Times Square once generated $5.8 billion in city and state taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic paused much of that. Now, New York City is trying to lure tourists back with a temporary fixture – a 110-foot high ferris wheel.
“New York is back and the wheel is finally here,” said Vito Bruno, the creator of the Times Square Wheel.
Six years in the making, the Times Square Wheel was a pre-pandemic dream for Bruno. Beginning this week, the wheel stands in the middle of the crossroads of the world. It’s a 10-minute ride that cost $20 for adults.
The city is apparently trying to attract vaccinated tourists, with the first 100 people each day getting a free ride if they’ve gotten vaccinated since Aug. 1.
Locals seem less than enthused with these crowds bringing the same old problems – vendors and costumed characters harassing tourists and New Yorkers alike.
“They literally come up and harass us looking for tips,” said Shante Shaw, a tourist from upstate New York. “If I wanted a picture I would go to you guys.”
Keith Powers, a NYC city councilmember representing Times Square, is trying to fix the problem.
“My bill that we passed yesterday creates clearer rules that every single person has to stay inside the commercial area so they can’t harass people. No more wandering around Times Square looking for someone to take a picture with,” Powers said.
The Times Square Wheel is set to stop spinning on Sept. 12, but not everyone wants it to.
“It is so much fun, so lively,” said Kevin Wilson, a bicyclist from New Jersey. “It should be permanent if the infrastructure can handle it.”