody. It enveloped the whole world in its spectacle of bright lights; it gave everybody a thrill; it was a trip where the whole world could cruise. ... the people look great, the lights look great; so I let it be, until the day one of these global corporations touched me, and told me I wasn’t allowed to stand on the street on Forty-Second Street and Broadway.

Where did these guys get the idea that they own the street? How many more of the Square’s new corporate giants share this belief? And how did they get it? ...

As I close, there are two big ideas to sign. The first big idea, which goes back to the start of the Enlightenment, is that the right to the city is a basic human right. The second, flowing from the first, is the right to be part of the city spectacle. This spectacle is as old, and as modern, as the city itself.

Pic of Reuters building in Times Square was taken from davetravel.scripting.com

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